by Leah Peloff ‘18
The President of the United States of America is a leader and role model figure to the children growing up under his/ her term in office. Presidents set the tone and direction of America’s future and henceforth have an enormous impact on the developing youth.
Since Donald Trump has taken office on January 20, 2017, there has been a huge resurgence of racism, sexism, white nationalism, and overall hate. Many Americans disagree with the new policies by the Trump administration that appear to condone, or even support, intolerance and inequality; however, one’s opinion on these could be based more exclusively on political differences.
But there is an almost bigger issue than president Trump’s actions; his words. Through his own statements (and tweets), Trump sets an example for children about how they should be talking to and treating others. This is not a debate about politics, but one of human decency. For instance, our president has called Mexicans murderers and rapists, while referring to the white supremacists and neo-Nazis of the Charlottesville riots as “fine people.” Trump has also been caught profanely referring to women’s genitals, made fun of disabled Americans, called NFL players “Sons of Bitches,” nicknamed his political opponent “Crooked Hillary,” and referred to Native American senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.” The list goes on.
Having a bully as our nation’s mentor is something that goes against much of our recent progress against discrimination and towards acceptance. A half-century ago, it would have been sadly more common to slander people on the basis of race or religion, but we have come so far as a country that this kind of behavior should no longer be tolerated. Having our president make openly discriminatory remarks, however, has given the green light to many previously contained groups, such as those in Charlottesville, who feel newly welcomed and able to convey messages of hate, following their president’s lead. This is not a partisan issue nor is it a debate on political ideology. It is a problem with how we as humans treat each other. And if a 12-year-old is hearing such nasty remarks from a man who they are supposed to be looking up to, what are they going to think? They will learn that bigoted language is okay.
Sometimes these things seem intangible when they are happening in a far off place and not impacting one’s daily life, but this is not some distant issue. The first year of the Trump administration has brought several instances of hateful messages right here to Montgomery County. For example, in Bethesda this past September, several Jewish families found anti-Semitic pamphlets on their front doors. “Written in words that are printed in different directions on the page, the flier includes screeds against Jews, connecting them to Hurricane Harvey and plans of world dominance,” reported an article by Joe Zimmerman in the Bethesda Magazine. Dr. Zainab Chaudry of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) elaborated on this by saying, “These disturbing [pamphlets] are yet another example of the mainstreaming of hate and intolerance in society.” The Washington Post stated that, “school incidents involving hate symbols and racial slurs appear to have more than tripled during the past school year in [the suburbs] outside Washington.”
We are now, more than ever, witnessing a dramatic change in our country’s unity. Children are growing up seeing the normalization of hatefulness and will think that this is just how life is. It is crucial for everyone to do their part in showing the youth, who will one day be running the world, that divisive discourse is not normal. Young people should be taught not to judge others because of race, origin, gender, or sexuality. They should hear daily lessons of empathy and respect to combat the voices of intolerance. Only through these methods can civility survive the Trump Era.