There is a theory in political philosophy that the United States, and mankind in general, is on a continual, upward progression. That as time progresses, we as a people are becoming more caring, more protective of individual rights, and more evolved in our treatment of one another. It is a theory that posits us as constantly striving to achieve more and more progressive goals, which in turn creates a more fair and equitable society. This theory, I’m afraid, does not apply to today’s America.
Over the course of the last couple of years, America has taken a decidedly downward turn in its morals. Though the land of the free has never truly embraced its utopian idea of “all men are created equal,” we have nevertheless worked to break through the barriers preventing the attainment of such a goal. Now, however, instead of breaking barriers, we are constructing walls. Instead of striving for a better society, we are deconstructing once established moral norms. Instead of creating a dialogue for change, we cry “fake news” and rip one another apart on social media. This is not a period of progress; rather, it is an era of retrograde.
At the helm of this decline is our president. There was once a sort of majestic dignity to the office of the presidency. Though presidents have time and time again violated this dignity behind the closed doors of the West Wing, the leader of the free world nevertheless put on a face of resilience and honor in public. Now, not only has President Trump boasted about the ugliness of his self-centered egoism, he has caused irreparable damage to the once morally authoritative title of President of the United States.
What is most egregious about the Trump presidency is not the man himself, but rather those that support and sustain his lunacy. The Republican Party brands itself as the party of family values — the party that will protect America from the liberal loonies that threaten the core of what it means to be American. Yet at the same time, they hold up a womanizing, misogynistic, temperamental, unlearned, offensive, semi-illiterate, groper who revels in the fact that he has become America’s number-one bully. We teach children to treat others with respect — to avoid name calling and express kindness. Our president, on the other hand, takes pride in mocking others (e.g. a disabled reporter, virtually every major world leader) and in disparaging women because of a perceived lack of beauty (e.g., Carly Fiorina, Mika Brzezinski). It is impossible to hold oneself as the party of family values while simultaneously standing by a man who serves as the manifestation of everything that is anti-family.
What is perhaps most emblematic of the Republican Party’s moral bankruptcy is that it is all too clear that they know how crazy Trump is. Does anyone really think that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who refused to endorse Trump after he won the nomination, supports the president? Does anyone really believe that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose wife is a Taiwanese immigrant, approves of Trump’s racism? The fact of the matter is that these men stand behind Trump because they are afraid of the repercussions if they speak out. They are afraid to say what they truly believe because they believe their political careers will be in jeopardy. Cowards. The Founding Fathers spoke their mind with the knowledge that their actions could be met with the gallows; today’s leaders refuse to stand-up to tyranny for fear that people will get mad at them.
But America’s moral bankruptcy extends beyond politics. The Logan Paul controversy stands out as another example of a society on the decline. Though the world cried in outrage over Paul mocking the corpses of those who had committed suicide, I find the whole premise of his YouTube channel to be repulsive. This “comedian” makes millions of dollars off of insulting people, being rude and annoying, and constantly screaming at the top of his lungs. And if you look beyond the suicide jokes, Paul’s entire Tokyo video mocked Japanese culture and embodied the very ideal of the “ugly American.” Young tweens and teens look at this man — an individual who quite literally contributes nothing of value to society — as a role model. Our young people look to this suicide-mocking internet star — not civil rights activists, nor policymakers, nor writers and artists — as the ideal person.
I am not arguing that we should return to a past America — that is, quite literally, the opposite of progress. But at least we once strived to be something better. It is my hope that we can re-embrace the desire to fight for a better country and world. The morality of this nation is not defined by whether we achieve the values of fairness, justice and universal freedom; rather, our moral character is determined by how hard we fight for those virtues. It is only when we have the courage to stand-up to intolerance, misogyny, racism, bigotry and bullying that we will truly re-embrace sense of morality.
Michael Glanzel is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] Cornell Shrugged appears alternate Mondays this semester.