On Thursday, during a meeting of US Senators from both sides of the aisle who had assembled at the White House to discuss immigration reform, Donald Trump is reported to have labeled African countries (in general) as ‘shitholes’. It isn’t clear what he truly thinks of Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, which were also being discussed at the time.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) have voiced their disdain for the damage Trump’s words have caused to the world’s view of “American ideals and patriotism”. Why are these the lone voices of dissent within the President’s party?
While the rest of the world collectively gasps at reading that such words were openly uttered by a US President, I assume it’s just business as usual in the chaotic political circus Trump has created in Washington.
During the past year, Trump’s presidency has been punctuated by a succession of racist, sexist, classist comments made by the man himself, crude and unfiltered, live and in person, as well as via the scared little bully’s favorite media platform—Twitter.
When did the term ‘politically correct’ become so all-encompassing as to include many of our shared human (and Christian) values of kindness, compassion and mutual respect?
As much as I try to be open-minded about the motives of US voters in the 2016 US Presidential election, in the end I can only believe that Donald Trump was elected out of a sense that being white in America was losing its preferential status and that the country had become too ‘politically correct’ for some, both legally and in terms of public discourse.
During the election, I heard Trump supporters point to affirmative action programs, that historically tried to balance the playing field between blacks and whites regarding college admissions and employment, as no longer being necessary. Their reasoning seemed to be that the equality magic had already worked for those who deserved it, and now any failure on the part of the African-American and Latino communities was solely their own.
So, from a purely selfish point of view, I get why 46.1% of the Americans who voted in the 2016 Presidential election (only 60% of those eligible) cast a vote for Trump. According to official election results, that percentage consisted of mainly suburban and rural white voters from the Midwest, South and Inland Mountain region of the Rockies, plus Texas.
What I can’t wrap my head around is how some of the seemingly kind hearted and caring people I know from the past (who just happened to vote for Trump) can ignore the things Donald Trump has said over the past year since taking office. While, I’m not approving of his actions either, what I am taking issue with here is the language he’s used repeatedly to demean anyone outside his family and inner circle who disagrees with him.
The importance of words
As an English teacher and life-long student of culture who has lived and worked in many of the world’s regions, I understand the importance of word choice and how the words we commonly use eventually become part of our shared view of the world. In many regions of the world, a person’s words are considered even more important than their actions.
My question is this: When did the term ‘politically correct’ become so all-encompassing as to include many of our shared human (and Christian) values of kindness, compassion and mutual respect?
When did it become okay for the leader of the free world—if you believe that the USA still fills this role–to get a pass when he chooses to use words that show disrespect and even hostility toward other cultures, religions, countries and individuals? If showing disrespect to others has become a symbol of national power, then I’d say we’ve come full circle back to the era of Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party.
Role models are important
While growing up in North Carolina, part of the American South, I was always taught by my parents and grandparents that the words I used were very important, because directing rude and/or profane language at others would never provide a solution to a dispute, and in fact would serve to further inflame such a situation. My family was a living example of the values they held dear–just, fair and civil in all their human interactions.
Why has a certain segment of the American population allowed Trump and his advisors to malign, insult and bully their way through the past 12 months. Has the long-held value of civility been thrown completely out the window?
And don’t say “But the fringe left is being just as uncivil.” I’m not talking about individual citizens expressing their first amendment right to free speech. I’m speaking of the words that come out of the mouth (and via the fingertips) of the President of the United States.
While this is merely the latest episode of incivility that will be tossed atop the mountain of insults Trump has uttered since taking office, I fear this behavior will continue to be sanctioned in the name of_____. In the name of what? All that comes to mind here is insanity and aggression, neither of which is beneficial to any American or national of any other country on this planet we all must share.
In 2018, we’re living in a hyper-connected world where no one wins when one nation goes rogue and attempts control via subjugation and intimidation. The time when the USA’s military might could cower the world is over.
This is a century of information sharing where successful nations will seek new paths to solidify trade networks, not play the role of global bully as many countries did during the 20th Century.
A backlash is building
Does the American government think its current lack of diplomacy in dealing with other nations will have no repercussions? This isn’t the 1950s just after WWII when America was at its peak of power and world dominance.
Nor is it the 1980s when Ronald Reagan used the CIA to further destabilize governments in Central America. Let’s not forget that such actions in the past only served to drive more immigrants to the USA from this region, many of whom are now being threatened with deportation.
I’ve lived in Mexico and Colombia for the past 16 months and the local newspapers often feature reports about the rising importance of Latin American trade with China, as well as measures that regional governments in other Latin American countries are taking to disentangle themselves from American interests. While the trend was already in process prior to 2017 and the start of Trump’s Presidency, the pace has quickened since Trump took over as CEO of USA Inc.
Trump’s guile hasn’t been reserved only for the unfriendly government of Venezuela, but he (and his administration) have also exhibited a clearly hostile attitude toward Latin American partner countries such as Mexico and Colombia.
Uh, hello, Mr. President, but the last time I checked, the countries in Latin America were very important trading partners—ie, they are important contributors to the USA’s annual GDP, a fact that I’m constantly reminded of while doing my weekly food shopping in local supermarkets. With the rise of China and hostile language coming out of Washington from the US President personally, I wonder if the shelves will continue to be stocked with products produced by American corporations?
