More Disturbing Than Trump
Driving in to Boston last night to give a talk at the Boundless Way Zen group that meets in Newton, I was deeply upset by a news story on NPR. And it wasn’t about our new president. Or only tangentially. What really disturbed me came after a rather routinely depressing report about the morality of our government and Trump’s behavior and changing positions.
The first story reported the decreasing likelihood of ever declassifying a senate report that roundly condemns torture both as inhumane and as ineffective*. As part of this, we heard a clip of Trump from a pre-election rally in Ohio. He asked himself: ‘Would I approve waterboarding?’ Then answered himself (to the wild delight of the crowd): ‘You bet your ass I’d approve it. You bet your ass – in a heartbeat.’
Following this, we heard John McCain (who I didn’t like or trust when he ran for President, but now looks like a figure of moderation and integrity) saying ‘I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do. We will not waterboard.’ And even Trump was reported saying he was ‘considering his position’ after being told by a general that a soda and a hamburger are a more effective interrogation technique than torture.
But it was the story ten or fifteen minutes later that somehow managed to pierce my protective shell of denial and deeply disturb me**. The story was investigating the ‘rash of small earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas in recent years.’ These earthquakes have been directly linked to standard industry practice of disposing toxic oil wastewater by injecting it into the earth. In September, Oklahoma experienced its largest earthquake ever – one that reached a magnitude of 5.8.
Oklahoma has now taken steps to outlaw injecting wastewater, but Texas is still debating what to do. Where the injections have stopped, the earthquakes have stopped. They then briefly touched on the now-common practice of fracking that involves a similar procedure. Fracking uses injected liquid to intentionally destabilize the geology of an area so we can extract more oil. Trump has promised to take away all barriers to energy production so fracking will be fine under his administration.
Hearing these stories in proximity, I couldn’t help connecting the two and feeling that injecting these huge amounts of toxic waste water and other liquids into the earth is a form of torture. And that the many large and small earthquakes are the shuddering of the earth in response to the brutality of these injections.
Now, I know the earth is in trouble – ice caps are melting, water sources are being permanently polluted and air quality in some places is nearly toxic – but I usually manage to keep this knowledge at a safe distance. But last night, on my drive, the image of the earth as a beautiful body of life that is being tortured by the forces that allow me to drive my car with impunity, was almost more than I could bear.