MIDDLE EAST

Is Trump walking the US back to social strife and inequality?

Soldiers of conscience have never won by waving roses in front of well-armed adversaries. Yet, waging a war for peace is not only ineffective, it is also an oxymoron.

But in the eternal struggle between good and evil, clear battle lines have emerged between liberals and conservatives in the US today, with universal ethical values struggling against the revival of White supremacism.

Also read: Trump, Bannon and the Republican party

The battle lines became stark when President Trump apparently veered towards bigotry and racism. Responding to the killing of a lady named Heather Heyers by a White supremacist in Charlottesville on August 13, when he ploughed his vehicle into a group of peaceful protesters, President Trump took a surprisingly “neutral” stance equating both sides — advocates of White supremacism and anti-racial protesters — by insisting that “there is blame on both sides.”

This neutrality seems untenable when the White supremacist killer clearly carried out an act of terrorism, lifted straight out of the ISIS’ playbook by turning his car into a dangerous projectile. It is indeed a troubling development when the leader of the free world speaks indifferently about such an incident.

In the eternal struggle between good and evil, clear battle lines have emerged between liberals and conservatives in the US today

Walid Jawad

Adopting neutrality

If this is regarded as an instance of oversight by the US President, then one may question the wisdom of adopting neutrality in the face of blatant bigotry and injustice. The political fallout ensuing from the collective outrage over this incident was even more deplorable, as the Trump administration seemed too slow to react.

Muffled calls by Republican leaders — Senator John McCain and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — for the President to unequivocally denounce racism eventually led Trump to issue a statement of condemnation, days after the violence had already claimed Heyers’ life and injured 19 others.

Unfortunately, Trump softened the remarks in less than 24 hours by making an off-the-cuff “morally-ambiguous” comment. No one from the administration had the courage to speak out, except for Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn who resigned. What does this tell us about members of the Trump administration?

American Civil Rights Movement

White supremacists have since felt emboldened and have organized the ‘Patriot Prayer’ march in San Francisco last Friday, led by a group that supports Trump. In doing so, they have undermined the sacrifice of all those who fought the Nazis in World War II, the leaders of conscience who marched in peaceful protests against racism throughout the Civil Rights Movement, and countless other Americans who “walked the walk” demanding equality on behalf the downtrodden, disadvantaged and disenfranchised. Where is the moral high ground that America has always called for?

It is noteworthy that President George W. Bush’s first address in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was from a Washington, DC mosque. He made clear that Muslim-Americans are patriots and should not be blamed for the terrorist attacks. Trump’s ambivalence comes close on the heels of his two other recent decisions: Banning of transgender troops and the pardoning of anti-immigrant ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Also read: Is Trump racist?

President Trump issued a directive that reversed the Obama policy of giving transgender individuals equal rights and assigns them the same responsibilities as any other who take the vow to serve and possibly die in defense of the nation and its values. The LGBTQ community had been fighting and making steady progress for equality in recruitment within the military.

They have been struggling to build a critical mass of support within the American population for a change that culminated in former President Obama’s directive to the military to accept members of the LGBTQ community into the military, applying the same qualification and restriction as imposed on any other individuals.

Hiding behind the hurricane

Trump also recently pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona from the conviction of criminal contempt of court, which put an end to Arpaio’s campaign of racially profiling people of Latin American origin. “He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration,” Trump said of Arpaio while issuing his pardon.

It is important to note that Arpaio held a news conference in 2012 questioning the eligibility of Obama to hold the office of the US President by raising doubts about the legitimacy of his birth certificate. He falsely argued that Obama was not born in the US and therefore does not meet this constitutional requirement for holding the high office.

Also read: Trump names White House chief of staff, chief strategist

It is remarkable that both these decisions taken by the President were announced on a Friday evening, a time when the upcoming weekend provides chance to avoid questions from the press. In this case, Trump also benefitted from the extensive news coverage given to the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. It is noteworthy that both the decisions seemed to be directed against President Obama’s policies.

It is in these times of racial tensions that Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill stand up to the rising threat of divisiveness as they are an equal and a balancing branch of government. They must hold their own in the face of rising instances of social injustice and racism.
________________________
Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at US Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj.

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Last Update: Thursday, 7 September 2017 KSA 13:07 - GMT 10:07
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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