“I’ve just heard that my family home near Carpenteria is literally in flames at this moment,” a friend told me recently. She was particularly worried, she said, because “my mom has MS. She and my dad got the call to evacuate after midnight last night. They were able to grab a few photos, my sister’s childhood teddy bear, and the dog. That’s it. That’s all that’s left.”
My friend’s parents are among the thousands of victims of the 240,000-acre Thomas fire, one of California’s spate of late-season wildfires. Stoked by 80-mile-an-hour Santa Ana winds, plenty of dry fuel, and 8 percent humidity, such fires are devouring huge swaths of Southern California from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Months of dry weather and unseasonably warm temperatures have turned the southern part of the state into a tinderbox.
Once again the country watches in horror as firefighters struggle to contain blazes of historic voracity—as we watched only a couple of months ago when at least 250 wildfires spread across the counties north of San Francisco. Even after long-awaited rains brought by an El Niño winter earlier in 2017, years of drought have left my state ready to explode in flames on an increasingly warming planet. All it takes is a spark.
Sort of like the whole world in the age of Donald Trump.
The crazy comes so fast and furious these days, it’s easy to forget some of the smaller brushfires—like the one President Trump lit at the end of November when he retweeted three false and “inflammatory” videos about Muslims that he found on the Twitter feed of the leader of a British ultra-nationalist group.
The president’s next move in the international arena—his “recognition” of Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel—hasn’t yet slipped from memory, in part because of the outrage it evoked around the world. As Moustafa Bayoumi, acclaimed author of How Does It Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, wrote in The Guardian, “The entire Middle East, from Palestine to Yemen, appears set to burst into flames after this week.” Not surprisingly, his prediction has already begun to come true with demonstrations in the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon, where US flags and posters of President Trump were set alight. We’ve also seen the first rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and the predictable Israeli reprisal of air attacks.