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Edelman: The Dragon and Donaldo, a cautionary tale

There was a great country, whose leader, Donaldo the Impromptu, thought he knew better than all of his advisors, generals, and well, everybody. When his advisors warned him that a mighty dragon, a creature born of heat and water, was headed straight for the country’s seacoast, the Donaldo summoned his mighty communicator, the Twitterbird, to warn the citizenry of the great danger posed to them by the fifth degree Dragon, of which the Donaldo knew nothing. The Dragon, mightiest of his kind, had made up its mind to scourge the Southeast Provinces — the lands of Flowers and of Carols, but the Donaldo was sure the Dragon would make a sharp westward turn toward Al-Bammy. And so, the Donaldo dictated a message to the Twitterbird, saying, “Take heed, my loyal subjects of Al-Bammy, that the Dragon, which might be just a big blow-hard, will surely pay you a visit, wreak great havoc on your lands, uproot your trees, and make you one sorry, soggy lot.”

Those loyal advisors, wise in the ways of dragons like the mighty Saint Endurian, took it upon themselves to assuage the fears of the Al-Bammys, invoking another Twitterbird to speak, saying, “Chillax, you Al-Bammys, the Dragon, mighty though he may be, has other ideas.” The Donaldo was unaccustomed to being contradicted, especially by a lowly Dragon-watcher, and so, he set out to prove himself right and the Dragon-watcher wrong. He extracted from his desk drawer an ebon-tipped liquid crayon and proceeded to draw a curiously curved black arc on an outdated Dragon-tracking map. The curve was straight out of the Donaldo’s mind. It stretched over parts of Al-Bammy that the Dragon had in no way ever contemplated visiting. “There, see! I told you that the Dragon was nigh onto Al-Bammy,” even as it was hundreds of leagues away, and the Donaldo was leagues away from the reality of the situation.

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The Guardians of the Truth, with whom the Donaldo had been feuding for decades, pressed him for the truth, saying, “You say you are the Chosen Leader, and we humbly pray you answer just one question, ‘What knoweth thee of the phony arc on that outdated map? The colors are flat-out wrong, the arc is fantasy, and it did make the Al-Bammys tremble in their Crocs, which, by great coincidence, is what the arc is. Verily, whoever did place the arc there is not very sharp.’” Thus was born Sharpiegate. The Donaldo fumed for days afterward, taunting the Guardians of the Truth for chastising him. He then proceeded to invoke the Twitterbird yet one more time to carry a very weird cat video and call the Guardians, as was his wont.

While any resemblance of this tale to any president is strictly coincidental, there are some important lessons to be learned from it.

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First, the laws of physics do not have a political agenda. Warm oceans are an essential condition for big hurricanes, and we will continue to see bigger and stronger monsters like Dorian, and we will continue to see warmer oceans until all of us, Americans, Chinese, Indians, act effectively and in concert to reduce global warming. The president’s anti-global-warming campaign, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, supporting Brazilian strong-man Bolsinaro’s slash and burn program in the Amazon, and planning to open the Tongass National Forest to exploitation are worse than counterproductive. St. George might have slain the last dragon, but more monstrous hurricanes are sure to arrive and savage us. We needed to act years ago to reverse global warming. We cannot put off reducing our carbon footprint any longer.

Second, we once again have seen what can only be viewed as a character flaw in Trump: his absolute refusal to acknowledge even an inconsequential blunder. He could easily have said something like “I was operating on dated information. Current forecasts tell us that the residents of the South Atlantic coastline are at risk.” Problem solved, but that is not Trump’s way, and the consequences of his intransigence were fraught with danger — people actually in the storm’s path might have thought otherwise, to their great peril.

And finally, the entire incident brings to mind a quotation from one of the greatest minds in history. Albert Einstein observed that “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” President Trump has repeatedly misstated the truth thousands of times since taking office, and whatever trust he might have been given at the time he was elected is now more completely eroded than any damage a mere Category 5 hurricane could ever have inflicted on the Atlantic Coast — or Al-Bammy, for that matter.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at mjemath@gmail.com

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