Back when I was working as a fly fishing guide in Montana and Idaho, I spent every spare moment fishing. While that may seem like an odd choice to some folks, it made perfect sense to me. Guiding and fishing are two very different things, and while I enjoyed my guiding, I’ve always loved my fishing more.
So there I was, casting a fly and enjoying a rare day off on my home river, when I looked up and saw smoke in the distance. And that smoke, strangely enough, looked like it was coming from the same general vicinity as the house I was renting. Bummer, right? So I waded back to the bank, hiked back to my truck, and then drove towards that thick, dark column of smoke rising ominously in the distance.
As I got closer, I saw flashing lights and fire trucks, and I realized that life, at least from my point of view, was starting to look a little grim. I couldn’t get all the way home - it turns out that the police had the road blocked off - but it was obvious that smoke was gushing up from the immediate vicinity of my rental house.
With no other viable options at hand, I pulled into the local fly shop, which, as luck would have it, was just down the road from my rental. My boss was standing there in the parking area, looking up at the towering column of smoke - it had lightened up a bit, as if the fire was so hot that it was burning noticeably cleaner - and I jumped out of my rig and asked him if my rental house was going up in flames.
“No,” he said, “it’s Mike’s house, right next door to yours. Unfortunately, there’s nothing they can do. It’s burning to the ground.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody I knew liked Mike. He was one of those guys who worked hard at being a dick, and I’m afraid I blurted out the first thing that came into my head.
“Well, if somebody’s place had to burn down, I’m glad it’s Mike’s.”
My boss, who truly was—and is—one of the nicest and most decent people I know, couldn’t let that slide. He proceeded to tell me that while Mike was a tool, we still needed to show him compassion and respect in light of this unfortunate turn of events. Then he said that he was going to go find Mike, and talk to him, and offer him a place to stay, along with whatever help he might need to get back on his feet.
My boss was gone for quite a while and I stood there in the parking lot, watching that towering column of smoke and thinking about how I should be more caring, more forgiving, and more compassionate. I must have stood there for close to an hour, lost in thought—and more than a little ashamed of myself—before my boss showed back up at the fly shop. At which point I asked him, in what I hoped was my most contrite voice, if he’d had a chance to talk with Mike.
He didn’t say anything for a second, so I tried to imagine what it must be like to be so generous, and so decent—what it would be like to set aside my opinions and act in a truly selfless, altruistic manner—as I waited to hear how we were going to help Mike get back on his feet. It took him just a second, but he finally answered me.
“Yeah, I talked with him,” he said. “Fuck that guy. He’s an asshole.”
I’ve known my former boss—who truly is a wonderful human being—for more than 25 years now, and that’s the only time in my life I have ever heard him swear.
The moral of this story, of course, is that everyone has his breaking point. Mike was such a huge dick that his deep-seated dickishness overwhelmed a boundless fountain of decency and compassion and left my boss with no other possible response but “fuck that guy.”
Which, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is where we find ourselves right now with the Trump administration. I don’t care how nice you are, or how good, or how decent, or how forgiving. It doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative, a moderate, or a liberal. It’s irrelevant if you’re up for 2017’s “Person of the Year” or if you’ve recently been nominated for sainthood. At the end of the day, if you love our waters and our landscapes, and if you cherish the places we fish, then you have to look at Trump’s ongoing attacks on clean waters, clean air, healthy landscapes and a livable climate as more than we can possibly bear.
Whether it’s breathing life back into the rotting corpse of the Pebble Mine, or working to trash our public lands, or trying to kill the Clean Power Plan, or walking away from our last, best chance to control climate change, the Trump administration has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it doesn’t give a damn about our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans, or our fishing, or our families, or America’s future. And sadly, there’s nothing accidental about any of this. As Trump’s former right-hand man, Steve Bannon, once said: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Simply put, they want to burn it all down and they don’t care who gets hurt.
This isn’t normal. It’s not politics as usual, or even politics as we’ve ever seen politics before. It’s not rational, or defensible, or even sane. And regardless of how much we might want to extend a hand in friendship, or how much we might hope to work together with the federal government, it’s time for good people of all political stripes—Republicans, Independents and Democrats—to face the facts. We have to oppose the current Powers-That-Be in Washington, DC. We have to fight for our landscapes and waters. We have no other choice. To paraphrase my old boss, who eventually learned the hard way that some people are truly beyond redemption: “Fuck those guys. They’re assholes.”
Editor's note: We have taken the liberty of removing the author's "f*cks" and replacing them with the less ambiguous "fucks."