Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Make America Great

As we all know, Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to "Make America Great Again."

Exactly what was meant by the phrase was left fairly vague, but clearly the slogan implies this: at some point in the past America was a great nation, but today that is no longer true.

This, I think, would be news to all the members of the LGBT community who have, under President Obama, finally received the basic human rights they had previously been denied. Or to the countless citizens of this country with debilitating health conditions who are finally able to get the care they need thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Or to all the women and minorities who have been, at best, second-class citizens for most of this country's history. Okay, let's be honest - for all of this country's history, but to a significantly lesser extent in recent years than for the previous two-plus centuries.

There's an argument that, in actuality, America was never great. It's based on the undeniably true premise that our nation was built on a foundation of slavery and genocide. And the argument goes that, for the whole history of the USA up through the present, forces of discrimination and oppression have been so integral to this country that it could never truly be called a great nation.

Of course, all nations have checkered pasts, and presents. One could argue that there is no such thing as a great nation. There are, though, a lot of genuinely very good things about the United States of America. Among them, this nation has long been considered the leader of the free world, and there are legitimate reasons to call it that.

Sadly, with the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency, that claim must be (temporarily, one hopes) abandoned. No nation whose chief executive kowtows to the brutal dictator of Russia can be called "leader of the free world."

For a long time, the right wing in this country has liked to bandy about accusations of Democrats being un-American, for reasons such as opposition to President Bush's disastrous Iraq war. These accusations have almost always been unfounded. In perhaps the most ironic example yet, Bill O'Reilly said that efforts to delegitimize Trump's presidency "border on sedition."

Donald Trump rose to prominence in the modern Republican Party thanks to a completely baseless and shamelessly racist attack on the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency.

Today, for the first time in living memory, accusations of one's political opponents being un-American are perfectly justified: Donald Trump, as evidenced by (among other things) his sucking up to Vladimir Putin and his attitude toward the First Amendment, is un-American, and so are other elected officials too spineless to stand up against Trump.

Although it feels like beating a dead horse, I'd like to list a few of the other more egregious examples of why it's a national disgrace that Donald Trump is our president:

Trump broke from a decades long bipartisan tradition by refusing to release his tax returns. We already know that Trump has massive conflicts of interest (a fact that should set off alarm bells by itself), but without his tax returns, we have no way of knowing the full extent of those conflicts. Furthermore, Trump's only real claim to being qualified for the presidency was that he is supposedly a successful businessman - but without records of his finances, it's impossible to know whether Trump, who came into wealth via his father, can even be legitimately described as a successful businessman.

Trump has a long history of unabashed racism. One of the most obvious examples is when he said that American-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel was not qualified to rule on the Trump University fraud trial because of Curiel's Mexican heritage. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan even had to admit what Trump said was the "textbook example of a racist comment."

Trump is almost undoubtedly a serial sexual assaulter. He was caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault, and then over a dozen women came forward to corroborate what Trump had said, with some of the women having their claims corroborated by still other people. So there's basically no reason to doubt Trump is guilty of this heinous crime. By electing him in spite of this, our country essentially re-victimized millions upon millions of sexual assault survivors who have to live with that trauma every day, and also sent the message loud and clear to potential future perpetrators of sexual assault that they'll be able to get away with it. This is absolutely horrific and disgusting.

Any one of those things alone should by itself be reason enough to disqualify Trump from the presidency. I doubt that any die-hard Trump supporters are reading this, but I'd love to hear an argument why these are not utterly shameful behaviors and why it is okay to support someone who has done these things for the presidency. (I did get into a little Facebook argument shortly before the election with someone who said that the timing of the sexual assault accusations was suspicious and therefore the women should not be believed, oh and also that because in the tape Trump said women let him do it, that meant what Trump described was not sexual assault. Also, that the women's claims would have been believable if they had gone to the police immediately after the incidents. Vomit. Please educate yourself on how society and the legal system treat sexual assault victims, and stop putting forth arguments that perpetuate rape culture.)

Now that Trump has taken office, the depressing news seems to arrive by the minute. One of the most disturbing items is the Trump administration's putting forth the idea of "alternative facts."  First over something as trivial as inauguration crowd sizes, but it's undoubtedly a sign of things to come, and it's a classic tactic of fascist governments straight out of 1984.

The one thing giving me hope is the knowledge that Trump and his supporters are clearly a minority in the country. The massive turnout for the Women's March on Saturday was a striking statement of this. Unfortunately, we have a broken political system that has allowed a party with support from a minority of voters to take complete control of our government. Trump lost by millions of votes nationwide but is now our president. At the same time, gerrymandering of House districts and the vastly disproportionate power given to residents of small states in the Senate have massively stacked the deck against the Democratic Party in Congress. Add to this Republican voter suppression efforts, which are only going to get worse in the years to come (Trump's repeated and blatant lie about millions of illegal votes being cast in the election is a clear signal of this), and the idea that we live in a representative democracy is becoming more and more of a fantasy. This should be disturbing to anyone regardless of their political views.

Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress are a rogue political force taking advantage of a broken system to push forward a deeply unpopular agenda that will harm almost everyone in this country other than the very wealthy. The way I see it, there are two potential outcomes to this situation that are both quite plausible. One potential outcome is that Trump will serve as a wake up call to the populace, spurring a new era of political activism and a massive resistance movement that will do the best it can to mitigate the damage over the next four years, and then seize the reins and start moving things toward a brighter future. Another potential outcome is that Trump and the Republicans in Congress will largely get their way and America will go into a sad decline from which we won't truly recover for decades, if ever.

The fight to make America great is on, and whether you believe we'd be making America great again, or making America great for the first time, it's a fight that can only be won if we all stand up and do our parts to resist Donald Trump and his cronies. And that includes those of you who have normally voted Republican in the past and are now ashamed and disgusted by what Donald Trump is doing to your party and to our country. You have to hold your Republican elected officials' feet to the fire, and if those officials don't stand up against Trump's abuses, as much as it might pain you you have to turn out for Democratic candidates in 2018 and 2020. (I myself find much to complain about with the Democratic Party, but we have a two-party system and that's not something that's going to change in the immediate future.)

This isn't a right vs. left partisan battle. It's a battle between fascism and anti-fascism. One of the great things America has done in the past is resisting the forces of fascism. And now we have to do it again.

No comments:

Post a Comment