Strategic Grifter Gift: Protect Precious Places by Giving Them to Donald Trump

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Imagine this scene off the east coast of Florida in view of Mar-a-Lago: Getty

By David Underhill –

MOBILE, Ala. – It must have been the baffling foreign language that prevented many reporters and editors from noting the obvious. Mar means sea or ocean in Spanish. If they had known this they surely would have realized that the name of Donald Trump’s Florida resort – Mar-a-Lago – means it’s on the Atlantic seashore. And knowing this, they surely would have mentioned that the decision to exempt Florida from a vast expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling incidentally saved Mar-a-Lago from having drill rigs plunk down in its ocean front yard.

And surely interior secretary Ron Zinke and Florida governor Rick Scott did not think of this when they met to discuss the drilling plans. Or if they thought of it, they surely did not speak of it. And if they didn’t, it can’t be reported as figuring in the decision because that would be “fake news.”


A view of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago: Coast Guard

None of this studied blindness blinkered Michael Moore. Immediately upon hearing that all offshore areas would be available for exploration, he announced an intention to get a rig and start drilling in the waters off Mar-a-Lago. With ugly, oily operations like that looming over the resort who would pay Donald the $200,000 initiation charge to join his Mar-a-Lago club and the $14,000 annual membership fee?

Then Zinke and Scott sprang to the rescue. Florida, they declared, would escape the drilling expansion since it is “unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism.”

“Wait!” hollered many other coastal governors, “we are unique and touristy too.” So far their complaints have amounted to standing on the beach and ordering an advancing hurricane to go back where it came from.

This means the Trump administration’s fanatic quest for “energy dominance” and “independence” reliant on fossil fuels will concentrate these hazardous activities even further into the places where they already occur — the “sacrifice zones” — like the Gulf of Mexico waters and shores still stunted from the BP oil volcano eight years ago.

Which means those zones must find ways of protecting themselves so they don’t become the permanent dumping grounds for everything obnoxious that allows the world’s Mar-a-Lagos to glide onward into glory as if nothing else exists.

This protection might come from a revolution in how we treat each other and how we tread upon the earth. But pending the arrival of such redemption, and the social and economic upsets it would require, we could share the sacrifices more evenly instead of concentrating them in certain places. The challenge is making this happen.

Defensive Giveaways

Unconventional methods are called for, since regular ones are not working. A promising approach would be to give Donald Trump whatever places need protection.

Alabama’s Gulf State Park, the prime unit of the state’s park system, is under threat from encroaching “developers,” dismembering highway projects, and offshore oil drilling mishaps. So, give the park to Trump.

Routinely when someone donates a piece of land for a park, the deed specifies that the tract must be used only for that purpose and will revert to the donor if this stipulation is not observed. Write that into the paperwork transferring ownership to Trump: he must allow the park to continue as public access to the beaches, dunes and campgrounds of the coast, but he gets to bask in the aura of owner. Otherwise, the deal is void and ownership returns to the state.

In lower Louisiana an uprising is brewing similar to what roiled the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota a year ago. This pipeline would cut through the Atchafalaya wetlands, where the Mississippi river spreads a veil of its waters across the land en route to the Gulf of Mexico. Rather than another rancorous battle just give the place to Trump, with the stipulation that the pipeline halts, along with anything else that would mar its nature. Even allow him to bestow it upon favored family members. Swamp Ivanka would be a fetching new name for it.

Similarly, the furor over plans to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah could end by simply deeding the whole place to Trump. But take care to tell him that the ancient cliff dwellings and other archaeological marvels there are, by local lore, a prophecy of mighty cities to come with tall golden towers bearing the name of a Great Leader to the height of the heavens — and if any harm should come to these cliff dwellings, the golden towers too will fall. Write that into the deeds, accompanied by a starkly illustrative indigenous ceremony.

Mining machinery wants to chew into the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area in northern Minnesota. Oil drillers yearn to invade the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Give these choice sites to Trump with appropriate protections — and helpful fables, as necessary — written into the legal instruments transferring ownership to him.

Do the same for whatever other places are in jeopardy. The possibilities are endless.

Pretense as Policy

Then rely on Trump’s ego-maniacal vanity, plus the cringing complicity of politicians and media, to protect these newly acquired properties. This combination of interests will be equal to the task, judging by how well they performed in elbowing the oil rigs away from Mar-a-Lago.

That operation required pretense and discipline. The key players involved had to pretend that the decision to exempt Florida from the expansion of offshore oil drilling had nothing to do with the location of Trump’s resort in Florida. They did this with impressive, persistent unanimity. The bleats of a few spoilsports about how Trump would personally benefit from this decision vanished behind the barrage of justifications about Florida’s supposedly unique tourist and economic status.

The same methods will shelter Trump’s other new acquisitions. Everybody anxious to curry favor with the His Magnificence will hasten to manufacture deceptive reasons why his properties must not be threatened by drillers and pipeliners and miners and the rest. And the goal of preservation will be accomplished.

Granted, this scheme lacks the satisfactions of a mass upheaval that evicts vile sleazes from power and replaces them with a redeemed republic. But until then, the sort of political jujitsu advocated here would keep hope alive.


Brown pelicans with young and eggs on an island surrounded by BP oil in Barataria Bay Louisiana, June 2010: Glynn Wilson

© 2018, David Underhill. All rights reserved.

  1 comment for “Strategic Grifter Gift: Protect Precious Places by Giving Them to Donald Trump

  1. Cissy
    January 14, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    You have arrived at the solution for saving our precious places. Here’s to you, Mr. Underhill!

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