Conditions in America are perfect for a political avalanche | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

Conditions in America are perfect for a political avalanche 

Taking a Gander

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Much like the eruptions of volcanoes, the devastation of earthquakes and the terror of tsunamis, avalanches are one of our planet’s most spectacular shows. Beautiful, exciting and powerful—when viewed at a distance—we hold our breath as our favorite satellite nature channel gives us a bird’s-eye view of what happens when an unstable slope of white suddenly gives way.

The fracture opens; the movement begins; a flow of violence, mimicking the roar of a freight train, engulfs a slope; stands of timber that have stood for decades are bowled-over like toothpicks; buildings are destroyed; and cars, looking much like the Matchbox Series replicas in your den, are swept from a canyon road. Finally, an entire mountain is enveloped in a lingering, silent cloud of deathly white.

But avalanches are much more than a spectacle. They cause an average of 28 deaths in the U.S. every year—most of them in the Rockies and Sierras—and many of those tragedies could have been avoided had outdoorsmen simply taken reasonable precautions.

As an avid back-country hiker, I’ve personally triggered three of them during my life as a “naturalized” Utahn, and each event was precipitated by inattention or foolishness on my part.

Let’s face it; we’ve all heard the warnings: Slopes over 30 degrees can be dangerous, particularly when wind and snow conditions are just right. I’m one of the lucky ones, because my experiences were not the violent episodes you see in the news. In all three, I was the one to create the break—rather than being in the avalanche’s path and hit by those car-sized chunks that break bones and tumble victims into eternity.

I took unnecessary risks, and I have to ask myself why. Frankly, humankind seems to have a perverse need to do things that are dangerous, and the repetitive nature of our lives seems to create a lust for surprises, terrifying random events and the types of happenings that snag big headlines. It’s just human nature, and Americans are probably the ultimate excitement junkies.

Just like in the books we read and the sensational news that breaks with remarkable regularity, I suspect that Americans tire of the predictable and that they’re actually waiting, impatiently, for another extreme event to happen.

Enter Donald Trump. His introduction to America’s political scene was the equivalent of watching some new mini-series on cable TV. Trump was, unlike typically polite and careful politicians, a feast for those who need sensationalism and shocking surprises in their lives.

Someone as remarkably uncouth, unprincipled, dishonest and boorish as Trump is incapable of garnering any respectable kudos. That means he must rely on the lure of his unhinged personality for recognition. It’s not healthy, and yet millions of Americans can’t seem to live without the drama, surprises and disasters that have occurred so regularly since Trump hit the political scene. Why have a normal, run-of-the-mill president when you can elect the excitement of having no idea of what will happen next?

Another revelation of golden-shower antics and marital infidelities; another tall tale of his business expertise and how he did it all with just a small loan from his father ($400 million); another woman stepping forward to accuse him of assault; one more account of how he defrauded contractors out of their pay; another kindergarten taunt of childish name-calling; and, best of all, another little insurrection to proclaim his popularity and might—the ultimate gift from his adoring fans.

The Trump disaster seems to have captivated a small number of minds, who find that surprises, shocks and abhorrent behavior make life so much more fun. Who would want a real stable genius—or someone who actually graduated at the top of their class—when the show under the big top is so much more tantalizing and exciting?

Sadly folks, the matter of who is to become our next president is no sitcom, no circus, nor a roulette wheel. As much as we feed on the idiotic, corrupt and unhinged spontaneity of Donald Trump, every shocking incident can have lasting repercussions and the worst of those is the destruction of our system of government.

If we expect that our democracy will endure, we cannot allow insurrectionists, con-men and men-who-would-be-king to have a place in our government. The warning signs are there, and we’ve already experienced the fright of a popular leader attempting to end the American democratic dream.

If you think your vote should go to Donald Trump, please stop to remember the horror of that man, sitting back and watching TV as his cultist followers, Proud Boys and loyal nitwits stormed the Capitol, attempting to end the power of the vote and the voice of the people.

Any avalanche specialist can tell you: The conditions are right. The next presidential election holds the potential for a deadly fracture and consequent inundation of all the American values we hold dear.

Let’s not be responsible for that disaster.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and their adorable and ferocious “Poppy.”

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