One of the litmus tests by which a society can be judged is the ways it treats its young people, for this opens a window view onto how its society operates generally. On this test, the Trump administration has clearly shown its fatally toxic acidity significantly decaying the foundations of our nation’s democratic institutions.
For a president and party claiming to defend “family values,” Trump and the Republicans’ statements and policies fail to value families of any sort.
Since former Attorney General Jefferson Sessions has implemented the administration’s draconian policy of separating young people from their parents, ICE officers have taken well over 11,000 children under the guise of temporarily removing them – some directly from their parents’ arms – to the showers(!!) for hygienic purposes, without returning them as promised.
Parents are then transported into federal custody to await trial and almost certain deportation, while Trump’s so-called Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) places young people in detention facilities. In the last month alone, two Guatemalan children — a boy age 7 and a girl age 8 — have both died in custody.
An estimated 1,400 boys between the ages of 10 and 17 were placed in an abandoned Walmart near Brownsville, Texas, where they were released outside into the sunshine for only two hours a day. Others sleep in the same rooms as older adults for weeks at a time.
Jacob Soboroff of MSNBC, the first journalist allowed into the Brownsville facility, reported that no matter how the administration would like to represent it, this is a prison-like environment. “This place is a ‘shelter,’ but effectively these kids are being incarcerated,” he said.
One of the HHS workers encouraged Soboroff upon entering to make certain that he smiled at the youth because when outsiders enter the building “they feel like animals in cages being looked at.” Near the facility entrance, a painted mural depicts President Trump with a large American flag and the White House.
The Statue of Liberty, herself an immigrant, weeps uncontrollably today. Her tears have all but extinguished her once brilliantly radiant beacon welcoming to the “tired and poor” to American shores.
On the issue of character, Trump has conducted a campaign of attack, innuendo, name-calling, character assassination, and misrepresentation toward anyone from all stations of life — and in particular, black people and Muslims — who fail to bow down and kiss his ring or those who challenge him on any level no matter who they are, including Gold Star military families, black athletes, the cast of a Broadway musical, and even former political allies.
We are increasingly seeing what has come to be known as “The Trump Effect” in which many young people mirror Trump’s abusive words and actions against their peers.
When I met with high school juniors and seniors in an LGBTQ history class, students expressed anger and fear at Trump’s election. One student expressed the sentiments of their classmates, “No longer do people hold politicians to standards of behavior that they hold for high school students. It’s okay for the President to grab women’s genitals, but if I did it, I’d be thrown out of school and thrown into jail.”
Even before the election concluded, I heard from a public-school educator who said, “As we get closer to the election, I’m seeing more and more of my students of marginalized identities struggle — seriously, deeply struggle — with their mental and emotional health, to the point of discussing suicide…. I suspect that I’m not alone in what I’m seeing, and that it’s happening on other campuses as well.”
While running for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump said at campaign rallies that he would be a different kind of Republican because he would defend and strengthen LGBTQ protections. At the 2016 Republican convention, he posed with a rainbow flag, the words “LGBTs for Trump” scrawled across its yellow stripe.
This should have been a clue in foretelling his cowardice and deception once he took over the reins of power because since moving into the White House, Trump and his administration have declared total war on the transgender community.
He has attempted to render trans people invisible and silent under the law.
In a memo sent to major government agencies, the Trump administration ordered that the definition of “gender” must be based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” This means that the sex of everyone must accord with the binary of “male” or “female” determined by the genitals a person is born with, unless genetic tests determine otherwise.
Though federal civil rights laws protected transgender people through such statutes as Title VII, Title IX, and the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration’s obvious intent is to nullify these laws and further excite the conservative base by going after trans people.
In an earlier memo sent from his Department of “Justice” to U.S. attorneys, department heads, and federal agencies, Trump’s former Attorney General Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy that protected trans employees from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Session made clear that his department would no longer interpret gender protections in Title VII to include gender identity and expression.
