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.
As the days, weeks and months of the Trump presidency pass by, America becomes angrier and more divided. The nation has descended into a perpetual “us versus them” mentality, as the foundations of civic discourse (tolerance, civility, empathy) begin to tumble. I once thought that the 2016 election was the apex of the viciousness of contemporary American politics; instead, it appears as if the election was only a precursor for worse things to come. In the wake of this decline, I think it is necessary for us to look to our nation’s history books for pathways out of the rubble. If we are to progress from the decadence of the Trump Era, we must understand how civil politics once functioned.
I am a proud Cornellian. As a second-semester senior, I can easily say that I have experienced the roller coaster of ups and downs that virtually every Cornellian before me has felt. Regardless of what highs and lows this school has brought me to, I truly believe that this school, and the students in it, are a testament to what an elite education can do for both the individual and society as a whole. Cornell is, quite simply, a remarkable institution, with brilliant professors and students. Unfortunately, the university’s administration is a great stain on an otherwise incredible and noble history. In past columns, I have described the problems with the administration’s compulsive spending and inattention to the needs of lower-income students.
Well, the last month has been interesting, to say the least. Trump has further unveiled his narcissism, racism and misogyny. More importantly, however, Michael Wolff’s tell-all, Fire and Fury, has revealed the complete and utter incompetence of Trump and his cronies. As someone who gobbled Wolff’s book down, I can only say that the men (and only men) that are running this country terrify me to my core. But perhaps the greatest evil of the Trump era is not the president and his staff, but rather the Republican-controlled Congress that continually defends the monstrosity that is Trumpism.
Roy Moore is disgusting –– there is no question about it. Despite what some on the far right might claim, the fact of the matter is that he pursued underage girls and used his position of power to take advantage of them. What is even more disgusting, however, is how much support Moore has retained. A recent poll showed that 42 percent of Alabamians still support Moore in his senate race; a fact that is revolting. How in God’s name can 42 percent of the people of Alabama still support a man that is quite clearly a pedophile?
Nearly every year, the front page of Cornell’s website is blazoned with some variation of the headline, “Cornell Admits Most Diverse Class Ever.” The University boasts that its goal of increasing the number of students of color on campus is working, as more and more minority students enroll at Cornell each year. Yet the claim that Cornell is becoming more “diverse” is misleading. Yes, the University is the most racially heterogeneous it has ever been. And yes, the University has one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country. However, skin color is not the sole measure of diversity; in fact, it is only a component of a much larger puzzle.
The world’s frustrations with Donald Trump seem to have largely focused on his constant insults and his overt racism and misogyny. These are, of course, perfectly legitimate and accurate criticisms. However, I am extremely concerned that these criticisms have become so constant and so overwhelming that they have overshadowed an even more pressing and problematic concern: the president’s competency and stability. On its façade, questions of Trump’s intelligence may appear comical. His frequent spelling and grammatical errors, rambling statements, and inaccurate claims are enough to make one question the president’s intellectual capacity. But unfortunately for the country, these highly public instances of incompetence are only the tip of a very, very large iceberg.
This past summer, I went to see Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk. Set during the 1940 evacuation of British troops on the beaches of northern France, Dunkirk is a remarkably powerful story of how a group of teenage British soldiers managed to survive the Nazi war machine. What struck me throughout the movie was not the film’s gripping plot and brilliant cinematography, but rather how relevant the film is to today’s world. With just one wrong move, the world’s youth could once again be called upon to fight wars caused by deranged madmen. The times in which we live are indeed frightening.
The right to freedom of speech is the hallmark of the American democratic experiment. The United States was the first nation to guarantee an individual’s right to speak freely and openly about one’s thoughts and ideas. It was, and remains, a radical concept. Today, speech is constantly restricted — even in the most democratic of societies. And it appears as if the restrictions that chain free speech are beginning to wash upon our shores as well.
Donald John Trump is, undoubtedly, the worst president since James Buchanan (our 15th president, whose lack of leadership launched this nation into the depths of the Civil War). His racism, misogyny and egoism define him as one of the most despicable and vile human beings on the face of the planet. But even more unsettling, his erratic and chaotic management style, combined with his complete and utter incompetence, render him as one of the greatest threats to the American democratic experiment in the modern era. This past summer unveiled to the public the true nature of our president: a white nationalist, women-hating, insecure bully with a lack of understanding of even the most basic aspects of foreign affairs, economics and the administrative state. Trump is a dangerously toxic cocktail of evil and sheer stupidity.