A Test of Our Democracy

For three weeks after injuring both my ankles during January’s Spirit Week—breaking one and spraining the other—I was bedridden inept to do anything outside of arm’s reach without parental supervision.

When I wasn’t under the drowsing effect of painkillers or desperately attempting to keep up with my school work, all I could do was sit and wait. I turned to my phone, Xbox, and laptop to conjure up a bit of happiness and hope despite the horrid condition of my legs, but it was difficult for me to rely upon these devices after Donald Trump became president on January 20. As notifications flew in left and right, I was disheartened by the news headlines I read: “Five-Year-Old Boy Detained At Airport For Hours Due To Trump Ban”; “President Trump Warns Mexico He Might Send U.S. Troops to Take Care of ‘Bad Hombres’”; “Donald Trump ‘blasted’ Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull over ‘dumb’ refugee deal in heated phone call”; “White House national security adviser: Iran is ‘on notice’”; and “Flynn Resigns, Leaving Trump National Security Team in Turmoil”.

As I was redrawn to my phone out of sheer boredom, I began to read the articles, and the more I read, the more certain I was that our country is in danger of repeating some of the greatest mistakes of world history. In the few weeks of the new presidency, the Trump administration has shown immense tendencies toward totalitarian ideals. Now let me just say that I don’t side with the Democrats or the Republicans. I don’t care for politics even though I know quite a bit about it. I do care about equality and freedom for every individual, which are attributes this nation was built on.

Republican Dominance in Government

As Americans, we pride ourselves with having a three branch government to prevent a certain branch or party from gaining too much power. Sometimes, the stars align to give a political party significant influence over all three branches, which is the case of Trump’s presidency. After the 2016 elections that appointed a Republican president and Republican majority Congress, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is expected to keep the court from swaying left, thereby inclining all branches toward Republican ideals. According to Geoffrey Kabaservice (New York Times Opinion writer), the Republicans rarely win all three branches of government. Over the past seventy years, Republicans have only secured both the presidency and Congress for six years: two during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency and four during George W. Bush’s presidency. While Republican senators and representatives ponder on how to use their newfound power, Trump, who is not a hardline Republican, can use his office to issue executive orders without much legislative interference.

I don’t care for politics even though I know quite a bit about it. I do care about equality and freedom for every individual, which are attributes this nation was built on.

A Culture of Scapegoating

If there’s one thing Trump is right on, it’s that the United States has many problems. According to the American Journal of Medicine in a 2016 study, Americans are seven times more likely to be killed by gun violence, and the United States accounts for 82% of all firearm homicides out of 23 studied nations. According to the Huffington Post, drug addiction in the United States peaked in 2016. In 2015, 1.48 million arrests were made regarding drug laws and drug overdose became the leading cause of accidental death in the US with 52,404 casualties. According to CNN, the United States ranked 25th—behind countries like Singapore, Japan, China, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and Germany—in a global education ranking organized every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Many of these problems are caused by a combination of factors, many of which I believe are a result of our nation’s own choices and policies. Yet we still feel inclined to point fingers at someone else. We can’t help it. Blaming others is a part of human nature and a reason for Donald Trump’s appeal. Trump takes broad complex problems and paints a face on them: something or someone for people to rally against. With his travel ban, Trump blames six Muslim-majority countries for the rising rate of terror attacks in the U.S., but all perpetrators of fatal domestic terrorism after 9/11 have been U.S. citizens. Trump blames China for stealing US jobs and industry but analysts say that’s not necessarily the case anymore. However, the frightening part is not just Trump’s oversimplification of our problems but the millions of people who have voiced support for his ideas by voting for him, even when Trump’s proposed solutions threaten to marginalize certain groups of people.

Blaming others is a part of human nature and a reason for Donald Trump’s appeal. Trump takes broad complex problems and paints a face for them: something or someone for people to rally against.