Since Trump’s inauguration, he abolished an Obama-era executive order permitting transgender students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities, and the White House website has removed reference to LGBT issues and policies from the previous administration.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who was initially reported as opposing the rescinding of Obama’s order, has since released a statement asserting that “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level.” Jeff Sessions added, “Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue.”
But contrary to Sessions and DeVos’s views, this is most emphatically a federal issue.
DeVos has consistently reversed civil and human rights Obama-era protections for trans school students. In addition, currently several civil rights groups are suing DeVos for revoking Title IX guidelines that help protect college survivors who report sexual assaults.
When the Trump administration promoted its 2017 “American Heroes Week,” the alleged Commander-in-Chief let it be known in a torrential three-tweet series that he does not include trans people in the category of “American Heroes,” especially those currently and previously serving in the U.S. military.
“After consideration with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming …victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
It should be crystal clear to everyone that Trump’s motive in declaring war on an entire category of people has nothing to do with concerns over improving military readiness, ending discrimination in schools and workplaces, or improving prison conditions. It has nothing to do with health care costs. It has nothing to do with some alleged and unspecific “disruption” and it certainly has nothing to do with “religious freedom.”
Trump’s official policy-by-tweet contradicts Department of Defense regulations released June 30, 2016 under Defense Secretary Ash Carter permitting trans people to join and openly serve their country. At that time, the United States added its name to an ever-increasing list of 20 other nations — including Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Spain — welcoming trans people into their military ranks, with the Netherlands as the first in 973.
Trump once admitted to The Washington Post that he doesn’t read: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”
Rather than concern himself with the “Three R’s,” Trump relies on the “Four I’s” when making decisions: Impulsiveness, Instinctiveness, Intuition and his I-first world view. He has never read a biography of any of our past presidents, and his grasp of U.S. and world history is slight at best.
Trump’s de-emphasis on education is reflected in his choice of highly controversial billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education. In the past she has advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public schools to private and parochial schools, giving greater emphasis on for-profit charter schools that are inaccessible by poorer students.
DeVos has also been charged with plagiarism, an educational sin. At her Senate confirmation hearings, she was roundly criticized for her lack of even basic knowledge on teaching and pedagogical issues that any college sophomore education major would know.
During her interview with Lesley Stahl on a March 2018 segment of CBS’ 60 Minutes, when asked about her thoughts about school funding, she responded, “We should be funding and investing in students, not in school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.”
While knowledge is power, ignorance is dangerous, even deadly for those with enormous power like Trump and DeVos. So, what kind of role models and messages do this president and Secretary of Education give young people on the value of inquiry, learning, critical thinking and education itself?
When billionaire philanthropist, Betsy DeVos, appeared in front of congressional legislators during her confirmation hearings as then President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Education, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked whether firearms should be allowed in schools as a strategy in protecting students.
Rather than ruling it out, she answered, “I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide.”
When pressed further to elaborate, she referred to an earlier remark by Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming which had erected a fence to protect students from wildlife.
“I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
Well, aside from the possibility of arming bears, she now advocates for the bearing of arms for classroom teachers. She has reportedly proposed using Department of Education funds to purchase guns and to cover the costs of firearms training for teachers as a tactic in reducing school gun violence.
Following the deadly shooting massacre last February at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and after meeting with survivors — including teachers, students, and parents — Trump placed DeVos in charge of heading a commission on school safety.
As typical as it has been in the Trump administration, Betsy DeVos — who came to her position with virtually no experience and knowledge of public education policy, pedagogy, and practices — she chose commission members who had no experience or knowledge regarding gun violence prevention.
Again on 60 Minutes, regarding her position on arming teachers in schools, she stated, “I hesitate to think of my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Zorhoff, I couldn’t ever imagine her having a gun.”
Evidently, however, she imagines and advocates current teachers to pack heat.
If she’d listened to advice given by Douglas High School students and many others in the field of gun safety, rather than jumping to the beckoned call of the NRA and firearms manufacturers, she’d cease trying to fight guns with more guns. Rather, she needs to advocate for common-sense gun safety legislation.
