A “Danger Asbestos” sign is seen as a demolition crew removes the remains of a demolished home. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Columnist

One of them wants to come to your country legally, work a job, contribute and eventually become a citizen. The other… is asbestos.

Guess which one President Trump has, historically, been vocally in favor of, and which one Trump’s administration is about to emit guidelines to discourage as much as it can? No, you do not need to guess. It is the Trump administration, and obviously its attitude is “LEGAL IMMIGRANTS are the real danger here. Give us more asbestos, please.”

That’s right. Not only have we not gotten around to banning asbestos, as nearly 60 other countries have, but also a Significant New Use Rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June (open for comment until Aug. 10!) would allow the case-by-case approval of certain uses of asbestos! Hooray! We have too many people coming here to try to build better lives! We have too little asbestos! You’re welcome!

Given the option of accepting that some things from the past should remain in the past, or saying, hey, you know what, we should give another hearing to this PROVEN CARCINOGENIC, it is no surprise what EPA has chosen. In fact, an optimistic Russian asbestos company has already printed Trump’s picture on the side of its products, because in the past he has said things like The Mob Was the Only Thing Responsible for Getting Rid of This Wonderful Substance and Had Only the World Trade Center Contained Asbestos, the Outcome of 9/11 Would Have Been Much Different.

Asbestos. I ask you.

All of the things we had hoped to leave in the ’80s are here right now with a big TRUMP seal attached. Usually, when people want to bring back the past, it is because they are remembering it wrong. They are thinking of a TV-perfect past when everyone wore dresses with Peter Pan collars and ate abundant casserole, where people learned Latin in school, television personalities were all thesauruses wrapped in seersucker, and you could use the word “pulchritude” in conversation without attracting stares. They have the erroneous idea that the past was politer, or more intellectual, or more civilized. They have been seduced by this image of the past as a classier, gentler time full of finger bowls and picket fences and children in overalls saying “gee whiz!”

But not the Trump team! They do not want the gauzy Norman Rockwell past. They do not want the appearance of intellectualism or the veneer of politeness. Let those go. They want, specifically, the overt racism and the asbestos. Those are what they have singled out as the signature characteristics of the Time when America was Great. Which… points for honesty, I guess?

This return to days gone by starts with asbestos and racism, and continues to include sexism, smog, Nazis and the constant nagging terror of nuclear war! And, soon, if we are lucky, extra lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and of course asbestosis!

Yes, bring back asbestos. Be (as)Best(os). America has gone downhill: We have too little carcinogenic insulation. Honestly, we are living too long. Or maybe it just feels too long.

At this rate, I can only guess what else they want to bring back. The Alien and Sedition Acts? Duels? Lead paint? Child chimney sweeps? The forced separation of families. (No, as usual, the cartoonishly evil thing that you should be able to save as a completely outrageous example has already happened.)

If you ever had the tendency to romanticize the past, the Trump era is a great wake-up call. Come hell or high water, they will bring back all of the ugliness of the past and none of its appeal. Bring back the industrial hazards and the carte blanche to wade into America’s wetlands and strangle rare birds. Bring back the cabinets jam-packed with elderly white men. Bring back… Russia? And put up this wall!

When Trump said “Make America Great Again” we could not have guessed how dim, grimy and bleak his vision of the past was. He is like a malignant time traveler who has come rushing here to give us all the radioactive garbage from bygone years: sexism, tariffs and asbestos! Also, a lack of certainty as to where our healthcare would be coming from and a strained relationship with Germany. Still, even those who always suspected that his real message was “Make America White Again” might be surprised to learn that he meant literally, by covering it in cancerous dust. But it is our fault for being surprised.