I was driving this morning behind a stainless steel double axeled truck down a two-lane highway in Southern Michigan when I noticed a smear of brown sludge running down the backend of the rig. I looked at the truck a bit closer and noticed it had a HAZMAT sticker a bit dirty and discolored but it was there nonetheless. I wondered what it could mean? “Why is that there”, rolled around in my head over and over. What on earth could a shiny stainless steel truck have on board that was hazardous to me or anyone else? Good grief should I be worried about this rig losing control and wreaking havoc on us all?
The load was clearly very heavy as the truck lumbered over the road barely reaching to posted speed limit while straining and swaying from side-to-side as if it could tip over at any time. The leaf springs arched and collapsed on each rise and rolled dramatically on each unforgiving pothole. The early morning summer sun shone in the distance and I considered my fate with each passing patch of open asphalt.
It reminded me of my days growing up in the farm fields and woodlots of Michigan. I could not tell you how many times I wandered into black muck, mosquitoes and filth in search of adventure and the answer to the timeless question of ‘who am I and why are we here’?
I can tell you to this day how it feels to have the swamp steal your freedom as it pulls your boots into the stench and the darkness of the rotting ecosystem and refuses to let it go. Anyone who has ever been there can tell you there is just no smell like it. Trust me.
I can recall many times standing there frozen trying to figure out if I could keep my balance and pull hard enough on my leg to get my boot to come back with my foot. It is the paralyzed confusion that is the most unsettling. I can assure you now it was never more than a 50/50 proposition to get away. Sometimes I would pull as hard as I could, struggling to get my boot and my foot free at the same time. Sometimes it would work and sometimes I was left trying to balance like a Wolenda on a wire 500 feet in the air hoping not to plunge into the foul muck below after my foot rocketed solo out of the darkness. Sometimes I was able to re-insert my foot and sometimes I toppled like a sack of potatoes into the oozing greasy filth; my hands plunging deep into the foul goop followed by my shorts, my tee-shirt and of course my neck and chin. I was usually able to save my face from the full-on immersion but not always. On two occasions that I can recall there was nothing left of me except a dark, wet mess. I was fully engulfed in the dank, nasty, stench-encrusted-brine of Mother Earth and I had no choice but to surrender and go home to my mother for a complete overhaul and cleaning.
Riding behind the stainless steel truck I realized it too had the same dilemma. On the back was the name ‘The Honey Dipper’ and I understood immediately it was a truck with a single purpose; it sucked the gelatinous contents of septic tanks 12 hours a day every day. Some days it was on the job even longer. It pulled the semi-solid liquid from everything flushed down those toilets over many years from who knows how many people and raced it away to a safe place for disposal. It did all it could to keep it ‘sanitary’ but as I re-focused on the brown ooze down the side of the shining truck I realized that you just cannot contain all of that filth. I also realized that no matter how many ‘Honey Dipper’s’ were running around there would be no end to the depth and darkness of the septic tanks and cesspools that filled them to overflow every day. There would be no end to that awful smell that is belched forward when a boy tries to pull his boot from the rotting stench of the mucky swamp.
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Sadly that is when I realized exactly what President Donald Trump is up against. You see he showed up with a shiny new stainless steel “Honey Dipper’ thinking he could drain the swamp. But that is woefully inadequate. No matter how many times he sucks out the waste and inhales the stench and no matter how many times he recoils from the awful smell it may never be enough to return Washington DC to sanitary conditions is the circles of politics.
As I have written before and I am quite sure I will pen again; Donald Trump had no idea how deep and dark the swamp was and is when he waded in to ‘Drain the Swamp’. The truth is, he had no idea was he was dealing with. Frankly most of us had no idea how bad it really was or is. In fact I would suggest it is far more treacherous than anyone could have imagined. All that money and all that power residing in a single place could only produce an evil outcome.
President Trump is learning just as I did; how to balance on one foot trying to regain your balance and save your boot. The only hope is to continue on your journey. He may master this in the months ahead and he may also be sucked into the blackness of the muck and smeared in that awful smell.
Time will tell.