I’ve always been intensely patriotic. Growing up, I would sing “This Land is Your Land” and “God Bless the USA” at the top of my lungs. I’ve always loved the American values of opportunity, liberty, justice and equality. It’s the idea of the American Dream where anyone could achieve their dreams through persistence and hard work.
I loved that the United States was a place that everyone wanted to come to to seek a better life and better opportunities. I loved the melting pot analogy that was used in every one of my grade school American history classes. Because of this, I couldn’t help but be appalled at 4 a.m. on Nov. 9 2016, as it was confirmed that Donald Trump—the antithesis of these American values—won the Electoral College vote. Some provocative late-night tweets and over 49 executive orders later, we are nearing the one-year mark on the start of the Trump Era.
After multiple failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and a new tax plan that, as of late November, has yet to pass the Senate, all President Trump has to show for the past year regarding policy are his executive orders that continue to marginalize minorities and usurp progressive Obama-era policy.
Trump’s crusade against minorities began last January after he issued a mandate to fast-track construction of the Dakota Access pipeline straight through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and signed an executive order to begin the building of the now infamous border wall.
In the spring, we witnessed Trump’s travel ban blocking citizens from Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya from entering the U.S., effectively barring refugees from coming in, except for case-by-case exceptions, and cutting the refugee allowance down to 50,000—less than half of the 110,000 allowed under the Obama administration.
A month later in April, President Trump retaliated against the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, ordering an airstrike on the Shayrat Air Base. After the news broke, he claimed he was disgusted by the crimes against humanity, namely children, occurring in Syria. Why an airstrike, then, and not an opportunity for those children? Is morality relative in the Trump Era?
Trump continued to raise eyebrows heading into the summer as he implemented the transgender military ban in August that was partially blocked by a U.S. District Court based on its irrationality and unconstitutionality. The ban intended to bar transgender people from serving in the military as well as banning gender reassignment surgery for transgender service members and veterans. If we want the best care for the people who place their lives on the line to serve our country, why should their gender identity matter? Again the question is raised: is morality relative in the Trump Era?
Later in August, following the Neo-Nazi and white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, racial tensions came to a head over the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and President Trump again failed to “be a President for all Americans.”
In a statement that even seemed to made Speaker of the House Paul Ryan cringe, Trump said there was “blame on both sides,” returning to his old standby of “fake news” when pressed further on the topic by journalists. When asked about the growing nationalist alt-right movement, he even shot back with comments such as, “what about the alt-left?” When given the opportunity to correct himself later, President Trump continued to stand by his original statement, although he made a greater effort to condemn the actions of the Neo-Nazis.
The future of foreign relations with American allies may also be in jeopardy due to the actions of Donald Trump. Back in March, in a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump claimed that the two “[had] something in common,” alluding to his false allegations that the Obama Administration wiretapped him during Fall of 2016. Thus, he insinuated that they had also spied on the German government.
These false claims infuriated both Merkel and Germany as a whole and temporarily put the relations between the two countries in limbo. Similarly, Trump’s behavior on social media has put him in hot water recently with The United Kingdom, the U.S.’s most important ally.
On Nov. 30, Theresa May reprimanded Donald Trump for sharing an anti-Muslim propaganda video from far-right party Britain First, calling it “the wrong thing to do” but also stressing the historical importance of U.S. relations with the U.K. An emergency debate was held in parliament where members from all parties criticized Trump’s tweets and expressed concern over his visit set for 2018.
Trump responded to May with yet another incendiary, late-night tweet, warning her to not be concerned with criticizing him but with the “destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism taking place within the United Kingdom.”
Alas, there have been some positives about the Trump Era. We have seen an increase in political engagement and participation, with an increasing number of young people getting involved on both sides of the political spectrum. We have seen people coming together in solidarity and working together to improve the status of all Americans.
We have seen a change in some of our politicians, on both sides, starting to work for their constituents again rather than large donors. Every day, people continue to have difficult conversations, asking what it means to be an American from various points of privilege, working to better understand the successes, struggles and situations of others.
People want to learn more, want to be more involved and want to make the change that they seek. While Trump’s presidency may have brought out some of the worst in America, it has brought out the best in Americans.