I posted that to Facebook in response to many of my Conservative friends who continue to rage against “Liberals” (or Liberal’s, because they never quite learned how apostrophes work) who they see as the only people who would oppose President Donald Trump. And, if he were anyone or any president other than Donald Trump, they might be right. But when it comes to this guy, they couldn’t be more wrong if they tried. And they are trying. Hard.
I’ve disliked some presidents before, and I’ve disagreed, to some degree, with every president. I don’t agree with everything Barack Obama did, and I’m still upset over a lot of things he didn’t do. I disagreed with almost everything George W. Bush did, but he did get a few things right. Bill Clinton was a handful of diamonds in a bagful of snakes, and I disliked almost every aspect of the man himself, even while I agreed with most – but certainly not all – of his policies.
The point is, this is normal. No one should like everything a president does, and most people don’t. However, over recent memory, the dividing line between Liberal and Conservative has become so strong that almost every single political issue comes down to an Us vs. Them situation, where people pick their team and cheer from the sidelines like we’re all watching some kind of bizarre game of Presidential Football. It’s become entertainment, and a means of self-identification every bit as important to people as all the other stupid things we’ve been told define us, like the cars we drive or the clothes we wear.
For most presidents, that would be fine. That is, in fact, how it has been for more presidents. But Donald Trump is not most presidents.
Donald Trump is a menace.
Opposing what President Trump has been doing while in office for just over a week isn’t a fight over Liberal or Conservative ideals. It’s a battle for the soul of our nation. Trump isn’t playing along party lines, and he doesn’t seem to care what effects his actions will have either on individuals or the country itself. He’s changing the paradigm of what it means to be an American by undermining the very bedrock upon which our nation was built.
I’m told tweeting politics hurts book sales + I should just write my novel. But when country’s burning down around me, silence = cowardice.
— tess gerritsen (@tessgerritsen) January 28, 2017
In short, President Donald Trump may very well prove to be the biggest threat to democracy America has ever faced. Which is something that should concern all of us, regardless of which side of the political fence we each sit on.
I’m not going to go through an itemized list of every executive action Trump has taken so far, because I only want to focus on the most dangerous ones. For example, messing with the ACA was inevitable and, for better or worse, healthcare reform has and will always remain a partisan issue. Things that follow the established party lines are expected, and people are right to scream Liberal vs. Conservative whenever they come up. They’re not my focus here.
Instead, let’s talk about things like Trump freezing regulations, which is a preamble to dismantling regulations. That, by itself, is kind of a Conservative issue, but when you add in Trump’s gag order affecting government entities like the EPA, it gets a little darker. First, we get rid of the regulations that, while flawed, were put in place to protect and preserve American lives and our environment. Then, he gags the EPA so they can’t release any information on studies proving what a bad idea getting rid of all the regulations was until that hard science has been screened and doctored by political hacks. It all adds up to a conspiracy of silence that will hurt us all, even as it dramatically benefits a few.
Transparency is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy (or Democratic Republic, as someone is bound to scream at me). We have to know what our government is up to if we’re going to keep a watchful eye on it as good citizens and mindful stewards of our future. Obfuscating the truth, forcing impartial scientific findings to be reviewed and approved by a partisan political committee, and crippling the regulatory agencies charged with the very function of protecting the best interests of Americans against the best interests of those who would exploit our land and water and air for profit is the exact opposite of transparency. It’s hiding the truth because there’s something there worth hiding.
Words are important. Trump’s decision to refer to the media as “the opposition party” is significant. It’s nationalist populism taken one step further, and a natural extension of the Us vs. Them mentality, only now it’s not Republicans against Democrats, but Trump against anyone who would oppose him. He is attempting to redefine the federal government as an extension of his brand. In his mind, there is only himself – and you’re either with him, or against him. Which is why he identifies the media as the opposition party – because he wants you to think only the media and its reporting oppose him.
And when truth becomes the opposition…
Make no mistake, either. In newsrooms and boardrooms and conference rooms across the country, employees are being told to either stay neutral and not comment on politics at all – neither professionally nor personally – or they’re being told to only come out on Trump’s side. This is not an exaggeration, either. Several of my colleagues at different media outlets – both in typical, impartial newsrooms where it’s expected, and in more informal, editorial and opinion-related lines of work – have been warned to either go pro-Trump or keep quiet. Which is fine when you work for a private corporation that owns the sentences you write or the words you say professionally, but when they want to take your personal, non-professional voice away? That’s a problem.
— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) January 26, 2017
What do we have in a democracy, if not our voices of dissent? Trump himself has called the validity of our electoral process – the very core of our political system – into question. As retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer, Jim Wright, pointed out, this puts the very Republic in jeopardy. If we don’t have a valid electoral process in place, then we do not have a valid government. If Trump truly means what he says, then we must have an immediate overhaul of our process to strengthen and guarantee its validity, then we must have new elections for every office in every branch of government in the entire country.