Perhaps Trump is mentally and emotionally unstable, as some claim, and isn’t capable of filtering his comments. Or, maybe he’s an egomaniac spoiled brat who has been given the greenlight to complete the final destruction of the American ideal, all in the name of “Making America Great Again!” Either way, the longer he remains in office, the more damage his behavior will do to America’s reputation both at home and abroad.
Trump’s latest assault on the human value of showing respect to others is aimed squarely at inciting continued dissent rather than bringing a broken nation together. As I’ve noted before, the strategy of divide and conquer has been used for millennia by the corrupt leaders (whether sane or insane) of nations all over the world.
It’s preposterous to label Donald Trump’s behavior as a mechanism for making America strong again. I see the American President’s behavior as a dark symbol of America’s moral bankruptcy.
I hope I’m wrong, but so far Trump’s core supporters aren’t willing to admit they made a mistake in casting their ballots for a superficial (and very unfunny) clown that has the potential to do real damage to both the nation he pretends to lead as well as the rest of humanity.
Excellent analysis of what is going on in our country with Trump as it’s “leader”. Sadly, Americans are becoming acclimated to his unacceptable behavior. Will we all become numb to his behavior so we can avoid crying ourselves to sleep at night over what has happened to our nation over the past 11 months? It is beginning to appear that way.
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Thanks for your comments Cindy! I too wonder what it will take to wake some American citizens up to the realities of what’s happening to their country.
I agree, it’s an excellent analysis. Allowing those in power to talk about other countries and leaders in a derogatory way is dangerous and uncivil. Sadly, I’ve also heard Nicky Hayley do the same in UN meetings.
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Thanks for sharing your views Pam! Yes, I was very disappointed with Nicky Hayley’s words and general handling of the sensitive issue of moving Israel’s US Embassy to Jerusalem. Of course, as we’ve seen with others (especially those working in the US State Dept) she must either do her boss’s bidding or resign. I’m happy that some career diplomats are choosing to turn their backs on Trump and his disastrous decisions.
“…the longer he remains in office, the more damage his behavior will do to America’s reputation both at home and abroad.”
I couldn’t agree with you more. Americans don’t have a history of overthrowing corrupt leaders, and I’d hate to see us resort to that degree of civil unrest. But I do think it’s way past time for some of our nation’s people to exercise their democratic rights more rigorously. Getting out to vote would be a great start! As are boycotting, marching and demonstrations. Obviously gerrymandered districts need to be corrected if we continue to elect via an electoral college. Or, let the people choose their president by popular vote.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Thanks for sharing your insights Kristy! And I love the quote by one of my favorites, Margaret Mead!
Excellent series of observations. This inspires me to post this article on my FB wall.
The truly responsible thing for all Americans to do, is to exert pressure, in any way possible, to reverse the shocking tide of inhumane treatment of people based on their sexual orientation, skin color, and religious beliefs.
Boy! I sure do miss the Obamas!!!!!!!! Little did we know then, just how wonderful those years with them were, and just how horrible things would become.
Thanks for actively doing something to exert pressure through your writing. I appreciate it.
p.s. I love the line about Trump being the “CEO of USA, Inc.” There is a lot of spin on that one!
Thanks Carolyn for your insights and comments! Yes, I think Trump sees himself as the CEO of the world’s biggest corporation and therefore only being responsible for producing more financial gains for the corp’s major shareholders–the wealthiest 1%. It’s a very sad situation, and I pray that those Americans who are still slumbering will awake soon enough to halt the damage that’s being done to America’s cherished institutions.
Good observation Henry! Lots of Americans feel like you and are ashamed. I always loved the civility of the likes of … forget his name .. who wrote Woebegone days ? Anyway America had a reputation around the world as being civil. Maybe the Waltons on Tv helped but certainly the pubic discourse has become very nasty since The plutocrat got into office.
He is a puppet for the 1% … the super rich who see him as a bull in a china shop who will keep the country and world divided by his antics while they grab more of the wealth. These people and corporations have plans we cannot even begin to imagine but it will end up like some sci-fi dystopia where a few live a wonder life of privilege while the other 99.5% struggle. Any attempt to rebel will be quashed by surveillance and drones. The prisons built to make money for shareholders will be full of people who stand against this new fascism. The rich live in fear that their money will be taken from them in taxes or moral outrage that will lead to revolution. Trump is a timely distraction. We should forget about him .. he will die if he is ignored. Instead the Americans should target the corporations and arms sellers , the food giants , junk food purveyors , the banking and health providers .. the filthy rich even celebrities and make them share the goodies. The American model is being exported around the world. It’s time for people to wake up and demand a better deal.
Thanks Kevin for your comments! I agree that Trump’s mission is mainly distraction, but he’s also making some fundamental changes to American institutions (for example, the courts, education and environmental protections) that will affect everyone negatively. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments about the enormous benefits being handed to the world’s wealthiest, regardless of their political leanings. I ran across a timely article a few months ago that featured photos of extravagantly refurbished missile silos and other underground bunkers all over the world that have been purchased by the super rich as dooms-day shelters. It made me wonder if those in top positions of power (especially Donald and his buddy Rocket Man) will take diplomacy at all costs as seriously as they should since they and their families will be protected regardless of conflict outcomes. To me, that’s a truly scary thought!
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