Happy (scary) New Year

Jamakaya, Contributing writer

I am entering the new year with a profound sense of trepidation — one that I have not felt in all of my 60 years.

The nearly two months that have passed since the presidential election have done little to alleviate the shock of Donald Trump’s victory. In fact, every erratic tweet and cabinet choice the president-elect has made since Nov. 8 has only deepened my anxiety for our country and our collective future.

What possessed Trump to send that provocative tweet vowing to renew and expand the nuclear arms race? Why has his staff demanded the names of Energy Department employees involved in research or seminars on climate science? What about their requests for all State Department personnel involved in gender-related programs around the globe? Clearly, these actions portend targeted purges.

If his nominations are approved, Trump’s cabinet will feature more billionaire businessmen with massive conflicts of interest and more unqualified ideological extremists than George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan could have ever imagined. Many of his cabinet choices have sworn to dismantle the very agencies they are supposed to administer.

Trump’s chief strategist is a racist, misogynist provocateur and a champion of fake news. His press secretary despises the media. His campaign manager and newly appointed counselor, Kellyanne Conway, has the frightening ability to reframe the most outrageous Trump statements into what might pass for sanity.

With one party controlling all branches of government (presuming the appointment of a right-wing U.S. Supreme Court justice), the swiftness of the changes is likely to be breathtaking.

I’m reminded of a quote from the book In the Garden of Beasts, about the first year of Nazi governance in Germany. An American diplomat, witnessing the radical changes being implemented by party fanatics, writes home: “There are so many pathological cases involved that it would be impossible to tell from day to day what will happen any more than a keeper of a madhouse is able to tell what inmates will do in the next hour or during the next day.”

Welcome to America in 2017.

Trump and his global warming deniers will assume power at the time when more and more scientific evidence warns of a coming climate catastrophe. This past year was the hottest year on record, with Arctic temperatures spiking, ocean levels rising and more coral reefs dying.

Trump’s wrecking ball is aimed at the Affordable Health Care Act, which has given 23 million Americans access to health insurance; Medicare, the most efficiently operated, reliable source of health care for older Americans; and Social Security, which most Americans rely on for a big part of their retirement income.

Women’s reproductive freedom is threatened more now than ever before, with a president-elect admitting that in the absence of safe and legal abortion, women will just have to resort to illegal back-alley practitioners.

Of greatest concern are Trump’s bellicose threats of bombing and retribution for even the slightest perceived insults to America, like those cheeky Iranian boatmen who gave the finger to the crew of one of our warships in the Persian Gulf.

Exaggerating foreign threats and fanning paranoia about internal subversion are classic methods for deflecting attention from domestic power grabs and civil rights violations.

“Build the wall!” and “Ban the Muslims!” indeed.

As we enter the Trump era, will Americans be able to separate fact from fiction in order to understand when we’re being manipulated?

We’re about to find out.