By Shirley L. Smith
For weeks, ardent supporters of President Donald Trump have been telling people who were alarmed by Trump’s fiery rhetoric on the campaign trail to “give him a chance,” but on his first full day as leader of the free world, Trump used his platform to disparage the media and quibble over the size of his inauguration crowd, rather than quell the concerns of demonstrators who came out in solidarity around the country and worldwide to protest his presidency and policies.
Trump failed to even acknowledge the swarms of women who led a peaceful protest on Saturday outside of the White House and across the nation to support women’s rights and human rights, and espouse America’s core values which they feel are in danger under a Trump presidency. According to historians, the protest – which included men, children, civil rights icons and movie stars of all races – was unprecedented in its scope. It is estimated that over a million people participated in the march.
“I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” Trump told CIA officials Saturday. Even though Trump openly criticized the CIA on Twitter and on camera, he reassured them that he loved them. This would have been a great moment had Trump not falsely blamed the media for inaccurately reporting statements that he made vilifying the CIA, and had he spent less time talking about himself and whining about the size of his inauguration turnout, which he insisted was underreported by the media despite clear photographs showing large gaps in the crowd.
Trump’s constant attacks on the media are disconcerting, because our democracy depends on a free press that reports on the actions of our government and holds public officials accountable so the public can make informed decisions. This is what separates America from countries that are controlled by dictators whose citizens have no say in their government, and are penalized and even killed for speaking out against the government.
While reporters are fallible, the majority of reporters are people of integrity who work long hours to make sure their facts are accurate. Oftentimes they work under stressful conditions for insufficient wages. They do so, because they want to make a difference in society, and give a voice to people who are disenfranchised or marginalized. This is why I became a journalist.
Sadly, Trump’s proclivity to alter the truth, belittle people who do not agree with him and talk about complex issues in simplistic terms, has been effective, especially for people whose main source of news is social media. They may not watch an entire newscast or read an article from a credible news organization, but they listen to sound bites and read tweets of his outrageous statements and catchy phrases like, “Little Marco,” “Low Energy” Jeb and “Crooked Hillary.”
These repetitive slogans, which branded his opponents and casted them in a negative light, had a subliminal effect on some voters. Trump is now working on branding reporters as being part of the “dishonest media” and trying to force them into submission through ridicule. This is dangerous, because if Trump succeeds in further eroding the public’s confidence in the media, the fate of our democracy will be in jeopardy.
Like many Americans, I was hoping that after Trump became president, he would do some introspection and rise to the occasion by finally apologizing for his divisive rhetoric and giving a unifying speech at his inauguration, but he continues to inflame tensions, engage in petty banter, and dismiss the concerns and fears of Americans who did not vote for him, but who still count.
For example, when Trump talks about law and order, he praises the police for their service, which is appropriate, because many police officers are honorable men and women who risk their lives to keep us safe. But, he fails to recognize the pain that people of color feel from watching numerous black men being unjustly gunned down in the streets by police officers who abuse their authority.
Trump does not seem to comprehend how his dismissive attitude and rhetoric have increased racial tensions or how the salacious remarks he made about grabbing women’s private parts, which were captured on an audio recording, deeply disturbed women. Although these statements were made years ago and Trump apologized, he dismissed his statements as “locker room” talk, as if that made them acceptable. This was a slap to every woman who has ever been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Many of us were told as children, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, this is a falsity. Words do hurt, sometimes more than physical wounds, because wounds heal, but hurtful words can penetrate one’s soul and have a lasting impact. Yet, Trump and his surrogates refuse to acknowledge how his sexist and offensive statements have sowed the seeds of discord in this country.
Trump’s behavior is a stark contrast to President Barack Obama, who often took the high road and managed to elevate the tenor of public discourse.
It is time for Trump, a self-proclaimed man of action, to LISTEN to the cries of his compatriots and bring people together. This is what Americans expect of their president. People need to know that their president cares about them, all of them. Trump’s message obviously resonated with many Americans who also have valid concerns, but Trump’s “take no hostages” mentality that paved his road to the White House, left many scarred.
Though Trump won the election, he lost the respect of countless people. Hopefully, the massive protests will be a wakeup call. In the words of former Vice President Joe Biden, “Grow up, Donald. Grow up.” Biden made this statement in a parting interview with PBS NewsHour. He added, “Time to be an adult. You’re president. You’ve got to do something. Show us what you have.”