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7 May 2020

Trump Is The Antithesis Of American Greatness (3)

By: Alon Ben-Meir
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In at least 10 areas, Trump has inflicted a severe injury on the American public, on the country as a whole, and on America’s reputation abroad. Unless measures are taken by a new President to reverse the consequences of Trump’s reckless actions and policies, they will permanently erode America’s global standing, degrade our democracy, tear apart our social fabric, and compromise our constitution that held the country together for two and a half centuries.
This is Part 3 of a four-part series.

Donald Trump ran for office using the slogan “make America great again.” America was great before he came to office, but sadly three and a half years later under his leadership, America’s greatness appears to be in the distant past. In less than one term in office, Trump systematically chipped away brick by brick at America’s magnitude and made the office of the Presidency a laughing stock in the eyes of small and major powers alike. Whereas countries around the world used to show tremendous respect and admiration for America as a country, for its social and political values, cultural riches, scientific innovation, and commitment to human rights, under Trump America’s star has dimmed precipitously and ominously to a point from which it may take years to recover. Electing Trump for another four-year term in office will set America too far back, causing major damage on many fronts that may well be irreversible.

Violating human rights
Human rights violations under Trump have crossed many red lines, raising serious questions about the US’ commitment to human rights, an area that America has historically championed the world over. Trump’s violations of human rights are too long to numerate; it will suffice to mention only a few to demonstrate the seriousness of these offenses. To begin with, in June 2018 Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s most important human rights body, in protest of its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

He worked to roll back protections for LGBTQ individuals. One of his first acts as president was to revoke Obama’s transgender student guidance for schools; not long after, he declared that transgender people could no longer serve in the military. His administration on the whole generally refuses to recognize gender identity as a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, and particularly Title VII.

Human rights violations are also manifested in the behavior of police officers and immigration agents toward minority and vulnerable populations, influenced by how Trump addresses these transgressions. As of April 30, police reportedly shot and killed 1004 people in the US over the past year. Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate – twice the rate of white Americans, while only making up 13 percent of the population. He has endorsed police brutality, and his enthusiastic pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt related to his treatment of immigrants, highlights his vicious streak.

More than 2,500 children were forcibly separated from their parents at the US border by Customs and Border Patrol, under an explicit Trump policy. Staff of the Office of Refugee Resettlement was found to be giving psychotropic medication – sometimes forcibly – to migrant children at a Texas facility.

Human rights abuses, however, are not limited to deliberate acts that violate any individual’s given rights. Millions of American children going to sleep hungry, inaccessibility of medical treatment, homelessness, inequity in pay, and racial discrimination are all human rights violations, which Trump has only aggravated because of his policies. Indeed, no matter how many times he repeats his empty slogan of making America great again, the precise opposite is occurring.

Violating women’s rights
As a womanizer and adulterer, Trump has shown little respect for women, treating them as second-class citizens at best. Trump ended an Obama-era rule that required companies with more than 100 employees to report how much workers are paid by race and gender, which was intended to close both gender and race wage gaps through greater transparency in pay.

Trump does not believe that women have the right to determine their own reproductive plans or family planning, and his administration even called for the elimination of discussion of sexual and reproductive health from United Nations documents. His administration claims that the terms promote abortion, saying “there is no international right to an abortion.” In this regard the US was joined by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, and others—all infamous for their attitudes against women.

Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which prevents international aid groups that receive US funding from even educating people about safe abortion. Clinics must make the impossible choice of giving safe and accurate information to their clients but lose US funding, which makes it extremely difficult to keep operating clinics and providing services; or keep US funding but deny essential services to the communities they serve. However, in this regard, Trump simply followed precedent, as the Global Gag Rule is repealed under Democratic presidents and reinstated under Republican presidents.

For a President who brags about making America great again, exhibiting this much disrespect and disregard for more than 50 percent of the population is a return to the medieval era which certainly defies greatness—a legacy that Trump is cursed to live with.

* Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. - alon@alonben-meir.com

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