Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Violation of Democracy, Justice and Humanity

by Charlotte Phillips

President Trump and the architect of the refugee ban, Steve Bannon
I don't know how to put into words how I felt about watching the news over the past few days- but unfortunately words seem to be the only form of power and protest that I have. I have never felt so disgusted, angry and emotional in the face of politics before: I always try to look at everything with an analytical eye, consider multiple viewpoints, and try and find a balance between my heart and my head. Right now, my heart and my head are in complete unanimity: the actions of President Trump are a violation of democracy, of justice, and of humanity. 

To many that will seem extreme, an overreaction; I think it is completely justified. The politics of the past in which division and discrimination were actively encouraged is being reignited through a series of executive orders, none more sickening than Trump’s ban on immigration and travel for everyone from certain (mainly Muslim) countries. I feel sad, I feel powerless, and I wonder how we have come to a stage where this injustice has been allowed to happen.

I strongly believe that if there are people exposed to undue suffering in the world, if pain and war, famine and hunger, persecution and disaster are abundant, then our common humanity should overcome any national barriers and national interests. This is considered an idealistic view (naive, even), but what is the point in being involved in politics if not to try and change the world a little- or a lot? 

Politics is the only way that we can take steps towards reaching a global goal of safety and everyone having a life worth living. Now is the time for big claims and statements such as these, because without idealistic, naive views like that, negativity will overcome positivity, and the progress we make will slow down and stop. 

I was gutted when Donald Trump came into power, and I am still gutted now- I refuse to ‘get over it’, I refuse to accept it, because I believe that normalising his way of running the world is damaging for everyone involved, even those who are under the illusion they will benefit from it. I knew I would disagree with everything his administration would implement, and I knew I would remain opposed to him throughout his term, but the actions of the past couple of days have exceeded all my expectations in the worst sense.

Trump’s talk of banning Muslims from America was one of his most contentious claims throughout the election campaign (and that really is saying something). The fact that he has started to put up these barriers so quickly, so strongly, and with so little consideration for those affected should not surprise me, but it has. It has epitomised everything he stands for and suddenly made me realise that this is happening- it is not a television drama, it is not a dystopian future- people are being rejected from the Land of Opportunity on the basis of their country of birth. 

Protests in support of those detained under the ban
Trump’s ‘travel ban’ affects people from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq, and the order runs alongside a 120 day suspension of the USA’s refugee system- all in the name of keeping “radical Islamic terrorists out of the US”. Refugees are fleeing for their lives. People from these deprived and less fortunate countries need help, support, and open doors, not rejection and selfishness. In 2015, Trump justified his extreme views on Muslim immigration by claiming he does not want his country open to people who “have no respect for human life”. The hypocrisy both disgusts and terrifies me. He has no respect for human life. He has no respect for the needs of people fleeing war and terror. He claims to be prioritising America, but a man with so little respect for anyone who is not a white male can hardly make a claim to be protecting such a diverse country.

Orders like this blatantly demonstrate an ignorance towards the people of the countries affected. Mo Farah, the celebrated Olympic athlete born in Somalia, has taken to social media to express his fears about potentially not being able to return home to America. The ban has affected prominent names and faces worldwide. These stories are all important and highlight the seriousness of Trump’s actions, but let's not forget that people do not have to be a huge success, or a great achiever, or outstandingly productive to be worthy of a free and happy life. A refugee with no material things or skills to offer is just as worthy of shelter and help as a refugee who is a trained doctor. Anyone who belongs to the human race and experiences the level of suffering that refugees have deserves the decency of being allowed entry into a country where they can live and breathe in peace and safety. Trump disintegrates that human contract we all owe each other: or at least he is trying to. The outrage and protest worldwide gives me hope for the future.

I know I have not considered all the complexities of immigration policy, the intricacies of international relations and power distribution worldwide, the economics of world movement. I know terrorism is a threat and I know radicalisation is an extremely complicated issue that needs to be dealt with. But I also know that division and rejection is not the way to tackle the issues that the world faces today. Trump’s actions will only make the situation worse and the order should be (and is being) condemned worldwide. 

Theresa May and Donald Trump
Theresa May’s refusal to condemn the action in anything more than a lukewarm Downing Street statement further horrifies me, and I hope that the politics of the U.K. doesn't drift towards that of the USA. I am choosing to look at this issue from a global, humanitarian viewpoint, and I know that this viewpoint is being taken up by millions of people across the world. The backlash against this action is strong, hopefully strong enough to make a change. Even if it is not, I will still be vocal in my opposition to not just this order but this man in general, and the way he is shaping the political climate of the 21st century. 

