When Trump officially won the US election, a friend of mine stated that she and her wife, both avid travellers, would no longer visit the US. They just won’t feel safe going there anymore. My first thought was, this is extreme. Immediately after that thought, I put myself in their shoes. And I’ll be honest, I was afraid, too.
I am a middle-aged, married, heterosexual Canadian woman. Not much of any minority here, folks. Nothing to see here, folks. So it can be easy for me, and others just like me, to downplay and even ignore the plight of minorities and marginalized groups all over the world, especially in North America where we brag of democratic freedom and human rights.
Fast forward a few months, deep in to 2017, and well into Trump’s first year of office. Scrap being afraid, I’m fucking terrified. Not by Trump. He actually doesn’t scare me on his own as his incompetence and delusional arrogance take precedent over any fear he might incite on his own. But what he has done, and continues to do, is isolate and exploit any full-blown rage and hatred in the core of the American people (and Canadian) that may or may not have always been there, but was never so bold to be out front and centre. The new POTUS has created the ability for people to spew bigoted, nasty, hateful words not just on the internet and social media, but also on crowded busses, college campuses, and public areas all over the country. You may think my fear is exaggerated – words are just words and we have free speech and all – but let’s get real here, just for a moment.
There is free speech. And then there is just hate speech.
Ignorant, uneducated, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, hateful speech that is not only mean but very, very effective. I am not naive enough to believe people were becoming ‘better’ than they were fifty years ago, but I do believe we didn’t see the nastiness of people so easily; we kept it behind closed doors and within our workplace and churches. With the birth of the internet and the explosion of various social media platforms, every horrible thought and belief is plastered on every form of news or opinion piece, with abandon!
Would Trump have won this election had he run before the phenomenon of social media and cable news? I would say no. Trump knew all he had to do was tap in to that historical vein of bigotry and burgeoning disgust for traditional politics, hijack media in all forms with his over-the-top antics, and he could take the country. He knew the Democratic Party and the rest of the world underestimated just how horrible people really are. And just how impressionable they are.
Winning the election was one thing. But Trump’s ability to about-face lie to his people, shut out media in the name of ‘freedom’ and revoke various legislation put in place that actually helped to protect the people and the country he apparently wants to make great again is a magic trick we didn’t see coming. Apparently we figured the American people were more aware than this.
I could write out a long list of all of the legislation he has put forward, and all of the repeals he has fought for that bring back deadly pesticides, allow pollution of US waters, the ability of financial advisers to no longer have to put their client’s needs first, allow pharmaceutical companies to price fix, and prevent funding for clinics who perform abortions, etc., but you can access all of this info on reputable sites all over the internet. You know, the stuff Trump calls ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news’. The list is scary enough on its own; what is really frightening is the fact that he was able to swiftly turn back all of the good that past administrations had worked hard to create without anyone noticing. That’s right, most people don’t know that he wants to drill and frack federal park land and protected marine ecosystems, and destroy worker’s rights against discrimination, just to name a few of the plans he put in motion.
I won’t even touch on the repeal of ObamaCare or his own ‘health care plan’. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then you either live totally off the grid or don’t care about a damn thing. If that’s the case, sorry about your luck. It will be too late to start to care.
These are all causes for great concern when it comes to the future of the American people, but what makes me shudder in absolute fear, is the amount of unadulterated hatred he has helped become mainstream and apparent on a daily basis. Hatred and anger that is has been deflected on all of the wrong people for all of the wrong reasons. I thought for sure with his backpedaling, lies and unkept promises, that the POTUS would lose his grip on the Americans who voted for him. I was so, so wrong.
A quick scroll of replies to his Tweets and the comment section on his, and many other, Facebook pages, are an instant lesson on how you can deceive and brainwash people into believing what you are selling, especially if it is a product that promotes nasty behavior in the form of ‘free speech’. Not only are his followers gobbling up whatever he is dishing out, they are attacking anyone who disagrees. And by attacking, I don’t mean by presenting rational explanations or logical reasoning; the attacks are vile, ugly and usually threaten violence. If you think words on social media are harmless, let me remind you these words are backed up with actions of tragic consequence in the real world. People are being beaten, stabbed, threatened publicly and the division of the country is so deep you can smell civil unrest in the air, no matter where you stand.
Perhaps people didn’t really change in the last seventy years, but at least we saw a decline in racial tensions and violence against minorities as it was apparent that previous government administration cared about creating equality and peaceful relations both locally and globally. Not anymore.
If I were a black woman, a Muslim, a Mexican, a homosexual, an environmentalist, or even a devout Democrat with a voice, I would be afraid to live in the US. There is no safe ground anymore because the ‘Leader of the Free World’ has declared war on his own people; democracy is in great danger of being destroyed all over the world as struggling countries that once looked to the US for help to win freedom from dictatorship or fascist rulings now see the US being thrown in to its own form of incompetent dictatorship. What does that say for the global economy and for democracy as a whole? Where is the hope for oppressed people when one of the most powerful countries in the world no longer cares about its own citizens, let alone the safety and liberty of others? To say Donald Trump has pushed the US back in time over fifty years is an understatement; he has begun the dismantling of a free-thinking, empowered, independent nation that was part of a global initiative to help others. The ease of his ability to reach in to the darkest corners of society and pull out ignorant hateful beliefs that we thought were close to being abandoned should terrify us all.
It’s not just about voting in the NEXT election. It is no longer enough. The only way to stop the train wreck that is Donald Trump and his administration, is to fight back with tolerance, acceptance and educated awareness, not of Trump and his agenda, but of your neighbours and fellow residents, whether they are citizens or not. It’s time to take back what we have fought for — Dignity. As a nation and as human beings.