by Eden Allegretti
Throughout my whole life, I have grown to realize what America symbolizes not only to our citizens, but to the world: a country based on freedom, equality, endless opportunities and hope. It is with these principles in mind that so many Americans and their representatives have fought to legalize gay marriage, provide affordable healthcare to all, shelter refugees, reduce pay inequality and much more.
While not all of these battles have been won, and not all of our principles are fully embodied, America has stood as a leader for hope and progress to the world. In just over a year, Donald Trump has irrevocably tarnished this reputation. Trump sits in the most respected and powerful seat of our nation and arguably the world. Throughout both his campaign and time in office, his administration has worked to normalize racist and sexist behavior and has used hate as a platform for international policies.
As a young adult, I am worried about the future of our nation. I have continued to question- after this administration is out of office, will the America that I believe in, the one that strives for freedom, equality and opportunities, be left? Our international standing is delicate, not something we can easily reverse and recover from. It is important to ensure that America upholds a favorable reputation so that other nations, organizations and world leaders are willing to diplomatically work with us and not use violent tactics to obtain their goals. Instead, Trump and his administration have implemented international policies that promote hatred and that have caused other nations to be less confident in the principles that America once strove to embody.
As seen above, Pew Research Centre surveyed 40,447 people in 37 countries, and asked them their level of confidence in Donald Trump compared to that of Barack Obama. Only Russia and Israel out of the 37 countries they surveyed said that they felt more confident in Trump doing the right thing opposed to Obama; the other 35 countries felt more secure in Obama and described Trump as “arrogant,” “intolerant” and “dangerous.” Russia and Israel felt more confident in Trump, which comes as no surprise due to the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the national election and Israel’s familiarity with oppressive border walls that segregate one ethnic group from another. Mexico gave Trump one of the worst confidence ratings, partially due to Trump’s labeling of Mexicans when he said “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” and used this labeling as an excuse to start building the so called ‘border wall’ that was one of his campaign promises.
Trump has a history of quickly labeling other countries and people based on stereotypes or allegations. For example, in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 11, 2018, Trump became frustrated after discussing immigration policies for Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. He asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” This comment is specifically significant in the case of El Salvador, due to the United States’ support of the El Salvadoran right-wing dictatorship during the civil war from 1980-1992. During the war, over 75,000 civilians died, and 85% of the killings were done by United States trained forces. After the fall of the U.S. backed dictatorship, El Salvador was left as a destroyed, war torn country overflowing with poverty, missing family members and destroyed villages. In a way, the United States supported the system and government that created the characteristics for Trump to categorize El Salvador as a “shithole country.” Trump also asked “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” These comments come only one day prior to the 8-year commemoration of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that left close to 300,000 Haitians dead, and displaced over 1.5 million people. Now, Trump and his administration have ended the Temporary Protected Status for both Salvadoran and Haitian refugees that fled their countries after high magnitude earthquakes.
The international outcry to these comments and policies commenced quickly, with the spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, saying “There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.” Trump’s “shithole countries” comments stirred a largely negative international response, but we must realize that these comments are not rare. Trump has been quoted saying that African immigrants are the “worst of the worst,” that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS”, and that Nigerians will “never go back to their hut.” These comments do not reflect America’s principles of hope and freedom, but instead those of bigotry and racism. The Trump administration attempted to compensate for the “shithole countries” comment by saying that Trump wants to “make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.” It seems that by Trump’s standards, immigrants can only “make our country stronger” if they are white and rich, and if they aren’t, then they should just go back to where they are from, regardless of the state and safety of their home countries.
Many have tried to justify the president’s comments, and Trump himself completely denied that he used the term “shithole countries”, despite the countless media sources and politicians that reported otherwise. Multiple respected international leaders have come out not only against these comments and false justifications, but against the president himself. For example, at the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2017, Trump was called a “rogue newcomer.” The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, denounced Trump’s ‘America First’ policy by stating that “The motto ‘Our Country First’ not only leads to more national confrontations and less prosperity, in the end, there will only be a loser.” These quotes demonstrate that President Trump has created a new international reputation for America based off the principles of hate, racism, and ignorance that are unaccepting of anything not deemed ‘American’ by Trump’s standards.
The day after the election of Donald Trump, I got a text message from my Aunt that said she was “so sorry that this was the world I would have to grow up to fix,” but as an 18-year-old that is not satisfied with the American reputation Trump has created, I am already working to fix it. By calling local congressmen, getting involved in campaigns, protesting, and voting, the American people can ensure that hatred is not what America is known for. Instead, we can be known for the principles I have always known to be possible and worthy of pursuit: freedom, equality, endless opportunities and hope.