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Letter to President Trump

Dear Mr. President,

We have just heard days of praises for Senator John McCain’s personal character. He was devoted to causes greater than himself and acted selflessly, he had generous empathy for other people, he was committed to telling the truth and to acting with honor, he had physical courage. I argue that Senator McCain’s characteristics, while conventionally laudable, are not as useful in a President, like yourself, who is confronted with a world whose natural systems are in human-caused crises. America faces foreseeable and unforeseeable dangers from climate change, which will be increasingly obvious during your watch as President.

I believe you are a rare American sociopath. As such, you are not burdened by a conscience or by any moral code beyond doing what is in your own self interests. You have no commitment to truth-telling, and you have no internal limits hampering you from doing exactly what you believe to be for your own benefit. You are impatient with democracy and with laws to the extent they impose limits on your own actions. Your character set fortunately leads you, at least part of you, to want to preserve the land, air and waters of this country because most of your properties and activities are here.

This freedom from restraints frees you to do things more democratic leaders perhaps couldn’t. Cutting off immigration is an example. If our core environmental problem is too many people consuming too much, it makes sense for America to stop accepting immigrants fleeing desperate circumstances. The planet has moved into a period where millions experience physical want or persecution pressing them to leave their homelands and risk going to safer regions. You are determined to build a wall at the Mexican-U.S. border that will stop immigrants from countries that lack the will or the ability to keep their human populations within sustainable limits. You see that America has no obligation to accept people from countries that have failed to keep their own populations and resources in balance. Your lack off empathy for other people’s pain makes it easier for you, for instance, to order that parents and young children be separated once arrested as illegal immigrants. The United States, you have repeatedly said, must focus on protecting its own citizens.

Science is telling us that climate changes are already baked into natural systems (more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and so forth) that will threaten comfort and even survival for people on our planet, and within the next few decades. The choices political leaders will confront are difficult; there will be losers, and democratic politicians generally fear hurting large groups of constituents. You are different, and you may be a model for future leaders with good communication skills who come from the approximately four percent of Americans who are sociopaths, unafraid of hurting people when they can get away with it.

Alternatively and preferably for most of us, Americans will create and elevate effective leaders who, in the traditions of Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt do have empathy and compassion for their fellow travelers on this planet. Our times demand leaders who are skillful and effective in implementing solutions for climate change problems man has created. Their solutions should comply with the democratic principle that actions be done for the greatest good of the greatest number, solutions which give weight to the interests of people who are not yet even born.


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