Chloe Bennett is a sophomore media studies major
Following Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session Congress, words such as “conventional,” “normal,” and even “presidential” have been used to describe his manner during the event. While it is predictable for the American public to latch onto any sliver of hope for an ordinary administration after witnessing the White House’s catastrophic first two months, let us not applaud a fish for swimming. The message buried behind his unusually quiet tone was still one of fear-mongering, and it was empty of explanations for how his promises can be accomplished.
Trump opened his speech by noting that we are at the end of Black History Month, and that “we are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains to be done.” Standing alone, this sentiment is touching. But any marginalized individual or race knows that actions speak louder than words.
So what are Trump’s actions? For starters, Trump has signed several executive orders that express anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric. A significant order is “Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers” which gives police officers heightened protection, including the expansion of mandatory minimum sentences for any act of violence against an officer, and the act of defining new federal crimes. The glaring issue with this order is that, unlike people of color, law enforcement officials are already heavily protected by the law. No one has ever doubted that “Blue” lives matter, though the U.S. stands divided on the urgency of protecting black lives.
Trump condemned the anti-Semitic acts and threats against Jewish community centers and graveyards, though Attorney General of Pennsylvania Josh Shapiro told BuzzFeed that Trump said, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,” when discussing the threats. By dismissing the threats as actions carried out by his own political foes, Trump rejected an entire history of an oppressed population by playing the victim.
Trump’s been very open about building a multi-billion dollar wall to serve as an impractical symbol of the U.S’s contempt for immigration. But at his congressional speech, Trump began to discuss another way to handle immigration. He said, by “Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits.” This plan would reduce family-based immigration and instead create a trade system of skill for living. Most of all, it raises the question, is it fair for our government to determine the worth of industries and consequently, the value of human lives?
A failed military raid Trump describes as “highly successful,” surfaced again during Trump’s Congressional speech. The Yemen military raid failed on multiple accounts: a $75 million aircraft was intentionally destroyed during a crash landing, 23 civilians were killed, including an 8-year-old girl, and no details of counterterrorism intelligence have been released.
Carryn Owens, the widow of Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL senior chief who was killed during the operation, stood in the crowd as Trump boasted about the raid’s success. Stopping to comment on the amount of applause that erupted after Ryan Owens’ story, Trump said, “And he is very happy because I think he just broke a record,” suggesting that because the audience is applauding Ryan Owen’s bravery, Owens must be satisfied with the botched order.
Of course, Trump dove back into the narrative that won much of his blue collar vote by saying, “dying industries will come roaring back to life.” More specifically, Trump narrowed in on the coal mining industry, which has been on the decline since the 1980’s, according to economic research done by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Unless another use for coal is found, or the industry receives sharp tax exemptions, those jobs aren’t coming back.
Throughout his campaign, Trump had succeeded in carrying around shiny, hopeful vows for middle-class Americans without any plans to execute them. While he cannot continue to survive on “terrific,” “huge” and “winning” with the empty promises of his pseudo-Republican identity, it will take more than tax breaks for billionaires for the nation to understand the extent of his social and economical contradictions. Nevertheless, to commend a President for acting “presidential” is thoughtless and it shouldn’t be the takeaway from his speech. It is imperative that we do not applaud this man for reading from a teleprompter.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons