Old Proverbs, New Problems

Ancient wisdom might help us cope with the prospect of Trump

Winter is taking over the Idaho Panhandle landscape. Snow falling in spits and spurts covers up the shaggy leftovers of autumn and lends character to the hills in the background. Amazing how a blanket of snow turns those hills into mountains for four months or so every year about this time.

Christmas brings memories of good times together with families and friends, carols and music everywhere, the pleasant smell of cookies baking in the kitchen mingling with the scent of a fresh Christmas tree.

But this Christmas has a different feel. Maybe it's because we just went through a very long, very difficult election. And we are now going through the strangest transition in my memory, as each announcement of a presidential appointee sparks a shock wave of disbelief.

For this Christmas, I'm offering you a smattering of tried and true proverbs, ancient sayings and old wise words to live by.

Let's start with our money. The President-elect has chosen Steven Mnuchin, former partner at Goldman Sachs, as his Secretary of the Treasury. He would be the principal economic adviser to the president, offering critical recommendations on all important financial policy issues.

During the long presidential campaign, Donald Trump singled out Goldman Sachs as an example of a major player in "a rigged financial system." He promised to rip control of the economy away from Wall Street, and accused Hillary Clinton of being Wall Street's tool.

According to CNN, Mnuchin's profits from the 2008 housing crisis turned him into a billionaire, and he is promising, as Secretary of the Treasury, to recommend the biggest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan.

Old proverbs say: God helps those who help themselves. We beggars can't be choosers.

Old proverbs also say: Mr. Trump may have thought the folks at Goldman were crooked as a dog's hind leg, but the campaign was yesterday and this is now. We should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. So the financial system is rigged — if you can't beat them, join them. Also, the President-elect seems to be comfortable speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Another alumnus of Goldman Sachs is Stephen Bannon, the President-elect's chief strategist who has been widely criticized for his role as executive chair of Breitbart News, notable for its racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic leadership of the alt-right. "Alt-right" almost sounds respectable; it's so close to ALL right. But it's not all right at all. The alt-right's stand regarding white supremacy puts it in bed with the Ku Klux Klan.

Old quote: Nelson Mandela said, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

Old proverbs also say: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Which brings us to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Trump's Attorney General nominee. Sessions has denounced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and called the American Civil Liberties Union "un-American."

Again, old proverbs say: Birds of a feather flock together. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him think.

When President-elect Trump announced the appointment of a climate-change denier, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental groups erupted in horror. Pruitt himself has boasted that he is "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda."

During his tenure, Pruitt has generously defended the interests of fossil fuel corporations. And these corporations have in return been generous with their campaign contributions to Pruitt. They include ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Alliance Coal and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, among others.

As for ExxonMobil, its Chief Executive Officer, Rex Tillerson, is Trump's choice to be Secretary of State, the prime American diplomat to the rest of the world's nations, many of which have already taken visible steps to prepare for the rising tides and serious storms that accompany the warming of the globe.

Trump has retreated a few steps from his statement during the campaign that global warming is a "hoax"; his Secretary of State nominee will not have the luxury of denying scientific reality.

Old proverbs say: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I started this discussion with praise for the beauty of winter. But one can only receive a modicum of pleasure from talking about the weather. Winter is here to stay for a short few months; President-elect Trump is potentially with us for four long years.

Old proverbs say: Win some, lose some. Don't cry over spilled milk. Get over it. Buck up, Buckaroo. Life is tough in the far, far West. It's a blessing as well as a curse to live in interesting times.

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