On Tuesday, Jan. 30, President Donald Trump extended an olive branch to the Democratic Party and other opposition voices during his first State of the Union address. After a year of intense polarization, Trump asked both left and right-leaning politicians in Congress to set aside differences, “to seek out common ground and to summon the unity”.
As a left-leaning citizen, I was eager to hear the president’s plan to pass a clean Dream Act, renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program for millions of children, ensure that middle and working class Americans are healthy and secure following the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, aid the thousands of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico still without power or clean water and address the worsening issue of climate change.
But, Trump’s response was nothing less than shocking. In just 80 minutes, he compared Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients to MS-13, stomped on NFL players’ right to kneel before the American flag, stood by his decision to move an embassy that will effectively dissolve any hopes of peace between Israel and Palestine and completely failed to address the ongoing crisis occurring in Puerto Rico or that of Earth’s rising temperatures and sea levels.
While Trump mentioned granting a citizenship path to DACA recipients in his four-pillar immigration plan, we must remember that these dreamers are young, innocent children who were brought into the United States by their parents — which makes his illegal immigration statement to “finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country,” all the more offensive.
On the topic of recent NFL protests, Trump’s support of all citizens standing before the flag only shows how oblivious he is to the racial inequality resulting from not only society, but also from a fundamentally flawed justice and prison systems. His recognition of Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel, proves that he is completely ignorant in terms of the religious and political conflicts that will undoubtedly erupt between Israeli and Palestinian citizens.
The president celebrated the repeal of the Affordable Care Act individual mandate but failed to even mention the over six million children of low-income families who will lose coverage if CHIP is not renewed. He also conveniently did not remind citizens tuning in that the tax reform bill passed and signed into law in December will only provide “tremendous relief” to large corporations and the very wealthiest of Americans.
One of the more controversial issues occurring during the first year of the Trump presidency was Trump’s treatment of nations and territories in the West Indies and Central America. In addition to using expletives to describe Haiti and deporting 200,000 Salvadorians, the president responded to damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico by attacking the “fake news networks” and San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s “poor leadership ability” on Twitter.
Social media criticism and the literal throwing of paper towels to needy Puerto Ricans served as the extent of Trump’s response — and he supported his actions Tuesday night. During the speech, he only mentioned Puerto Rico once and only to voice vague support: “we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.” Trump did not outline even a basic action plan, showing his lack of support and education surrounding the dire state Puerto Rico remains in five months following Hurricane Maria’s attack.
It is also important to remember that Maria was one of three hurricanes striking the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean just weeks apart, and that these storms were directly caused by the planet’s rising temperatures. Trump’s complete denial of climate change and his failure to include the conflict in his speech is inexcusable and speaks to an isolationist attitude in America, an attitude that rejects science itself.
I may not be the most moderate-voting of citizens, but I tried to watch the State of the Union with an open mind. I really did. However, following the president’s speech, it has become increasingly obvious that this man only seeks to establish “unity” and prosperity among people like me — white, heterosexual, cisgender, non-Jewish, non-Muslim and of legal citizenship.
It is therefore the role of this “united” group of very select people to rise up and fight to ensure that this man, and his administration ,actively work to improve the American dream for all of us. Everyone means everyone. As a privileged citizen, I dissent. I encourage you to do the same.