by: Michael Shields
Part three of a series which attempts to make sense of the rise to power of President Donald J. Trump…
In just a short time as President, Donald Trump has made it clear that the promises (i.e. threats) he made during his electoral campaign were not made idly, and that he intends to make good on each and every one of them. With the chair in the Oval Office still warm from his predecessor, Donald Trump has wasted no time vanquishing any hope that his bluster along the campaign trail was all for show. With the strike of his presidential pen the game has been dramatically changed, and the fascist and isolationist rhetoric that defined his campaign has been born again, this time as executive action.
From the moment Donald Trump arose as a contender in the Republican primaries, I considered him unfit and too simple for the position, and my stance on this has at no time wavered. But those he has surrounded himself with, his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and his cabinet, are not as ignorant and uninformed as he is. They know exactly what they want, and they have yet to squander a moment in pursuit of their agenda.
In their short time in office, President Trump and his cronies have promised a major investigation into voter fraud (to an election he won mind you – and an obvious concern in regards to voter suppression moving forward), signed an order to end federal funding for sanctuary cities1, and signed an order to begin construction on a wall along the U.S-Mexico border, presumably paying for it with a 20 percent import tax. He has drafted orders that would clear the way for reopening of CIA black sites and lift restrictions on handling detainees (yes, we are speaking about torture here) and has drafted orders that would dramatically reduce U.S. involvement in the UN and other global organizations and treaties. He has drafted orders on immigration that would suspend visas to individuals from “countries of concern,” and has drafted orders (obtained by Vox) that would seek to slowly put an end to the DACA program, limiting employee based visas and limiting social services available to legal immigrants. He has signed an executive action reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy (the “Global Gag Rule”), which bars international non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions from receiving U.S. government funding and he and his administration are now mandating scientific EPA studies to be reviewed by political staff before release. He has resurrected work on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and on top of all this, as one of his first official actions as President of the United States, Trump signed an executive order to “minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the [Affordable Care] Act,” potentially leaving an estimated twenty-four million people without health insurance.
In short, Donald Trump is tearing it all down. He is expeditiously fast-tracking policies that are exclusive and divisive, walling off America from its neighbors and magnifying the divide on the homefront. And he is doing this all while promoting a culture of fear, painting America as a country rife with “carnage” and lawlessness, as he and his staff continue to attack a media which yearns desperately to understand this administration’s obstinate and discriminative actions. This obvious attempt to undermine those that have the power to expose the administration’s enterprising power grab is dangerous, and the blatant lies and alternate truths emanating from our nation’s highest office are wholly concerning. In consummate, and in contemplation of a daunting first week in office for President Trump, what those who love and value democracy and equal rights have on their hands is nothing short of a clear and present danger.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.”
“The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country.”
– Stephen K. Bannon
I wasn’t entirely sure why I needed to be there on the day Donald Trump took the oath as the 45th President of the United States, but I knew I had to be. It was necessary for me to see, in person, our latest president sworn in. This nonsensical electoral cycle and Donald Trump’s rise to power, amidst all the scandal and vile and hateful words, had thrown me for a loop, and I was, admittedly, struggling vigorously to come to grips with a slumlord reality-television star bestowed with the keys to the castle and the codes that unlock an arsenal of weapons with the power to lay waste to all the land. And so with this in mind, I traveled south from New York on the eve of the inauguration, and after a few hours of sleep, made my way to the National Mall. Amid a sparse crowd on an appropriately grey and tepid day, I challenged myself to come to grips with reality. I knew I had to move past all the denial that had enveloped me and face the sobering truth that we have a petulant child helming the ship, a puppet whose puppeteers are more dangerous than we may have ever imagined.
On that Inaugural Day, as a cold rain began to fall and exceptional power was passed to the ill-equipped, I was privy to a speech that haunts me to this day. One that roared with a tone dark as night, both eerie and baleful, and xenophobic to its absolute core. A speech that painted a picture of America that I do not know. One filled with carnage, a country that has lost its promise and its way, and whose military is vulnerable and its value’s faint. And all the while, as a morally vacant man spewed a distorted vision of a strong, resilient people, the hypocrisy at hand was almost too much to bear. In that moment I stood calm yet unsettled, watching a man swarmed by billionaires and the entrenched elite speaking of dismantling the establishment. To many of Trump’s supporters gathered to usher in this new regime, the glass appeared half full, but I was all too aware in that moment, that the glass wasn’t even capable of holding water.
As a paltry mass of caucasians in red hats nodded in unison with the recently appointed president, I fought back tears as Trump’s words echoed through loudspeakers. I wondered not how this came to be, but how we could move forward. What would it be like to live in a country that empowered such a man to the highest office in the land? A man that, in many ways, normalized racism, sexual assault, and xenophobia. A man whose decency was held in question by even his most ardent of supporters. I wondered if this was the moment in time when we could let it all slip away. I pondered whether those were the reasons why I traveled to D.C., to be there when democracy lost its foothold and capitalism, in all its hunger, took reign. And then I gathered myself, and realized there was another reason I forced myself to bear witness to the commencement of this hostile takeover in person, and it had absolutely nothing to do with resignation.
I have a few people in my life, Republicans and Christians mostly but not exclusively, that have shared with me sincere regret in voting for or supporting Donald Trump. In my younger days, I might have taken these renunciations as an opportunity to sit upon a high horse, and to chastise the numerous lines of thought that allowed them to believe it was okay to empower a man sheathed with so many glaring red flags. But with the unraveling of our founding father’s ideals occurring at such a brisk rate, we do not have time for splitting hairs, and I choose not to harp on this mistake of theirs, nor am I inclined to drop I told you so’s as it helps little. What I will accept and ask from those who have realized the extreme menace that has taken power, is for help. We, those that are set on resisting the hateful, short-sighted, and outlandishly greedy policies of the Trump administration, need partners in this campaign. We need allies. We need…patriots.
The idea of a “resistance” to a president that was just elected into office might sound preposterous to some. While he did not win the popular vote, Donald Trump surely won the election fair and square in regards to the Electoral College system that is in place. Although outdated, and flat out unjust, these are the rules of the game and he did indeed garner enough support to triumph. But, this does not mean that Donald Trump has a mandate from the people who comprise this country. This does not mean he and his staff are not employees and beholden to the ideals and principles that are the backbone to what this country is meant to be. In witness to what can be described definitively as an attack on the Bill of Rights, The Constitution, and the idea that our government shall adhere to “the consent of the governed” – we must resist. And, like those working tirelessly to strip our freedoms and steal our voice, we must act with haste.
The time to act is now, and, as is always the case, the power to make true and lasting positive change is with the people. The power is in our hands, as starry-eyed as it may seem, because anyone who tells you there is nothing you can do is lying to you. Anyone who tells you there is nothing you can do now is selling you a bill of goods. Anyone who claims that you need to wait until the midterm elections to act is uninformed. Anyone who leads you to believe that what this administration is doing is normal or not detrimental to our way of life (and to our environment and to our chances for World Peace) is naive, blinded by allegiances to certain governmental parties or ideas, or committed to an agenda of their own. And anyone who believes that resistance against their government is unfounded doesn’t know our country’s rich political history, and is unaware of the words of Thomas Jefferson who preached, “What country can preserve their liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance.”
Yes, the time to act is now, and the methods of action are plentiful and increasing as our fellow citizens become progressively aware of the attack on democracy that is rapidly occurring. Silence, and inaction, are not an option. Not now. Not ever.
- A sanctuary city is a city that has approved a policy of protecting illegal immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are currently living illegally. [↩]