Bill McKibbenThu 7 Jun 2018 11.00 BST
The constant sense of crisis that the president creates robs us of the concentration we need to focus on long-term issues like climate change
‘We’ve all but stopped paying attention to climate change, the single greatest crisis the planet has ever faced.’ Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Donald Trump may be costing us many things: a sense of national decency, a stable global order, a generation of professional civil servants and diplomats. Or maybe not. Maybe we can claw those losses back – perhaps the reaction will begin with the midterm elections and we’ll slowly return our way towards something that looks like the old normal.
But he’s definitely costing us one precious thing, and that’s time. It rolls past every day as we stand necessarily transfixed by his transgressions, and since it can’t be rolled back there are victims who – whatever the future holds – are paying an unrefundable price.
These thoughts were on my mind as I protested outside the Vermont governor’s office with other local members of the Poor People’s Campaign, the nationwide renewal of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s final crusade. (We were hoping to do a sit-in, but the door to the governor’s office had been cleverly locked, perhaps after they’d heard us singing We Shall Not Be Moved for 20 minutes outside. If you need a crime performed efficiently, perhaps best not to hire an idealist.)
This Poor People’s Campaign has been by many measures a great success, moving tens of thousands of people to action in every state capitol, around issues ranging from immigration and racial justice to healthcare and environmental justice. But it has barely broken through the president’s nonstop noise into the national news, and so the stories of the people involved have been too little heard. “Grinding poverty” is a cliched phrase but it has a real meaning: the day-in day-out erosion of lives when there’s too little money for doctors, for food, for transportation. This is happening, now. Real lives are being lived, and lived in needlessly cruel conditions. Real lives are being lost.