We visited Las Vegas several years ago. What a show that was! The city is the nation’s monument to decadence. Over here the Eiffel Tower, there a monorail, way up there a rooftop roller coaster, and everywhere the sound of one-armed bandits joyfully slurping coinage, occasionally giving back just enough to keep the gamblers gambling.
One of the highlights was Siegfried & Roy, a magical duo who could make lions and elephants disappear in front of your eyes. We were lucky enough to get seats in the pits at the front of the stage. Imagine sitting there ooh-ing at the show when suddenly you turn your head to be staring into the face of a small jungle “demon.”
I spent much of the show trying to figure out how an elephant could be wandering around the front of the stage, then suddenly just disappear. And I never detected where Roy went when, securely inside a clear plastic box clear closed on all sides, he suddenly was replaced by one of the show’s signature white tigers.
And it was G-rated, in a town often called, with ample justification, Sin City.
Much of the current coverage of President-elect Trump seems performed from a similar stage. Amid the Sunday talk-show blathering speculating whether Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani will become Secretary of State, almost no one is noticing the names being offered to head, for instance, the departments of Education or Interior, or the Environmental Protection Agency.
Secretary of State is important in the international arena, but Education, Interior and EPA have most to do with our continued ability to sustain the species.
The Department of Education may soon be headed by Betsy DeVos, a billionaire dedicated to moving public funding to private, religion-based and for-profit charter schools.
The Department of the Interior, overseer of much of the public lands leased by oil and coal companies, appears destined for the leadership of a 74-year-old oil baron by name of Forrest Lucas, co-founder of Lucas Oil, and namer of the home of the Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium. One might well be concerned over the outcome of tug-of-war in Keystone XL Pipeline vs. Ogallala Aquifer, and the Big Oil vs. Standing Rock Sioux fresh water.
Then there is Myron Ebell, the apparent top name to head the EPA. Ebell, who denies climate warming, and especially denies it has any causes rooted in human activity, seems an excellent choice if Trump intends to make good on his promise to dismantle the agency.
Many of us of age similar to mine remember the pre-EPA “smell of progress” emanating from a paper mill some 20 miles from home, the sulfurous foam on a river that served the mill’s and killed the fish, lakes murdered by acid rain from coal-fired electricity generators, and the gray-brown pallor that hung over many of our urban areas – the latter turning a walk outdoors on s summer day into, quite literally, a death-defying act.
To Trump, becoming – and soon being – president, this is a TV show. Early morning Tweets and publicity around his SecState selection, for instance, is about, as Trump himself has said, keeping up the suspense, setting the week’s news agenda for Sunday morning “experts” who blindly follow the distractions of Romney-vs-Giuliani and whether flag burners should lose their citizenship.
We need to focus less on the make-believe demons, and more on the disappearing guy in the clear plastic box at center stage.