On the day I left Paris (after a well-timed visit to my daughter), the temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was still morning. That day, it climbed to 104; the next day was the hottest in France in recorded history.
Unlike the United States, where I mostly need a jacket to deal with summer air conditioning (perfect for a man in a suit), in Europe and most of the rest of the world, jackets are not required. Air conditioning is the exception, not the rule.
People can go to parks and fountains, to movies and hotels, to friends in the country, to department stores, to a room with a fan. Stores close. The streets and buildings shimmer.
Poor people, especially poor old people, get trapped in overheated walk-ups.
It will take weeks, a friend tells me, to know the consequences of the week’s brutal heat on the most vulnerable.
Did someone say something about global warming?
What was that accord that all those other nations signed in Paris?
How can you ignore a threat that shuts an entire country and much of a continent down, killing the old and the needy?
Air conditioning can only save us for so long.
People die in American heat waves as well. Trump hardly cares more.
What will it take for this president to recognize that global warming is a threat to him, to his family, to his country, and that he will be held responsible for silly science and selfish inaction? For keeping his suit jacket on while the rest of the world tries to survive?
Trump will not be around for the “or else” days, but they will be his legacy. There is a generation taking notes of his irresponsibility, of the opportunity squandered, of science denied and suffering ignored.
One need not wait for the future to find his victims.
Just look on the fifth floor when the old lady doesn’t appear, when no one comes home, when something isn’t right. Where does that fit in his ledger?
Paris is indeed burning. Burning hot.
We drag ourselves onto the plane bound for home. “Whew,” someone says, “we are leaving before the heat.” Not quite. The bridge to the plane is hot as the day. It is afternoon. No one is frying eggs. Why waste an egg?
Make no mistake. Our president is viewed as a trickster and a fool, even by those who profit from his blindness. It is almost embarrassing what he gets away with — I mean almost embarrassing to them. They smile with pity. That is almost worse. They complain about their leader, a rational, sane center-right man. But ours?
To those of us who can remember how we fought back from the days of the ugly Americans, those who have studied the other legacy of Vietnam, seeing America slip so low is not simply his problem. The pity is the worst. They know how helpless we feel.
“Who will win your election?” I am asked.
If I say what I think, I will be asked why. I can barely explain in English. Certainly not in 30 seconds. I get out of the cab and shake my head. It is over 100 degrees.
Twelve hours later I am back in America, pulling out my jacket against the freezing temperatures, racing through the automated check-in. I go back to walking with my phone in my hand and head outside.
Is it me, or is it hotter than usual?
Liberals used to get mad when Ronald Reagan posed in state parks as if he were an environmentalist. At least he tried. Trump doesn’t even do that.
Let them sweat. Let them burn. This is not what a great country does. Or a great world leader.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.