Silencing the Opposition

It’s no secret that Donald Trump and the media get along poorly, which is not necessarily a big issue. The problem, however, begins when he discredits and prys for the media’s approval. Sebastian Gorka, Trump’s deputy assistant, said, “We’ll say ‘fake news’ until the media realizes their attitude of attacking the President is wrong,” displaying a lack of tolerance for any news that paints Trump in a negative light. However, the First Amendment grants the freedom of speech and press, and the media has always been critical of people in power, especially the president. President Trump is no exception. Although Trump hasn’t been able to silence the media, his administration has aggressively discredited the media in order to preserve his public image. For example, during a press conference on January 11, Trump repeatedly declined to explain his replacement health care and Russian policies and shut down CNN reporter Jim Acosta saying, “Not you. You’re organization is terrible… You are fake news.” Similarly, after another press conference, Trump tweeted on February 17: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Although Trump hasn’t been able to silence the media, his administration has aggressively discredited the media in order to preserve his public image.

Dissension against Trump is not limited to the media. Government officials have also spoken out against Trump. For example, when the travel ban was initially announced, Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, refused to defend the ban and was promptly fired, which the president has the fair right to do. However, in a White House statement regarding Yate’s discharge, Trump claimed that “the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States” and then continued to comment on her weak stance on political issues. Elizabeth Warren, a democratic US senator whom Trump refers to as “Pocahontas” in his tweets, was silenced by Republican senators during a confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions as the new attorney general. Republican senators claim that Warren had violated a rule forbidding the discrediting of other senators while reading a letter written by Coretta King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr., against Jeff Sessions.

While the opposition rattles on, President Trump takes politics to a new stage, Twitter. Since the 2016 general elections, Trump has used his Twitter account to unleash a tirade on his opposition. In fact, Trump is the only president I know to have an entire directory dedicated to the people he’s insulted on Twitter. According to the directory, Trump has on multiple occasions insulted politicians such as Elizabeth Warren and John McCain, and nations such as Germany and Great Britain.

Trump is the only president I know to have an entire directory dedicated to the people he’s insulted on Twitter.

Solution: The Courts and an Open Mind

Since Trump’s election victory, many Americans have taken to the streets in numerous protests and some have seen success in the courts. On February 10, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court unanimously voted against reinstating Trump’s first travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, citing that: “The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than presenting evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. The public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies… the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.” To which Trump tweeted, “SEE YOU IN COURT.” Moreover, on March 15, US District Court Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii enacted a temporary nationwide restraining order on Trump’s second travel ban. The order occurred after Hawaii attorneys filed a lawsuit against the travel ban citing that the ban would “inflict immediate damage to Hawaii’s economy, educational institutions, and tourism industry.” The ban barring refugees from six Muslim-majority countries is currently blocked unless a higher court intervenes or the lawsuit is settled.

Our responsibility as Americans

We need to analyze not only our government representatives’ words but also their actions. “Make America Great Again”—Trump’s election slogan—is a statement that sounds really good. But is it really good? Trump has made numerous promises to the American people which sound great but when put into action, have caused led to negative results. Trump promised security but brought chaos and misery to legitimate refugees and even permanent U.S. residents. Trump has promised better relations with our allies, but many individuals from our European allies such as Sweden and Germany ridicule the new administration and Trump has begun to dismantle a few of our fragile relationships with nations like Iran and Taiwan.

There’s a saying, “What’s all the money in the world worth when you have no friends to share it with?” I know it’s cliche but the same applies to power. Trump has promised to make America great and powerful but is all that power worth the sacrifices others would need to make to achieve it? At HBA, we are taught to be humble, curious, loving, and committed, which are all admirable virtues any parent would want in their child. The president, Donald J. Trump, should be a respectable role model that we can look up to and be proud of. However, whenever I look at Trump, I see the hateful, arrogant, and overbearing nature that trumps Lady Catherine of Pride and Prejudice. Hate can’t make a country great. It can only tear us apart.

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