“Make America great again”: This is President Donald J. Trump’s omnipresent campaign slogan and rally cry, espoused passionately through supporters’ chants and display of name-brand apparel. Yes, I’m finally inserting my voice into the already rampant political conversation. I’ve bled blue since I was old enough to hold interest in politics, and I can’t stand our current president or most of his Republican cronies. However, allow me to play devil’s advocate. Shortly following the 2016 presidential election, I wrote a Facebook post (and later an English paper) saying that we shouldn’t pin all the blame on Trump supporters and that we should remain open-minded and optimistic about Trump as our president-elect. The first year of his presidency has rendered my execution of the latter nearly impossible. Nevertheless, I’d argue that Trump is upholding his central campaign promise, just perhaps not in the manner that he intended.
In a technology and mass media-laden environment that makes us more impressionable, Trump provides an excellent example of impropriety. He teaches us to not exploit our privilege over those who are less fortunate, for we may receive backlash and get stuck in positions for which we’re grossly unqualified. We must not make reckless decisions that will put innocent people in peril. We should always exude humility and empathy, even about the greatest wrongdoings, because it’s always best to be honest. Furthermore, reading a thin-skinned 71-year-old’s early morning tweets riddled with grammatical errors makes me cringe as an English major and demonstrates the importance of communicating with our cohorts and adversaries eloquently and gracefully. Along similar lines, we shouldn’t bully those who disagree with our actions and viewpoints because such people likely have justification for their opposition. As a white heterosexual male, life may be relatively easy for me; but as a Jew with an autistic brother, Trump’s failure to condemn neo-Nazis properly following August 2017’s Charlottesville rally, along with his derision of a disabled reporter, make me feel justified in my contempt for him.
Trump’s reprehensible conduct and his administration’s attempts to pass abhorrent legislation also have engendered a rise in activism and brought awareness to critical issues. Peaceful protests on behalf of such causes as women’s rights, racial and ethnic equality, LGBTQ rights, immigration, fair taxes, universal healthcare, free speech, environmental protection, and most recently gun control are instructive and encouraging. Also, the vocal minority of Trump supporters forces all of us to both consider opposing viewpoints and challenge our own, actions that will make us better-informed and less judgmental. Of course, our loudest voice is our vote, and voting numbers, especially among millennials, appear to be rising. Despite the understandably tense environment within which we live, our prospects for societal progression remain promising.
After voting for Hillary Clinton (also an admittedly flawed candidate) in the first presidential election for which I was eligible, I expressed shock and bitter disappointment upon her defeat. But in retrospect, perhaps Trump’s victory was a necessary wakeup call after we celebrated the triumph of our first African-American president eight years prior. It exposed the predicaments and divisiveness that permeate our society. But our heightened activism as of late suggests that such issues are fixable if we remain motivated to progress. In fact, I’m actually somewhat conflicted on whether or not I want Trump to leave office. While I concur that he has inept and destructive tendencies and I’d revel in his imprisonment or resignation, impeachment would be shameful and I’d hate to see us revert to our lazier inclinations concerning societal progress. Regardless of our respective sentiments towards Trump, we should put his time in office to good use by becoming better-informed, higher quality and more active citizens. After all, if Trump’s administration can accomplish hardly anything despite Republicans holding a majority in all three branches of our government, then why not pick up its slack and use the situation to our advantage?
Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.