America in the age of Trump
February 7, 2017
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It seems hardly surprising that as soon as Donald Trump stepped into office that he began rapid-firing shots. Strictly speaking, these were not the first shots fired, however. Trump had been firing so many shots throughout his campaign season that it was difficult to not be surprised when Trump was in the news. However, the campaign shots were just blanks; no sooner was Trump armed with the instruments of the state than he started firing real bullets, and the effects were immediate. Trump’s America is one that is walled off from the rest of the world, quite literally. The process to begin constructing a wall on America’s southern border is well underway.
Trump is matching his rhetoric with action, and so far it has been making his constituents happy. Unfortunately governing with emotion rather than with facts can only take you so far. For example, Trump’s immigration ban has oversimplified the problems of the world into an us versus them, Muslims against Christians, narrative. Trump’s rhetoric thrives on this because his supporters like this simplified message. Politics has been dumbed down to pander to the whims of the masses.
This is a policy that does not hide its blatant discrimination. The policy is targeted squarely at Muslims. For within the language of the executive orders is the caveat that religious minorities (Christians) in those same banned countries are exempt from the travel ban.
Trump’s America has emboldened closet racists to speak up. Trump’s candidacy and subsequent victory had made certain ideas mainstream. The ideas that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, all Muslims are terrorists and black America is just a criminal wasteland are now repeated continuously. Since the President spouts his message from the White House, how can they not be mainstream? The damage has already been done. This group has gotten a legitimate foothold on the American political landscape, rebranding itself as the ‘alt-right.’
In Trump’s America, up is down and down is up. Climate change is a hoax that was created by the Chinese. Science does not really exist. Objectivity is an illusion. After all, Trump himself manufactured lies and half-truths in broad daylight and got away with it. In fact Trump’s America exists in a new reality, a post-truth reality where alternative facts are the order of the day. In this new world people have forgotten the words of great American statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You are entitled to your opinion, but never your own facts.”
Trump’s America is a world where a great nation had decided to forsake its responsibilities to a world it largely created. Pax Americana is coming to an end. Trump, who admittedly does not read nor does much reflection, has no sense of history. He may not be aware of the delicate balance of international treaties and organizations that hold this post-World War II society by a thread.
If you just turn the clock backward, life would be much worse for everyone except the majority of Trump’s supporters. It’s only been a few short years since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and a little more so since voting rights and civil rights were upheld. Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ involves rolling back all the gains of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. How else do you explain the President appointing Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama? A man whom the NAACP has singled out for doing his best to suppress the voting rights of minorities; a man whom a fellow United States Senator, Cory Booker, took the unprecedented step to testify against.
The great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe was known for introducing the world to many Igbo proverbs. In Kenya, one of our favorite proverbs is: “When did the rain start to beat us.” There is a story of man who is walking, and he finally becomes aware that he is wet with rain water. He, however, cannot tell when the rain started beating him. I don’t think historians 50 years from now will have such a hard time figuring out precisely what went wrong with America. They will be able to point to a specific time. They will say, “Trump’s America – that’s when the rain started beating them.”