Of course, it won’t come to that. This is all just more theater President Trump is putting on as a master showman. But it’s having a chilling effect on another core principle of our country: our freedom of speech. Yes, the 1st Amendment only protects you from governmental interference with your right to express yourself, but when the companies we work for (which is not at all limited to the media, as this couple found out) begin policing our personal voices on behalf of a government they follow either out of blind respect or abject fear, then it becomes everyone’s problem. Because soon, I fear the only thing we’ll have are our voices.
If we’re not careful, the title of one of Harlan Ellison’s classic short stories could easily become the tagline of every single one of us in Trump’s America: I HAVE NO MOUTH, AND I MUST SCREAM.
Getting back to Trump’s policies, let’s move on to his Great Wall of America, which I suspect has less to do with border security and more to do with Trump just wanting to erect a massive monument to his fragile ego. In his mind, he’s Emperor Qin Shi Huang, ordering construction of the actual Great Wall. Or maybe he sees it as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, or the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Whichever wonder he’s attempting to construct, you can be certain it doesn’t have anything to do with making America great again. He just wants a lasting, eternal monument to himself, and he’s using the wall to get it.
It took my 10-year-old all of five seconds to dismiss Trump’s wall as lunacy. He’s no great student of Geography or anything, which is something we’ve been working on pretty hard in his Social Studies class, but he is learned enough in the general shape of our country to realize that walls can’t cover the ocean. There’s a reason Border Patrol agents run back and forth along the Gulf Coast – just as they go up and down the East and West coasts – because coastlines are borders, too. Erecting a wall over roughly 2,000 miles of dry (and sometimes mountainous) terrain will be hard (and expensive) enough, but unless Trump is also planning to wrap the entire Gulf Coast and most of the Floridian peninsula in his giant concrete freedom condom, it’s not going to do much of anything. Which is something my 10-year-old observed when he pointed out that they have boats in Mexico. And planes.
The wall is an enormous waste of money and resources, but beyond that, it’s distinctly un-American. We are a nation of immigrants. My ancestors immigrated to this country, and so did yours. And yours. (And you too, way in the back with your head down. I can see you.)
Closing off our borders and erecting massive walls is a far cry from welcoming new people into that great big melting pot we all learned about in school. Which leads me to my next point…
The refugee and immigration ban.
Trump signed this particular action on January 27, which also happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Day, which I guess is something Trump forgot about. The Holocaust, I mean, not the remembrance day. It’s fine to chant, “Never again” as long as you’re actually working to make sure it never happens again, but cutting off refugees seeking asylum in America who will quite likely die if they can’t leave the nightmare of their homeland behind? That’s kind of doing the opposite of never letting it happen again. It’s guaranteeing that it will happen again. Because it’s happening right now.
1939: Dear Jews, sorry you’re being murdered in your own countries but you can’t come here
1945: Never again!
2016: Dear Muslims…
— Stonekettle (@Stonekettle) January 28, 2017
When Trump says he wants to make America great again, I have to wonder what part of American history he’s hoping to go back to, exactly.
Is he going for the period of isolationism that kept us from entering World War II until it was nearly too late, and that saw us turning away thousands of refugees fleeing Nazi persecution until they ended up murdered by the millions in places like Auschwitz?
Maybe he’s aiming for the so-called Roaring Twenties that greatly benefited a small few while driving inequity between the have’s and the have not’s to untenable proportions until the greed and reckless financial practices all came crashing down and kicked off the single greatest economic disaster our country has ever faced?
Or maybe he just wants to turn the clock back to a time when a woman’s place was barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, and a black man’s place was gasping for breath while dodging the master’s whip out in the cotton field?
I don’t know. Maybe he wants all of them. Maybe he wants that elusive (and entirely fictional) version of an America-That-Never-Was that the Religious Right has been promoting for decades now, because everything he’s doing certainly points to that. Women don’t need control over their own bodies in Trump’s America. Latinos don’t belong in Trump’s America, stealing jobs from hard-working white Christians in Trump’s America. Facts have no place in Trump’s America, until they’ve been passed through and massaged by Trump’s Alternative Fact Machine.
Listen. Trump isn’t a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s neither Conservative nor Liberal. He’s a demagogue, and he’s dangerous.
I don’t want to live divided by a wall in Cold War-era Berlin.
I don’t want to live an isolationist, North Korean dictatorship.
I don’t want to live in the ugly past of our great nation.
I want to live in America. In 2017. Where we keep moving forward, not backward.
© 2017, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.