Letter from the Director: “Trump’s Legacy – Lies and Violence,” January 2021

On the third day of the Trump administration Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President of the United States, introduced the concept of “alternative facts”. This early indicator of the depth of deception inspired by Donald Trump’s pathological lying was just the very beginning of odious behavior by the new President and his political appointees. On Wednesday, January 6, 2021 we witnessed the full manifestation of that concept as it drove a mob to storm the United States Capitol building and terrorize both houses of Congress.

That day, the single act that drove the seditious mob was Trump’s unequivocal call to action, “…you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.” This call was offered as the culmination of just over two full months of lies about the existence of evidence showing widespread voter fraud. These lies were widely and incessantly broadcast by the President of the United States and unsuccessfully flung at several dozen courts by an assortment of political hacks and legal clowns. Stop the steal was the corrosive mantra that set the stage.

Just two days before the Trump-inspired act of domestic terrorism, he debased the Medal of Freedom—our nation’s highest honor, alongside the Congressional Gold Medal—by awarding it to Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan, two of the most ideologically driven and conspiracy-friendly Republican members of Congress. Eighteen months earlier Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom to the discredited economist whose eponymous Laffer curve enthralled ideological opportunists of inequity. And let’s not forget that just three weeks ago, Trump pardoned former employees of Blackwater convicted of murder and manslaughter in the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

Also during these past weeks, the administration has succeeded in moving forward to sell the first ever leases for oil and gas development in Alaska’s biodiverse and ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This unprecedented effort to expand oil production into one of the most important reserves of unique biodiversity in the world is just the latest environmental insult perpetrated by this corrupt and venal President and his henchmen. By the time Joe Biden is inaugurated as President and Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President, the Trump administration will have reversed more than 104 environmental rules—many on the basis of flimsy science, obfuscation of the facts, dismissal of public sentiment and comments and the rights and desires of marginalized communities including Native Americans.

In his 1981 inaugural address Ronald Reagan famously stated that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” In the most explicit terms since President Reagan voiced that thought, the Trump administration has finally proven him correct. It is important to tell the truth. Trump and his agents have lied to the American people and since January 2017 his administration has posed a grave threat to the nation’s security, health and wellbeing.

It is critically important not to mince words about what has been happening these past four years. It is important to remember and call out the damage the Trump administration and Donald Trump himself has inflicted on the United States.

It is time to heal, but we need to do more, much more than heal. It is time to act. The environment matters and it has been degraded these past four years—we must rebuild a thoughtful and science-based approach to protecting people and the environment. Black Lives Matter peaceful protestors at the Capitol would have been arrested in droves this past Wednesday; structural racism is real and must be addressed with real actions, today. Climate change has become an existential crisis and the US needs to recapture a leading role with solutions and commitments, including financial resources. We have run out of time to delay fully committing to and realizing a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

The most patriotic sentiment this past Wednesday was shame. I felt it deeply. The most patriotic instinct is to build—and build better, generously, equitably, thoughtfully and with the full promise of science and creativity. I also feel this deeply.

John E. Fernández, Director
January 8, 2021
Cambridge, Massachusetts