Trump and his assault on truth

Autor: Philipp Wilitsch

A Growing List of Transgressions

Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America on January 20th, just about 3 weeks ago. Already it feels a lot longer than that, as there is a new scandal each day. Sean Spicer, Trump’s White House Press Secretary, routinely lies to the press; Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, invents a terrorist attack that never happened to lobby for an executive order banning all people from seven majority Muslim nations; Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist, is an influential figure in alt-right and white supremacist circles, who now has the President’s ear and even a seat on the National Security Council; and then, of course, there is Trump himself. During the campaign against Hillary Clinton, Trump has emboldened racists , admitted to sexual assault , ridiculed a disabled reporter, made several sexist remarks , disrespected all Prisoners of War, and many of his claims have been proven to be outright lies . The list of Trump’s lies and transgressions is steadily growing.

And yet, on November 8th, 2016 Donald J. Trump won the election, though it should be noted that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

Challenging the Status-Quo

Even before taking office, Trump has presented a challenge to the media, politicians, activists, and all those who engage in political discussions. How can one engage with a President who has divorced himself from reality and whose spokespeople openly spread “alternative facts”, aka lie to the public? How can we preserve the dignity and respect for the Office of the President, when the President himself decides to engage in “Twitter-Feuds”, denounces the media as the “opposition party”, and shows no respect for the checks and balances laid out in the constitution? I don’t presume to have the perfect answer to these questions, but I know that we cannot let Trump and those who support him get away with twisting reality or inventing stories, like the fictional “Bowling Green Massacre”, only to advance their agenda. A shared reality is the only basis for reasonable debates and as such must not be sacrificed only to avoid conflict or seem “fair and balanced”. I am not claiming that I or those who oppose Trump are always correct or have some access to absolute knowledge. Far from it. There are plenty of falsehoods and “fake news” on the left and we should not let those things go by unchallenged either. It is up to us as budding activist and politicos to challenge the administration and critically look at their policies and statements. From this critical examination, actions have to follow.
Those, like many members of the Young Transatlantic Initiative and myself, who are working toward a strong bond between Europe and North America have to openly stand up for our values. We have to defend them, even if that means offending those who seek shelter from reality in the arms of a demagogue. This does not mean that we intentionally go out and insult every Trump supporter. It means that we have to engage them and find common ground that is based in reality. From there we can have productive conversations and communicate the values and ideals we cherish.

Not every Trump supporter is a racist, sexist, ableist, bigot, or authoritarian. But we need to point out that they support a racist, sexist, ableist, bigot, wannabe autocrat. The fact that the Young Transatlantic Initiative has yet to openly criticize Trump for undermining shared values and the transatlantic friendship is deeply troubling to me and to many others. Having read the Statement of the YTI-Board regarding the recent discussions of the Trump-Administration, I am disappointed to say the least. This statement is an attempt to steer clear of anything that might seem controversial in the slightest. Our Mission Statement clearly allows for criticism of those who undermine our goals and values:
“The dedication for transatlantic partnership shall not be confused with blind devotion. Rather, a true partnership allows a critical dialogue about differences and challenges.”
Remaining silent on Trump’s bigotry does not make our organization non-partisan. It makes us blind to the facts and thus complicit to Trump’s inhuman policies. If we cannot find a consensus to stand up to a bully and a bigot, I am afraid that we are making ourselves irrelevant. It is our mission to nurture and strengthen the transatlantic friendship. Trump is the embodiment of nativist, isolationist, and white supremacist sentiment and is thus everything we as members of the YTI should stand against. The authoritarianism apparent in Trump’s policies and speeches is in direct conflict to freedom and as such, any defense of freedom should be an automatic critique of Trump. By avoiding this direct criticism, we are ignoring the reality that is Trump’s presidency.

Pushing Trumpism Back to the Fringes

We cannot let the fear of appearing to be partisan stand in the way of defending our goals and values. If it is partisan to stand for reality, then so be it. If it is partisan to point out blatant sexism or racism, so be it. We need to work on building a consensus in which multiculturalism, tolerance, equality, and Civil Rights are embraced by both sides of the isle. Until this is the case however, we should not let fear prevent us from standing up for what is right. Liberals and Progressives, myself included, thought we had reached a point in history where politicians like Trump could only ever be popular among the fringes of the political spectrum. It turns out that we were mistaken. It is now up to all of us to push Trump and his ideas back to the fringes where they belong.