Ok, guys. It is time, time to get political. I know, I know. It is not fun or polite to talk politics. But, as I was reading online the other day, I stumbled across an editorial written by a woman who was remembering the words of her mother, a holocaust survivor. She said that her mother always reminded her that “nice people made the best Nazis.” Wow! Just take a moment to think about that.
Nice people politely refrain from bringing up politics and hope for the best rather than deal with difficult or harsh realities. Well, with everything going on I have decided I don’t want to be a “nice” person anymore. I want to speak out, I wanted to stay informed, and I want to fight for what I think is right. I am not trying to make a direct comparison between the U.S. today and Nazi Germany, but as a historian I tend to look at things from a different perspective. Historically, extreme nationalism has not been a positive force in the world.
While there is plenty I don’t agree with that is coming from this administration, my biggest fear is the increasingly destructive nature of our political partisanship and the threat this brings to our system of checks and balances. I truly believe that the majority of Americans want liberty, equality, and justice for all, but fear-mongering partisanship over the past decade has created a deep and negative divide. While it is not going to be polite or easy, talking and arguing (I am a historian, I love to argue and see it as a positive thing) about our points of view is the only way to bridge this divide. We have to find a way to listen to one another and common ground, which is why I felt compelled to share my thoughts/concerns.
I will admit I was shocked to hear that within hours of taking office the LGBT and Climate Change pages were removed from the Whitehouse website. While each administration makes this website their own, I still believe that these issues matter and should continue to matter to every administration. This deletion sent a clear message, and that scares me. I have LBGT family and friends who I believe deserve equal rights as citizens. I also believe climate change is a very real threat and that we have a responsibility to this planet and our children to protect the environment.
In addition to these issues, I am, as a woman, very concerned with issues of women’s health and reproduction. I do not believe that being pro-choice equates to being pro-abortion. I would never advocate for abortion. Women’s healthcare is far too complicated for such simplified dichotomies. I think women should have access to whatever healthcare they need. I also do not think a religious viewpoint should be forced into law. I respect pro-life movements, but I do not understand the emphasis on birth. To be pro-life (to me) means valuing all lives (from the mother to unborn fetuses to desperate refugees) from beginning to end. I also do not understand the insistence on ending Planned Parenthood. Providing education, healthcare, and contraceptives aids in reducing abortion rates. And isn’t that what we all want?
My concerns only grew over the weekend as the ban on immigrants and refugees rolled out Friday evening. I cannot understand for the life of me how this measure prevents terror threats, especially the banning of refugees who spend years being vetted and waiting for entry (our system is very different from Europe). And the facts are pretty clear on this — Over 700k refugees have resettled in the United States since 9/11. During that time, not a single one has carried out an act of terror. Furthermore, this ban was placed on immigrants who obtained legal entry into the U.S. I cannot imagine being a college or grad student who suddenly can’t go home or finish their education (there are 123 affected at my university). We are robbing ourselves of international talent and energy. Finally, and most importantly, I believe that this move plays directly into ISIS’s hands. The last 10 acts of terror on US soil were committed by radicalized US citizens. We are helping ISIS radicalize them.
But what concerns me the most is the undermining of our political order, which regulates through a system of checks and balances. Instead of asking if we agree with everything the government is doing (because I am sure we never will), we need to ask if our system of checks and balances is working. Executive orders feel like a win when you agree with them, but if the other side takes office in four to eight years, we will have nothing but reversals and retaliation. And we end up with an over-reactionary system that pushes the limits of executive power and continues to divide us. Trump is following a precedent set by the previous administration. Obama definitely pushed his executive power and I think we as a nation need to be more conscientious and weary of this (even when we agree with the executive orders).
Finally, I want to leave you with this quote from Justice Marshall: “History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in time of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure. The World War II Relocation–camp cases and the Red Scare and McCarthy-era internal subversion cases are only the most extreme reminders that when we allow fundamental freedoms to be sacrificed in the name of real or perceived exigency, we invariably come to regret it.”
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am an equal opportunity critic. I don’t agree with blindly following anything, political party or otherwise. If we are proud Americans who want to preserve our system of governance, we should be willing and able to hold it accountable. My hope with this post is not to incite extreme emotions of love or hate, but to reasonably and rationally express my thoughts and concerns. I invite you to do the same below, just please keep it civil!