Rampant right-wing populism hasn't worked well in the past, and there is no reason it will work well now. I will not apologise for letting my emotions cloud this political issue, because they have not clouded it: they have only clarified it. My anger is justified, and the anger of millions across the globe is justified. I am determined to make naive and idealistic views realistic and respected, capable of real change. Trump is temporary, but let's ensure that his politics, his personality and his ignorance are temporary too.


  1. A Violation of Democracy, Justice and Humanity isn't a fair title. Trump won a democratic election firstly so claiming it is a violation is ridiculous. I don't know if you are aware but in 2011 Obama stopped Iraqi's for entering america for 6 months yet nobody labelled it as anti-muslim. Out of the 7 countries banned, they only make up 13% of the worldwide muslim population. "Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.

    While most of these air attacks were in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also rained down on people in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. That’s seven majority-Muslim countries."

    Yet nobody makes claims he is anti muslim! This article is incredibly one sided and fails to recognise the fact that presidents before Trump have done far worse things.

  2. The proposal that Trump was elected democratically is fraught with ambiguities and debate, and to simply assert his fair election is overlooking some key issues with the American political system. As you are probably aware, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 3 million votes, which many would see as a far more justified mandate to rule than the result given by the electoral college system. Furthermore, investigations looking at Russian influence into the election result has provided evidence that Russian hacking had an impact on Clinton's popularity, and this hacking has been alleged to be directly authorised by Putin.

    Having said that, my claim that Trump is defying democracy was more aimed towards his treatment of the ideals and values of democracy rather than the process by which he was elected. In excluding people based on country of birth from America, whether the measure is temporary or not, he is dismantling the fundamental democratic value that all voices matter and that the people can influence politics themselves. His offence is especially pertinent in a country built on immigration and founded on diversity.

    I appreciate your point regarding Obama and the airstrikes. This is a much larger and determinedly separate issue that is, whilst wholly worthy of debate, only tangential to the issues that I raise about Trump. Whether or not Obama's decision regarding the airstrikes was justified, he never publicly claimed to be anti-Muslim (I am taking Trump's campaign promise to achieve "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" as a pretty clear anti-Muslim sentiment). The publicised nature of Trump's recent ban and his consistent discriminatory comments towards Islam stimulates and normalises anti-Muslim hatred amongst the public, which inevitably has divisive and damaging results.

    Obama may have been in the wrong. But defending the inadequacies of Trump by pointing out the inadequacies of his predecessors is no way to critique politics: we will never progress positively. Yes my article is one-sided: I can't see another side worth supporting.

  3. Firstly as you are aware Trump received more electoral college points. If you go off population alone then many states in The US don't have a voice on who they want as their next president which isn't democratic. The current system is in place so that all states have a voice otherwise it would be the united states of California, Texas, New York and Florida as they have the largest populations whilst Wyoming and Vermont wouldn't have a say in who should be their President.
    Secondly if it was based off of the popular vote then both candidates would have campaigned differently for example with Trump he would most likely be more moderate and central and would have tried to appeal to more people rather than focusing on swing states which is what Trump did to win the election.
    Trump is blocking some countries but not on the basis that they are muslim. If he wanted to ban muslims then Saudi Arabia would be one of the first countries. This ban has been enforced over fears of terrorism and green card holders from these countries aren't affected so it's basically new arrivals that are being stopped as Trump feels the immigration vetting process isn't good enough.

    Elliot Martin

  4. If Trump had changed his values, views and policies merely because of how an electoral system works, that proves his inconsistencies- to 'become more moderate and central' isn't simply a matter of changing campaign style; it is changing your fundamental view of the world. Trump is considered by many as a representative of the extreme far-right. Your argument seems to suggest that skill in knowing how to win an election based on the system it operates on is sufficient justification to become leader of the free world.

    In the past decade, no terrorist attacks have been committed by nationals from the seven countries banned. Your point about Saudi Arabia becomes obsolete when you consider that more perpetrators of terrorism in America since 1975 have been from Saudi Arabia than all the perpetrators from the seven banned countries put together (although the overall number remains negligible and overblown by Trump and right-wing American media).

    If the ban really is to protect from terrorism, then suspending refugee entry makes little sense. Since 1975, 3.3m refugees have been admitted to America. Of these, 20 have attempted a terrorist attack (with a total of three resulting deaths). When you compare this to 33000 annual gun deaths in America, you cant help but feel Trump may have got his priorities wrong if he really is trying to protect the American people. Refugees already have to go through extensive UN screening processes, and the total percentage of refugees that are Muslim is just 46% (not that this should matter- but Trump's, and his teams, pro-Christian outlook would do well to remember that 44% of the refugees entering America are Christian). Trump's blatant anti-Muslim stance clouds what little judgement he has.


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