Editor’s note: Bob Cesca emailed me yesterday to suggest we print this Members Only article Chez Pazienza wrote on January 26th 2017. The Trump administration has been shamefully slow in responding to the three and a half million United States citizens languishing on the island that has been completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, because he evidently doesn’t regard Puerto Ricans as ‘real Americans‘. Preoccupied with tweeting about black athletes in the NFL, Trump hasn’t once mentioned that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and decided the devastation was time to remind the small island that they are deeply in debt to Wall Street “which, sadly, must be dealt with”. This was a scenario imagined by Chez, who wrote about his fear that should an earthquake hit California, Trump was petty and vindictive enough to withhold federal assistance “for the sole reason that California didn’t support him in the election and hasn’t supported him since.” While Trump hasn’t withheld federal assistance from Puerto Rico, his actions have been less than reassuring and serve as a potential preview for what may come.
While every single day of the Trump presidency so far has been a kind of Dali-esque nightmare, Wednesday was by any measure the darkest day yet. The new President of the United States awakened yesterday morning by firing off a tweet promising a “major investigation” into “VOTER FRAUD” that simply didn’t happen — there’s exactly zero proof that three to five million people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, making Trump’s claim on the matter a flat-out lie or, maybe worse, a narcissistic delusion — and the day only went downhill from there. The rest of the morning, afternoon, and evening brought an executive order to build a wall along the Mexico border, one to treat immigrants as criminals, to declare Muslims second class citizens in America, and to stop refugees from Middle Eastern countries from entering the U.S. There was the order the EPA got to immediately cease directly reporting the facts on man-made climate change to the American people. There was also a reaffirmation of the idea that “torture works” and it may therefore begin again at CIA black sites around the world.
And of course, the whole day ended with Trump’s utterly insane, damn near Captain Queegian interview with ABC’s David Muir, in which he obsessed over and over again about the size of his inauguration crowd and the length of the standing ovation he supposedly got for his speech at CIA headquarters over the weekend, telling easily disprovable lie after easily disprovable lie as he rambled on and on. The overall takeaway from yesterday then? This country has put an honest-to-God madman in office, an unstable narcissist obsessed with trivialities like his own fame and determined to turn the once-great United States into an isolationist dystopia that adheres only to the false reality Trump and his lackeys create out of thin air on a minute-to-minute basis. It’s not hyperbole in the slightest to say that we’re in completely uncharted territory as a nation and it should terrify every single person not simply within the United States but around the world.
So much happened yesterday that it was entirely possible for some of the awfulness to slip through the cracks — and one story definitely did. While Trump has been busy using his pen to lock down America and move the clocks back 60 years, he’s apparently been ignoring requests for federal help from Georgia and Mississippi, two states that are still reeling after a series of weekend tornadoes that flattened parts of the South and killed nearly two dozen people. There have been nearly 50 tornadoes reported as part of the storms that rolled through Georgia, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle, and the governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, sent a letter begging for help from FEMA days ago. Not a peep so far from the Trump administration or Donald Trump himself, who, understandably, has been busy watching TV and obsessing over the size of his inauguration crowd.
I bring this up because it goes to something that’s been clawing at the inside of my head a lot since this dangerous idiot was elected and certainly since he’s taken office and it’s become clear exactly what we can expect from his White House. Donald Trump is notoriously petty and vindictive. Couple that with his history of fixating only on subjects that interest him — mostly, himself — and disregarding anything that doesn’t, as well as his infinitesimal attention span, and you have a recipe for disaster in the face of, well, disaster. So here’s my concern: My current home state of California overwhelmingly aimed a big electoral middle finger at Trump last November. It’s since positioned itself as the largest, most prominent thorn in the Trump administration’s side, its governor and legislature promising to fight Trump’s retrograde policies every step of the way. Being that the state is the sixth largest economy in the world, it has the economic and cultural authority to do this. It can survive without federal funds if need be for a good long time.
One thing can change that, though.
A massive earthquake.
