Every place you turn the world seems to have a new normal. There isn’t a country anywhere where things seem to be functioning and stable. It used to be just third world countries and banana republics that had rioting in the streets and governments threatening to or actually arresting their opposition. Nothing new about that. I remember in college a song by Tom Lehrer that began “They’re rioting in Africa...” Today, the United Kingdom, led by Great Britain, has joined those ranks. It is the sixth-largest economy in the world and has been trying to work out an exit from the EU since the Brexit vote. It’s already been several years and they don’t seem any closer. In fact, if anything, they seem to have stalemated themselves. The Conservative party appears to be split down the middle, the Labor party impotent and neither can put together a plan that a majority can agree on. England is one of the oldest democracies in the world and they don’t seem able to make it work anymore.
Another very old democracy is the USA and we are now in the process of tearing ourselves apart. Depending on whom you ask it’s either the Democrats trying to overthrow a duly elected president in what some see as a coup, or it’s that the Republicans have hitched themselves to a narcissist which, according to the definition, is a person filled with an exaggerated feeling of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration and a total lack of empathy for other people. Bingo!
I can remember the Nixon impeachment when, as the facts came out, his Republican support began to slip away. Today, we may have become so polarized that it may no longer matter what the facts are. There is a Red team and a Blue team and neither is budging. But occasionally a grownup shows up. Recently, just after Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman testified in the House impeachment inquiry, he was attacked as an immigrant and it was suggested that his loyalty was really to Ukraine and not the U.S. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, spoke up, defending him saying you can disagree with him, but the man is a patriot who has fought for and defended his country for over 20 years and that should be respected. I thought to myself—that lady has guts and she’s in the tradition of members of the House that I remember. I understand that’s it’s very difficult to be a Republican in the Congress today. I’m sure many of them read the president’s Twitter feed and want to just crawl under the table, but he’s also the head of their party and that makes for a terrible conflict. It’s easier for the Democrats. They just want to string him up and they’re principally fighting over the size rope to use. The immediate jury will be the U.S. Senate, but really, the ultimate jurors are the American people. How that verdict will be decided in November 2020 at this point is anybody’s guess.
The new normal in our town is fire. It used to be an occasional thing, a once-every-few-years kind of an occurrence, but not anymore. We had some rain this winter (a good thing) but then things began to grow in abundance increasing the fuel load (a bad thing). And now we all worry. We were down in Baja last week when we got news of the Getty Fire, and the staggering speed as it spread. They had to evacuate parts of Brentwood and Pacific Palisades and we’re going to see more of that. Malibu is no longer alone in being a high-fire area. The entire westside is now a high-fire area
As I write this column, we’re anticipating the winds picking up tonight blowing in gusts of 60, 70 and 80 mph and it’s a very scary time. Yet, if we want to be safer, we will have to do things that many of us really don’t want to do. The city’s fire prevention guy, Jerry Vandermeulen, came out to look at our house in La Costa last week and recommended what had to be done to reduce risk in the event of a fire. Those trees I love, that took years to grow out, have to be cut all the way back. The flower-filled vines that crawl up the walls and railings, the same. That lovely soft bark chip groundcover has to go to be replaced by pebbles or gravel. It’s not an aesthetic choice anymore, it’s a survival choice. So, bite your tongue and do what you have to do and insist your neighbor do the same. Call the city of Malibu’s fire guy Jerry Vandermeulen at the city, 310.456.2489 ext. 387 or email him at email@example.com. He’ll come out and look at your property at no charge, and tell you what should be done to make your property safer This is a freebie from the city. Take advantage of it.