Ivan Weber: After 50 years in Utah, all I can say is, ‘My mistake’

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) About 1,000 people protested the government mandated shutdown of businesses on the grounds of Salt Lake City Hall, Saturday. The protest was organized by Utah Business Revival aimed at Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilsonand Governor Gary Herbert policies on COVID-19 and social distancing, April 18, 2020.

It’s sad, if not downright pathetic, to find it necessary to observe the 50th anniversary of my move to Utah. But, worse than that, this occasion also forces me to grasp the deeper meaning of transplanting myself from what appeared at the time to be the ultimately gullible state, Kansas, to one that appeared to be less so, Utah.

Then dominated by the John Birch Society, Kansas had relegated itself to the ongoing obsession with radical right-wing political mythologies, and to the industrial purgatory of the Koch brothers’ vision. What could be worse than that?


Aside from a population that has more than doubled in my own half-century in Mormon Country, the proportion of True Believers, ultra-conservatives, Fox News zealots and mindless Trump devotees seems to be exploding. Until the coronavirus pandemic came along, however, the primary casualty seemed to be nature and all the breathtaking natural wonders, as well as places held sacred by indigenous peoples displaced by immigrants.

Forests, wetlands, streams, meadows, canyons and even major regions like the Great Salt Lake have suffered beyond measure at the impact of the most rapidly-growing, counter-ecological wave of self-serving ignorance in this part of the world. But now, with Donald Trump in the White House, propelled by Trump’s racist loathing of Barack Obama’s conservation conscience, the sheer extent of Utah’s suspension of intelligence reaches all the way to the Utah Legislature and nearly all leadership levels (with notable exceptions in a few city and county offices).

There’s not enough money to fund COVID-19 protection and recovery programs for the homeless, poor, hungry peoples, and too little to support institutions that are fundamental to our society, such as the arts and environmental education, but there’s enough money to purchase $800,000 of an unproven, probably dangerous, malaria drug in which a Trump trust holds an investment interest. For a time, the state was talking of purchasing additional millions of dollars of this reportedly risky Trump favorite, all because Trump has famously said, “What do you have to lose?”

The Radical Right appears hell-bent on committing a gruesome suicide, in one form or another, in an effort to show obeisance to Trump.

Particularly so, now that Trump has advocated injecting or ingesting disinfectants, internally applying UV, heat and bright lights, which he contends may kill the virus, and taking these unproven drugs sold by the carnival sideshow barker-in-chief.

When this level of scientific irresponsibility and lack of concern for life is at our helm, and when dominant media around us blanket Utah’s True Believer population with the hideously dangerous lies of the radical right, I am reminded that I exercised poor judgement in my choice to move from Kansas to what appeared to be a paradise in the American West.

With abject apologies to my magnificent adopted Utah wife and family, I must confess, “My mistake.”

Ivan Weber

Ivan Weber, Salt Lake City, is retired from a career of environmental, engineering, architectural planning and construction management, culminating in a series of industrial ecology consulting projects in Asia and the U.S. He now attends his hounds, obeys his wife and seeks to become indigenous.

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