While the threat of “The Big One” is an omnipresent fact of life when you’re a resident of California, particularly along the San Andreas fault, in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, most just go about their days not losing their minds over it. They’re prepared, sure, but they’ve been warned about an epochal quake for so long that it now resides permanently in the very back of their minds. But last summer, one of the state’s preeminent earthquake specialists, Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, stated specifically that the Southern California section of the San Andreas was “locked, loaded and ready to roll,” particularly after a swarm of small quakes rocked the region. I live in Los Angeles. Yeah, you hear about the danger all the time, but it’s still unnerving. The last big quake to hit the southern part of the San Andreas was in 1857. It was a magnitude 7.9. And of course we haven’t seen a big quake since Northridge in 1994, while San Francisco was hit hard in 1989.
In other words, we’re past due for a quake that will at the very least cause serious damage if not catastrophic damage.
It’s second nature to think that if disaster strikes anywhere in the United States, the federal government will be there with assistance and funding. (Although, admittedly, go tell that to New Orleans.) But like so much that we thought we could count on, it’s easy to imagine that going out the window under this president. Trump isn’t just petty and vindictive, he’s so petty and vindictive that you can, without too much effort, picture him withholding federal assistance for the sole reason that California didn’t support him in the election and hasn’t supported him since. You can’t tell me you can’t see him holding a news conference where he drones on for 20 minutes about some inconsequential imagined slight or another before offhandedly saying that California thought it didn’t need him, so, you know. “I mean, California, big state, many, many tremendous people there, but they didn’t vote for me, so, you know, maybe we won’t give them what they need. I probably will, but, you know, maybe I won’t.” Given what we know so far it just doesn’t feel all that implausible, no matter how pants-shittingly offensive a scenario it is.
The fact is that much like the way my fingers are crossed that the center-left justices on the Supreme Court hold on throughout Trump’s time in office, I feel the same way about the ground beneath my feet. If I were a praying man, I’d be imploring God to hold off on smiting this state for just a little while, because I have no doubt the response to such a tragedy from the Trump administration would only compound the disaster. Granted, there’s a movement in California right that’s reportedly supported by nearly a third of the population to withdraw from the union, so one can argue we get what we deserve. Regardless of the fact that the “Calexit” people are right when they say we provide a lot to states that don’t even begin to share our values, the idea of secession is as stupid as when Texas regularly threatens it. The U.S. may feel like a failed experiment right now, that’s how divided we are along regional beliefs, but the only way we remain strong enough to avoid being overrun by, say, Russia is by sticking together. We have to fight like hell for the union to endure, even if it seems like it can’t and shouldn’t right now.
But here’s something to keep in mind, if you’re someone who can’t fathom a federal government purposely turning its back on a state in need for any reason: As The Atlantic reports, Donald Trump has already made it clear that the states that voted for him will get preferential treatment. He said as much as that chaotic news conference he held a few weeks back. “We focused very hard in those states and they really reciprocated,” he said. “And those states are gonna have a lot of jobs and they’re gonna have a lot of security. They’re going to have a lot of good news for their veterans.” Then Sean Spicer made it clear yesterday just what that means in terms of Trump’s big investigation into nonexistent voter fraud. “There’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case,” he said. “You look at California and New York, I’m not sure that those statements were — we didn’t look at those two states in particular… I think when you look at where a lot of places where a lot of these issues could have occurred in bigger states, that’s where I think we’re going to look.”
Translation: Trump plans to specifically target his investigation toward states that voted for Hillary Clinton. Because he knows not only that millions voted illegally (which they didn’t) but that they all voted for Clinton (which they didn’t because, see previous point).
This is the mind of a narcissistic wack-job at work, someone who needs constant adulation, rewarding it handsomely and neglecting or attacking those who don’t give it to him.
Do you understand why I’m scared for California? We’re fine now. Our economy is good, our infrastructure needs work but is passable, and we’re about as self-sufficient as any state can be.
But the thing about California is, that can all change in 30 seconds. And we won’t even see it coming.
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Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.