Contextualizing Trump - By Greer Clem
There are those days where even I don't have the energy to start writing once more about the dangers of this presidency. It's a weariness that is as threatening as the man himself because it means that he is chipping away the American resolve to stand up for truth and justice. So as I sat staring at a blank Word document, trying to summon forward some grand new idea that would re-inspire both myself and my readers, I began to reflect on how dangerous it is to contextualize Trump.
The media and the frequency of his communication with the public make us numb to just how inexperienced and out of touch he is. We've talked about how Trump's Twitter account and his relationship with Fox News makes everything he says sting less, but we haven't yet talked about the historical context that Trump falls in to. Let me elaborate: Trump came into office after eight years of work by the Obama administration and joint parties in Congress to rebuild the American economy and regain our footing on the international stage. The Obama administration had to clean up our international reputation post invasion of Iraq while combating the rising threat of ISIS and homegrown violence. But let's imagine for a minute that Trump had come into office in 2008 instead of Barack Obama.
Though Trump claimed during the 2016 election cycle that he was one of the first people to speak out against the invasion of Iraq, the actual record of his statements on the subject is much fuzzier. He claimed that Hillary Clinton's endorsement of the invasion into Iraq helped give rise to ISIS and thus made her ineligible to be Commander in Chief. The benefit that Trump received in this situation was once again contextualization. Trump was a private citizen, free to speak his mind, though the record reflects that he alternated between expressing mild support for the invasion and disapproval. He said, "Either you attack or you don't attack," which, aside from a painfully obvious statement with no insight, was a dig at the process of diplomacy which he places no value or interest in. But because he was just an eccentric private citizen, contextually, these comments didn't really matter.
So years pass, the Obama administration rights the national economy, the war in Iraq minimizes, and headlines change. It's 2016 now and Donald Trump is running for president on a platform of draining the swamp and bringing outsourced jobs back to the United States. But let's think about the context: Trump could not have run this platform in 2007. He walked into a presidential election season more stable than when Obama ran, when Bush ran, or even when Clinton ran. In short, context allowed Donald Trump to be himself without fear of real repercussions. It was only after he took office that context became a much more threatening factor; we had to fight to save the ACA, Trump began giving ICE the freedom to conduct raids at will, mass shootings continued to rise. Now the context surrounding Donald Trump is much less stable and, what's more, he is responsible for it. He cannot continue to be himself with no repercussions because, like it or not, he's in the game now. And yet we continue to contextualize his actions, to downplay the words coming out of mouth because we believe that he does not control the circumstances surrounding them. This is a fatal error.
At what point do cause and effect reverse directions? It used to be that Trump did not have the power or authority to generate a wave of response to his idiocy. We judged whatever he said in terms of the context surrounding it. But now he is the creator of context and we cannot continue to excuse or rationalize his behavior based out outside factors. If there is unrest, Trump is responsible. If the political climate is unfriendly it is because he made it so. Trump will continue to contextualize himself and use those around him to insulate himself from personal responsibility. But he doesn't need our help to do so. We in turn must hold him responsible to the environment he creates and use our voices to drown out his excuses. He answers to us, and if he refuses then he must go.