My Turn: A year of Trump: What will I tell my kids?

  • President Donald Trump pumps his fist after delivering his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 1/21/2018 12:10:11 AM

How will I explain to my kids that in the year they were born, America elected as president a man spewing hatred toward people like them and the ideals that made their country great?

How will I make sense of the strange winds blowing in Washington when that pompous and petulant man ascended to the most powerful position in the world? A wind that says fiction is fact, science is specious and reporters should never report the unfashionable facts. A wind blows insults to allies, praise to Putin and disunion to international unions that brought peace to a precarious world for decades.

What will I say to explain to my kids how in his first year in office, their tittering president equated perpetrators of white supremacy with those who protest it? How he instructed NFL coaches to fire athletes who silently signaled their objection to racial injustice? How he reportedly maligned their mother’s home continent of Africa as a bunch of “shithole countries”?

How will I account for the fact that the signature legislative achievement of the president and his party was to grant billions in tax cuts to corporations and wealthy contributors while mortgaging my kids’ future to the tune of $1.5 trillion? Or that his signature executive achievements came through appointing more campaign contributors who defied their departments’ missions a million ways?

That a man who took millions in campaign donations from fossil fuel companies and then sued the Environmental Protection Agency to stop environmental protection became head of EPA, the protector of “human health and the environment.” That a woman who spent millions on a religious crusade to privatize public schools became secretary of education, the ostensible advocate for American public schools? That a banker who made millions on faulty foreclosures during the Great Recession while opposing financial regulation was elevated to Treasury Secretary, to “ensure the financial security of the United States.” That a businessman paid millions as chief executive of America’s biggest contributor to global climate change became America’s chief diplomat when we officials withdrew from global climate action.

What will I say to my kids about their president’s reckless disregard for democracy itself, his unaccountable claims of widespread voter fraud after losing the popular election by nearly 3 million votes, his demands for loyalty over integrity in the face of foreign threats to American elections?

How will I ever explain that when the odds were one in 3.6 billion that we would be killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist, and one in a thousand that we would be wiped off the earth this year by nuclear war or climate change, their perfidious president set out to ban refugees while courting nuclear war and burning fossil fuels with abandon.

Will I tell my kids that in the year they were born, America officially withdrew from its historic commitments to peace and democratic determination abroad, fairness and equal opportunity at home?

Or, will I say that after a year of injury and insult, our country came together across the political divide and declared enough! Enough of chaos and incompetence in Washington, D.C. Enough of specious “science” and fabricated facts. Enough of racism and misogyny and xenophobia.

Will I say to my little boy and girl that in the year 2018, all Americans – even their fellow citizens whose justifiable frustrations with a broken politics once led them to support Donald Trump – recognized that we had strayed too far from our high ideals? That progressives who roundly protested the president from the start did not gloat in his decline or demean his former defenders, but came together to forge a more just and democratic future after Trump?

For their sake and ours, I pray that we will write a new American story in 2018.

(Dan Weeks is author of “Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below” and lives in Nashua with his wife and kids. Follow him on Twitter at @DemocracyDan.)

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