It's nighttime in Donald Trump's America.
At nondescript, unmarked shelters — in rural Kansas, or on a Manhattan side street — teenagers who barely speak a few words of English are rousted from their bunk beds, handed a snack and led, sleepy-eyed, onto idling buses. Their trip to Texas may take hours or days — the migrant boys and girls were given next to no warning, and moved out in the dead of night so they will not escape.
Some of the shelter employees who've been working to teach and care for these refugees from violence-torn Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador over the past few weeks are now weeping, as the children ascend the steps of their bus, as described in a recent, powerful article in the New York Times. The kids — adolescents, young teens — have emergency contact numbers etched into their belts, a fading lifeline to a support network that might as well be the other side of the world.
When the sun — the searing, unrelenting orb that bakes the desert dust of West Texas — finally rises, they will be pulling into the Trump administration's "temporary" tent city for young migrant detainees in the border town of Tornillo. There will be rows of white air-conditioned tents, but — unlike the shelters these kids abandoned in the midnight gloaming — there will be no classes, and few lawyers to help navigate U.S. immigration.
With its population of child detainees skyrocketing from 400 in June to a predicted 3,800 by the end of 2018, Tornillo is the biggest outpost in an American archipelago of gulags that was once unfathomable. And the reason that both the number of kids in these detention camps and the length of time they are staying there have skyrocketed can be summed up in one word: fear. That's because the Trump administration's willingness to sic the attack dogs of the president's not-so-secret police force called ICE on immigrants, even those with no criminal record, has terrified the sponsors who in past crises stepped forward and offered loving homes to such children.
It's nighttime in Donald Trump's America.
And yet it's hot. Across the United States, the average nighttime temperature has risen over the past century at exactly double the rate of daytime average temperatures, which climate scientists say is one of the most damning pieces of evidence that greenhouse gases are inexorably warming the planet — unless we decide to take more drastic action to address the problem.
The consequences of America's relentless hot nights — even normally chilly Burlington, Vt., saw an overnight where the mercury failed to dip below 80, an unprecedented event — are felt by everyday people, by folks in less advantaged neighborhoods who can't afford air-conditioning, by farmworkers and others who needed cooler evenings for their chores, or just by the fact that our bodies' biological rhythms know that this is not normal.
And here's the worst part: In its unyielding effort to bend environmental rules to the will of its corporate patrons, the Trump administration has decided to stop arguing that climate change is a hoax, but instead acknowledge that catastrophic climate change is so locked in for the 21st century that there is nothing humankind can do about it. A recent filing by Trump's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes the remarkable argument that there's little point in stricter limits on car and truck pollution after 2020 because Planet Earth's goose is already cooked — a predicted 7-degree-Fahrenheit rise in global temperatures by 2100 that would leave Manhattan and Miami underwater, amid scorching drought in the regions that aren't badly flooded.
Team Trump has found a way to turn climate denial into something even worse — climate nihilism, the belief that the party's almost over, so tonight Big Pollution might as well party like it's 2099. Heck, we might as well trash the proposed curbs on toxic mercury pollution while we're at it — in a world where the president values today's corporate golf buddies more than the future of his own grandchildren.
It's nighttime in Donald Trump's America — which means it's morning in Yemen, where the beleaguered civilian population is waking up from another night of devastation from made-in-the-USA, dropped-by-Saudi-Arabia bombs, in the relentless war that has not only killed untold thousands but has unleashed a humanitarian nightmare of food shortages and cholera.
The United States could not only stop selling the bombs that are destroying Yemen, and stop giving the Saudis the targeting information they need to carry out the airstrikes, but it could then use its clout to force an end to the fighting, or at least a cease-fire. But it won't. There's simply too many billions of dollars at stake for the American military-industrial complex.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has overruled his underlings pleading that the U.S. take action to end the killing in Yemen, because "suspending support could undercut plans to sell more than 120,000 precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)." That's appalling — but it's hardly the first time that the American establishment has endorsed weapons over people.
It's nighttime in Donald Trump's America — and on The Strip in Las Vegas, thousands are lighting candles, holding American flags or weeping as Nevada's governor reads the names of the 58 innocent people gunned down on Oct. 1, 2017, by a madman with high-powered weapons that wouldn't be legal in most of the civilized world. Some 2,500 miles to the east, the thoughts and the prayers of Las Vegas failed to move a thoughtless and heartless government that hopes America has forgotten how it's dragged its feet on a promise to ban the bump stocks that allowed one man to kill so many so fast — let alone its failure to take seriously the greater lack of safety in a gun-crazed country.
It's nighttime in Donald Trump's America — but the lights are on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the press office, aides are frantically scrubbing the transcript of the president's latest press conference — as if that could somehow erase Trump's misogynistic words toward a female journalist.
Schedulers were busy arranging the next round of rallies for the base that cares only for building a wall with Mexico, locking up Hillary Clinton, and declaring the eternal suckitude of CNN. From a second-story window comes the soft fluorescent glow of the Fox News Channel and an orange despot watching for the next mention of his name, with nary a thought about the children of Tornillo, or Yemen, or Parkland.
On Tuesday afternoon, outlined against a brilliant blue, gray October sky, the horseman of our American apocalypse will arrive here in Philadelphia, and spin the sunny side of his administration to a big room packed with electrical contractors. The 45th president will no doubt tout his trade wars and promise his audience that a tax cut that largely targeted large corporations and billionaires will trickle its way down to their small businesses, hopefully before anyone notices that the federal coffers are being drained dry to pay for this bait-and-switch.