My biggest hope for the 2016 election was that I would never have to care, ever again, what Donald Trump did or said. Even if the media insisted on covering his hot air, it would not matter.
My interest in politics over the last two years has been a professional obligation– I have been teaching government, economics, and American history. Along with my students, I watched in dismay as The Donald marched from punchline to president-elect. Two years ago, Donald Trump was a blowhard reality TV show host with a goofy combover. He was the easy butt of many a joke. Like this clip from David Letterman in 2012, about how Trump accused Obama of not being an American citizen: “Maybe he’s not a racist, maybe he’s just a guy who periodically says stupid things to get attention.”
Next semester I will be teaching psychology instead of government. I was looking forward to ignoring politics for a while. Life would go on more or less how it’d been the last eight years. Trump would quickly fade into irrelevance. I could tune down the volume on the Republican backlash against Hillary.
That was the devastation I felt on election night. Of course these thoughts swirled: How could so many people fall for this scam? ‘Blue collar billionaire’ my ass. How could so many Republican leaders capitulate to a fake-conservative hijacking of their political party?
The real devastation, though, was realizing I would have to pay attention to Trump’s words and actions. Because now they matter.
We have an internet troll for a soon-to-be president. Literally. According to Wikipedia, an internet troll is:
a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.
And with 16.5 million followers on Twitter, the president-elect can cause quite a ruckus.
Case in point: Last week, Donald was sitting at home watching Fox News, when a segment came on showing people burning the flag to protest his election. Promptly, Trump tweeted to his peeps: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
Nevermind that flag burning is a constitutionally protected freedom of speech, upheld by the Supreme Court. My high school sophomores know that. Nevermind that citizenship cannot, by law, be revoked as punishment for anything, let alone for exercising free speech.
Nevermind because the goal was not logical discussion but an emotional response. Flag burning is abhorrent to many people. The emotional response pitted the “patriotic” against the “flag-burning traitors,” making it seem like defending free speech was tantamount to burning the flag yourself. The internet exploded with vigorous defenses and accusations. And yes, some people burned flags in front of Trump Tower.
Second case in point: Trump accepted a call from Taiwan. U.S. leaders have not communicated directly with Taiwan’s leader since the 1970’s. U.S. leaders communicate directly with Beijing, China.
It’s complicated. We have a “One-China” policy. Diplomatic relationships are delicate. History has happened. China has nuclear weapons. Stuff like that.
Predictably, the internet exploded. In true form, Trump responded to the criticism by defensively tweeting his peeps: Hey guys it’s not my fault– Taiwan “CALLED ME.” He then echoed a point already making it’s rounds on Twitter: The U.S. has sold weapons to Taiwan in the recent past, so how’s a phone call any different? Liberal hypocrites!
People are still trying to figure out whether the call was part of a strategy or not. China lodged a formal complaint with Washington.
What does it all mean?
Buckle your seat belts. Trump is volatile. He’s about to be President of the United States and he’s now trolling the entire world.
They say hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That’s been hard for me to do. Feeling urgency to resist. Feeling anxious, imagining worst-case scenarios for my community and world. Nothing to do right now other than to put one foot in front of the other, make a positive difference within my sphere of influence.