June 1st: Losing Our Heads Over Things

Comedy only works when it is funny. This week, Kathy Griffin was not funny when she posted a photo of herself holding a prop that looked like Donald Trump’s severed head. It was over the top, it was crude, and it wasn’t the kind of thing we should be joking about in a country that has an evil streak of violence that we can’t seem to overcome.

She was swiftly fired by CNN, she apologized profusely, and she will, no doubt, go through a period of banishment from the spotlight. She is not the first person to do something stupid and wind up with a scandal, and she most certainly won’t be the last.

Kathy Griffin was wrong. She was thoughtless, she was over the top, and she did something that should have been comedy but instead was uncomfortable and offensive. The response by Donald Trump, though, was what caught my attention.

In a tweet to the public, as he likes to do, Trump said “Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

Now, he’s absolutely right. Kathy Griffin should be, and seems to be ashamed. And he’s also right: No child should be made fearful of their father’s safety and well-being in a terrible joke. But here’s where we run into a problem. Donald Trump attempted to spur up compassion for him and his family by claiming to be a victim, a poor soul who hasn’t done anything to deserve this.

Let’s shift that thinking for a moment. How does the President think an 11 year old with a parent with a pre-existing condition feel when Trump ensures that they will not be covered by insurance? How does the President think a transgender 11 year old feels when told that they have no place to use the bathroom in their school? How does the President think an 11 year old feels when the government puts forth legislation that makes it easier for people to get guns to bring to school, rather than harder for people to get guns? How does the President think an 11 year old child of immigrants feels knowing that their president considers them to be the enemy?

The argument that we should do anything with consideration for how this may affect those around Trump is no longer on the table. It is no longer viable to ask for compassion from the general public when it has been made perfectly clear that no compassion will be returned in exchange. If anything, Trump is now getting the chance to experience the kinds of questions and nightmares that parents all across the country have to quell every day. And not all problems are as easy to explain away as a comedian with an ill-considered joke.

Kathy Griffin did something that was disrespectful and inappropriate. She is being punished for it, and things will soon return to normal. But, we need to remind the President that while he absolutely shouldn’t be experiencing these kinds of things as a human being, he cannot cry unfair play simply because he now has to explain away the actions of an ignorant person who made the world seem scary. American parents have been having to do that for months already. Welcome to the Trump America, Mr. President.

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January 30th: Maybe a Trump Ban Will Do The Trick?

We have come to a boiling point in our nation’s history. We knew it was coming. The “America first” rhetoric that Donald Trump employed during his Inaugural address warned us that we would be turning our backs on the world, ignoring the rapid pace of globalization in favor of trying to get control of the minute details of citizenry.

Yet, this past week, when Donald Trump issued an executive order banning immigration to the country from several Muslim-dominated countries, we saw what it means to not only turn ourselves away from the politics of the rest of the world, but also the people in it. All across the globe, men, women, and children face persecution and terror, afraid for their lives and looking for a place to treat them with dignity and respect. Under a Trump administration, that won’t be the place founded on such ideals.

Nobody is naive enough to believe that these individuals should be let in with no vetting and with an issuing of a passport, $100,000 a-year job, and a brand new Cadillac. Of course we need to ensure that the individuals coming into the country have America’s best interests at heart. But we are a cowardly nation if we shy away from the hard work of that process in favor of the easier, scared answer of refusing them altogether.

America has never been a country based on fear. America was a nation founded on a set of values, built upon the notion of fighting for liberty and justice for all. Our ancestors were not given that gift as a birthright. No, they had to stand up and demand it, to declare their freedom, and do what it took to make it happen.

Now, we have to put our collective feet down and demand that our values be enforced. In the 1940s, when Jewish refugees arrived at the shores of America, they were sent away. America was too busy to care or too afraid of the repercussions. Those Jews were sent back to Germany to be tortured and murdered. Now, we have the opportunity to fix that mistake, to offer refuge to those who have no home and no safe place to call their own.

Trump has also threatened sanctuary cities, taking away yet another option for those in need of help. From near and far, this administration wants to make it abundantly clear that nobody is protected from harm in the US, that nobody has anywhere to seek shelter. That is not the America that I believe in, nor is it the America that we have fought so hard for over the past 250 years.

The fear is that Trump may be closer to getting his wish after all. When America abandons its values and the foundation upon which the country was created, immigrants will cease to believe that this country has anything to offer them. On that day, we will cease to be a global power at all. On that day, this country will become irrelevant. We won’t have to send people away; they won’t even want to show up.

America is built upon a foundation of morals, ethics, and strength. We do what is right, what is just, even if it is difficult. With an immigration ban, Trump is telling the world that we are too afraid to do the work to ensuring that our country can be both safe and welcoming, that we can be both a haven for the needy and defensive of our citizens’ health and well-being. If that is the case, maybe it is a Trump ban that we need, rather than a ban on the immigrants who are following in the footsteps of generations of those seeking a better life.