Clockwork Orange:

"Lord make me a bird, so I can fly far. Far far away."
“Lord make me a bird, so I can fly far. Far far away.”

The only similar feeling of horror and sadness and disbelief that I feel this morning was when Ronald Reagan won in 1980.

Reagan was an actor, a pretender and an environmental despot who vowed to turn back a decade of gains since the first Earth Day–hard-won victories brought about largely by America’s young people,  to ensure the health of the planet’s air and water, forest and fisheries that would sustain humankind into the next millennium. Much of what I believed in and hoped for was repudiated and set into reverse with that election victory. I was physically sick, as I am this morning.

I know an American president cannot act alone; at least that was true until Donald Trump. I know that the people from the gonzo world we’ll call the “reality community” can still exert influence on policy. But the majority that elected this man are people with whom I share far less with  than I had thought when it comes to an understanding of the perilous state of the planet or of the poor-who-is-not-white with a red cap. The willful ignorance and indifference to anything beyond the personal here and now of this voting block has made me want to burn my homo sapiens membership card.

Welcome to the bizarro world of ME HERE NOW–though I think those who think they’ve won the ultimate victory for unenlightened self-interest will come to have serious questions about the promised “greatness” of their lives in four years.

This haughty indifference from high places towards the health of the planet is even worse now than in the early 80s. while the threats are vastly more serious today than then. And I have even less hope in my lifetime of a return to reason and compassion and dedication to informed stewardship–which is not to suggest that a Hillary win would have insured this end. Far from it.

I left teaching biology in 1987, in no small measure because I could not bear to watch the world unravel when the fox was inaugurated to guard the hen house–an abode whose jubilant feathered residents this new fox pretends to know and represent. We will see how that works out for the red-capped masses.

My life didn’t end then, but I made a serious course correction to steer toward a different destination. Today, I have no compass and the maps have proven inaccurate.

But I can’t imagine mornings at my desk with this utter lack of purpose and hope. I also can’t imagine being able or willing to stomach consumption of current events for the next four years. If I were a younger man, I might have the fight in me to push back against the retrogressive tide of the next four years. I am not a young man and I don’t have the energy or heart for it. I’ve seen enough.

So my Internet habits will change. My writing habits will change. My view of the world–as it really must have been all along, hiding in my blind spot–has already changed profoundly this morning. I have been living in denial of that truth. So now: what?


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Exactly you have captured it. Lost hope. A confirmation of the ignorance and stupidity of H. sapiens. A confirmation of the sixth great extinction taking another big step forward. I must revert to the big picture once again. Our atoms have been here forever and will be here forever in a cosmic etch-a-sketch of creativity. We can still be creative in our own little ways, shake heads at the folly, enjoy our friends and watch the big show.

  2. Of course my greatest concern under Trump is for our planet, too. We can only hope that his effect will also be to put fire in the belly of all the young people who have deep concern for their future.

  3. Yes, we are sad. But, like Kathy, my bigger concern is for the young people, who have to spend their important, most formative years under the rule of a despot. We can’t blame them for the vote, even though they didn’t come out in record numbers to support Hillary–it takes maturity to take political responsibility. And, as we all acknowledge, they didn’t create the climate crisis–we did.

  4. Last evening I sat up in growing shock until the ticker hit 169. It was already past 1 a.m. As I stumbled to bed in disbelief, I felt as if I’d been kicked in the head. This morning I sit, still stunned, and contemplate a world I do not recognize.

    I have a lifetime record of losing votes. But none have left me feeling this adrift in an uncharted sea. To see my fellow Americans choice of leader… I don’t know…

  5. Are you people seriously trying to say that a warmongering megolamaniac who would have been the most crooked president since Warren Harding is preferable to an idiotic buffoon who will hardly be able to push though any of his stupid ideas? Sure he is far from an ideal choice. Sure I would prefer Mickey Mouse. But all he is likely to do it damage the environment of a single country (unfortunately ours). Clinton would have pushed for more use of the military-industrial complex, attacking innocent countries and antagonize Russia to the point where WW3 would have fair possibility of happening. Maybe only 1% possibility, but that is more than I can tolerate when I think about how few of us could survive that, nuclear as it would be?

    Let’s be realistic about this. Neither of them was a good candidate and the majority wanted neither. We were in a mess whichever one of them won. I did not vote for either and I wish no one else had done so. But Trump is likely to implement policies which will only affect one or two generations. I don’t think that can be said of Clinton.

    I’m not looking forward to the next four years. Or the next twelve for that matter. In fact I tempted to just hole myself up and come out again at the end of the 2020s. But I woke up this morning feeling that I had a little better chance of surviving it than I did when I went to sleep. When we have a country which is as corrupt as this one is what can we expect when we produce our leaders?

    And don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of the blue collar white mean everyone is saying got him elected. I moved to Floyd because I believed in the same concepts as you do: Earth Day and the environment. But now all I can see is the possibility of preserving some of it for future generations. It is gone for us.

  6. It will be OK. The earth will survive man. You guys need to get a life! And — scary as it is — the American people are not stupid and elected the best candidate for this time period.