From swamp to quicksand

Movie characters  got caught in quicksand when I was a kid. This natural phenomenon frequently trapped bad guys in westerns and funny men in comedies, sucking them into a dangerous pool of liquified sand. The more they struggled to extricate themselves, the deeper they sank into the glop, either to a horrible death or to be pulled out to safety by a friend, depending on the movie’s story line.

Quicksand develops in ordinary loose, wet sand when the sand is agitated. This traps the water in the sand so that it loses strength and can’t support weight. In the old movies, if someone steps into this mess, he sinks quickly and can’t escape. That’s fiction, of course. Actually, a human wouldn’t sink out of sight but should be able to crawl out, dirtier for the experience, but alive.

President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign vow to “drain the swamp” of the Washington establishment got me thinking about the quicksand in those old movies. Maybe, I thought, his swamp-clearing effort would land him and the rest of us in quicksand. Not a great tradeoff. How’s the swamp draining going so far?

Here’s a partial list of the people he has appointed or plans to appoint to important roles as leaders of our nation. Many are millionaires or billionaires. A complete list would be too long and much too scary, but here are some of his choices who stand the best chances of getting us into quicksand.

To head the Central Intelligence Agency, Trump chooses a member of Congress who falsely claimed that Muslim organizations and religious leaders had not condemned terrorism and called CIA operatives who participated in torture “heroes.” To head Treasury, Trump chooses a former hedge fund head and movie producer with no government experience who promises to lower the corporate tax rate. As the nation’s attorney general, Trump selects a man who is comfortable using the “N” word to describe African Americans and thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he learned that they smoked pot. Mr. Trump’s choice for Education Secretary is a woman who hates public schools and loves tax-supported vouchers to place kids into private schools. As Labor Secretary, Trump selects a man who heads fast-food chains and opposes raising the minimum wage.

To head Housing and Urban Development, Trump chooses Ben Carson, a retired surgeon who has conspiracy theories but no government experience. Dr. Carson compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia. To head the Department of Energy, Trump chooses Rick Perry, who wants to eliminate that department but couldn’t recall its name in a campaign debate appearance. As National Security Adviser, Trump likes a man who believes that the nation is in the midst of a war with radical Islamists. Fear of Muslims is rational, he tweeted recently. For Secretary of State, Trump prefers the head of a major oil company who has close business ties to Russia.

Clearly, Trump is agitating the sand. Are we in quicksand yet? Somewhere in the distance I can hear Oliver Hardy’s exasperated voice, saying, “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”

Today’s word: free. The word free most commonly is employed as an adjective. Examples:  free will, free ticket, free fall. Free also can be a verb, as in free Willy, or please free me from your grasp. The word free is not a noun. There is no such thing as a free. The commonly used term “for free” is ungrammatical. A product or service that doesn’t cost anything is free. It is not for free.

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