What We Lost in the Fire: Keeping Track of Progress Lost in the Trump Presidency

What We Lost in the Fire: Keeping Track of Progress Lost in the Trump Presidency

The ancient Library of Alexandria is said to have been intentionally destroyed, set ablaze by those who felt the knowledge and wisdom held within were too much of a risk to their own interests to keep around. There is no way to know what we, our collective humanity, lost in that destruction. There is no way to know how advanced we would be today had we benefitted from that knowledge and wisdom, instead of having to relearn what was once already known. Even worse, there is no way to know how our development was stunted by the replacement of that knowledge and wisdom by dubious substitutes.

Two thousand years later, in the year 2017, there is a gut-level nervousness affecting the people of the United States that I believe comes from a fear of similar loss. A faction of people, driven by nothing but selfish motivation, a lack of faith in human achievement and the support of a disillusioned popular minority, now sit in the most powerful positions in human history. Their deeds and plans trend toward the destruction of an incredibly significant amount of American achievement, making that nervousness more than justifiable.

In the months and years to come, if these people have their way, entire government agencies will be gutted. Individuals and entities, the robber barons of the twenty-first century, will concentrate power, wealth and resources in places from which they will probably never be redistributed. The protections of the Supreme Court will likely be tilted away from politically unconnected human beings for generations. And most tragic of all, faith in the institutions that make up our government of, by and for the people will be reduced to near unrecoverable levels.

We will fight. We will resist. And there will be some things we can save. Other things we will have to just watch as they burn, feeling powerless, mourning progress lost. But while we watch, there is something we can do: plan our rebuild.

To do this, we need to keep an unburnable public record of those things – policies, legislation, budget priorities, global relationships, or even just the customs of civil discourse – that are being undone and taken from us. We need to establish a virtual archive of the things we stand for, from the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the structure of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to the retention of career diplomatic staff in the State Department, to the assurances of the Affordable Care Act, and so on and so on.

As a start, we can use the power of social media to keep track of these ideas by name until the momentum of effort can result in a more shepherded approach. I offer up the following hashtags to get the conversation started:

#thingswelostinthetrumpfire

#Americanprogressundone

#Americanprogressatrisk

#resistancearchive

#wewillgetthisback

Now is our time to fight. There will be losses, and we have to accept them as part of the process. But when the tide has turned, we can’t just stand there and weep at everything we’ve lost. We have to remember what we’ve been fighting for, and start working to get it back.

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An Argument for Responsible Regulation Using… Burrito Delivery Drones

An Argument for Responsible Regulation Using… Burrito Delivery Drones

Despite my hardened optimism, and boundless faith in humanity, I believe there are times when we need to put measures in place to protect ourselves from ourselves. That may sound like an obvious premise, but we’ve elected many, many people who actively vilify and undermine laws intended to do just that in an effort to brand themselves as defenders of “freedom”. So, to push back against those people in my own way, and offer any humble support I can to those whose resistance is already underway, I’d like to paint a few scenes for you to show how freedom from regulation is not the simple formula for an ideal life.

I’ll start simply, by addressing a particular menace that could ruin our way of life if left unchecked. I’m talking, of course, about burrito delivery drones. Imagine this scene: you’re sitting at a park on a warm, bright day, enjoying the soft sunshine on your skin, listening to the birds fluttering about in the treetops. There are clusters of people around, all smiling and in various states of repose. Then, like an attack from above, a delivery drone whizzes by with the high speed whir of a giant wasp, seeking the phone linked to the order for a couple of burritos. Worse yet, it’s lunch time, and here come a swarm of those wasps in search of their targets. No one wants to leave to go get something to eat, and why would you?  Didn’t bring a picnic? No problem. They’ll bring one to you! But now you can’t even take a photo of the trees without a flock of inbound burritos blocking the view.

Let’s expand this out a bit. How about a day spent at home lounging with the window open, while the cool breeze of a changing season moves the window coverings just enough to lull your eyes closed. Then, ripping through the calm, comes a buzzing swarm of random home good deliveries right up to neighboring doorsteps. It took only minutes to get that toilet paper they needed! No more recipe substitutions – no olive oil? Ran out of limes? No problem! Drone delivery at your fingertips.

And I haven’t even mentioned the privacy issues of remote controlled cameras blending in with the more purposeful offenders.

A step further: flying cars and jetpacks. Imagine that these things were no longer science fiction. Imagine that these things were manufactured in mass to become everyday items. Seems like an exciting prospect. The ability to get up and out to wherever you want to go. But imagine the chaos that would come with it. We’re not talking about the once in a while airplane flyover; we’re talking about airborne highways without lanes like a scene out of a chaotic science fiction movie. Where could you look in the sky to take a photo of the clouds, or the sunset, or of a great building if vehicles were no longer tied to the ground? How could you watch the sun rise over a cityscape when rush hour traffic is blocking the whole view?

Those scenarios are bursting with freedom. Conveniences in abundance, satisfied by the simple principles of supply and demand. But, unless you are someone who has no affinity for wonder, those are probably not the visions you would include in your design for an ideal life.  What is needed to keep our skies from filling with swarms of unnatural beasts? Regulation. Reasonable, consensus-driven regulation steered by wisdom and the leaders who will always have our futures and our better selves in mind.

As Americans, we do have the power to engineer our ideal lives because we live under our own rule. This cannot be repeated enough: government of the people, by the people, and for the people.