Public schools continue to eliminate after-school programs and arts and humanities educational programs due raising costs and reduced funding. Teachers on average spend hundreds of dollars annually out of their own pockets to help provide students with basic school supplies.
Diverting funding from needed programs into arming teacher is a tactic that diverts us from the actual issue that there are simply too many legally obtained firearms in the United States. No amount of arming by teachers will alleviate or even reduce it. In fact, it’s likely to make it worse.
And to paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the guns, stupid.”
Trump and his administration have declared war on the environment by proposing a substantial budgetary reduction of an estimated 24% and a staff cut of 20% to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), consideration stopping the lowering automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, relaxing prohibitions against dumping toxins like coal ash into streams and rivers, reinstating the environmentally damaging Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, and increasing coal mining, natural gas, crude and scale oil drilling, and shrinking by approximately 2 million acres national monuments in Utah.
The Trump regime misrepresented its announced campaign and ruling mantra of “Make America Great Again,” with its covert political philosophy of “Make Corporations Richer and Unburdened by Government Regulations” resulting in “Let the People Be Damned.”
The EPA recently released a report arguing that air pollution standards enacted under the Obama administration are “too costly” for companies like the entire coal industry to follow. Therefore, Trump’s EPA will severely cut these standards.
This followed another report that the amount of time is closing for Earthlings to fully address the release of pollutants into the environment before climate change becomes irreversible.
As our planet is experiencing ever-increasing temperatures resulting in higher intensity and more frequent storms and droughts, the Trump regime announced yet another reversal of environmental standards for the benefit of the corporate sector over concerns for public health and safety.
Trump has assaulted federal regulations originally intended to fight climate change related to finding and stopping methane leaks from escaping oil and gas wells enforced during the Obama administration. Trump’s Environmental “Protection” Agency relaxed carbon dioxide emission limits from power plants and vehicles, and it also proposed allowing states to determine their own emissions guidelines for coal-based power plants.
According to EPA’s own research, however, methane has been determined to warm the atmosphere 84 times more than carbon dioxide. In addition, Trump’s proposal for coal-fueled power plants will seriously increase pollution-related illnesses such as asthma and emphysema resulting in premature deaths.
These proposals along with the Trump regime’s long list of environmental-destroying policies imperils the entire planet. Let the people be damned and sickened by environmental conditions and climate change.
Taxes and Health Care
The Republican tax “reform” bill, which Trump openly endorsed, grants huge tax deductions to corporations and the top 1% of the population, while ultimately raising taxes for many, if not most, middle- and working-class earners, individuals, and families.
The Republicans with Trump’s support have served up once again their so-called “trickle-down,” or more formally referred to as “supply-side,” economics in the latest incarnation of their tax reform law.
“Trickle-Down” has also been referred to as the “Horse-and-Sparrow Theory”: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. But this is horse excrement and treats young and old people alike like feces.
The Republicans along with Trump have consistently threatened to gut the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the individual mandate, which could throw 13 million people off health insurance.
Trump’s Party promises to “repeal and replace” the ACA, even though the current law has increasing support by a majority of the electorate — especially including the provisions that insurance companies must cover pre-existing conditions and continue coverage for young people up to age 26.
The Trump administration has given so many people, young and old, PTSD: President Trump Stress Disorder.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “trumpery“ first appeared in the English language in the mid-15th century. Webster’s 1913 Dictionary defined Trumpery as a noun meaning “deceit, fraud; something serving to deceive by false show or pretense; falsehood; deceit; worthless but showy matter; hence, things worn out and of no value; rubbish; or something worthless or deceptive in character; nonsensical talk or writing; ornamental objects of no great value.”
Donald Trump, through words and actions, presents the U.S. to residents and leaders throughout the world as erratic and ineffective, as retreating from its stated position of defender of human rights and as a guardian against attack to our allies.
In so many ways, Trump is hazardous to young people and all other living things.