POTUS stakes— vampire or zombie?

archival black and white photo of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave White House
ca. 1880–97, White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: loc.gov/resource/det.4a03951 Visionary or retrospecting?

Leading a group of people or an entire nation is a big job not suited to small minds, weak shoulders, or small hands since all these things are needed to shape and move heavy burdens of responsibility for those alive today and for those yet to come in the generations ahead. On the day this picture was taken the society and state of communications, public arenas for discourse, and the relationship between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of the USA government differed in many ways to the 2020 state of affairs.

Just over 100 years from the launch of its Constitution and establishment of independence, all eyes were forward, planning for greater days ahead; not straining to “make American great again.” Instead of dressing up in the old clothes of yesteryear to pretend the old days trump the present moment and future possibilities, the resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC looked to captains of industry, to the leaders of the Senate and House, and to as many smart people as possible for ways to solve the immediate, medium term, and longer term problems facing the young nation: “Think forward, not backward” might have been the slogan of the first 44 Presidents of the United States of America.

Imagine if the late 1800s person elected to the highest public office in the land was blind to future needs of the growing population of immigrants, those born as first-generation US citizens, and those already in the country for several generations. If this 1800s President sacrificed the land we know today as National Parks to robber barons eager to fuel capitalism growth without limits, perhaps it would have been another nation that would create a system intended to hold priceless natural resources in public trust for perpetuity; not the USA. Without our parks, maybe we’d instead have more strip-malls and parking lots.

Imagine if the late 1800s President wanted to keep out immigrants, where would all the inspiration, cultural glories, and diversity be today in 2020? Likewise, imagine if the late 1800s President undermined the legislative and judicial branches by perverting rules, laws, and traditions of bi-partisan problem-solving. Today the USA would be a stagnant wasteland of “might makes right.” And suppose the 1800s President’s chief concern was attracting news media attention, no matter if it was for outrage or for kudos. How would that leave room for intelligent interchange, thoughtful long-term vision, and responsibility for timelines longer than a news cycle?

In sum, it may be a figure of speech, but with regard to the blood that he sucks from the future generations by disregarding air, water, and climate emergencies and public health disasters, the nation’s highest executive today is able to meet the definition of a vampire. As folklore teaches, such a creature can only be rendered harmless by the collective effort of all to drive in a wooden stake and finally stop its destruction and its pattern of willfully foreclosing on the future.

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