Why I will never normalize Donald Trump


Susu Rawwagah, Associate Editor & Copy Editor

On the night of Nov. 8, I drove home after 12 hours of volunteering more nervous about my calculus exam the next morning than the results of the presidential election.

In short, I was nearly 100 percent sure that Hillary Clinton would win. She was not my first choice in the primaries, but she was extremely well-qualified, had a progressive platform and had a clear plan for the country. And, as a fellow for the Hillary for America campaign, I had spent weeks calling voters from around the country who talked about the issues that mattered to them and why they were personally voting for Clinton. Naïve or not, I trusted that the country would acknowledge her flaws but recognize her qualifications— especially when measured up against a candidate who didn’t have any political experience and had made countless sexist, racist, Islamophobic and ableist remarks.

But by 10 p.m. on Nov. 8, I realized that that very same unqualified, sexist, racist, Islamophobic, ableist demagogue was about to become the President of the United States of America. The next day, I stayed home from school, as did several others, and received countless text messages from friends and family wondering where it all went wrong and asking if I was okay. My seven-year-old sister asked me why a woman will never become president. I watched Clinton concede. I received an email from the Hillary for America campaign thanking me for my work. I cried.

I had never considered a Trump presidency, and perhaps that was my first mistake— I grossly underestimated the amount of people who would vote for him both because of his divisive rhetoric and in spite of it.

And so I cried— I cried because I not only felt like the country had rejected my values but invalidated my concerns and feelings. I cried because our president-elect planned to ban the entrance of members of my community based on their religion, and yet millions looked past it (or, in fact, supported it); I cried because our president-elected called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, and yet millions looked past it (or cheered him on); I cried because our president-elect bragged about sexually assaulting women, dismissed it as “locker room talk” and millions looked past it; I cried, I cried, I cried.

Despite the fact that conservatives’ favorite moniker for liberals is “crybaby liberals,” I am not ashamed to admit that I cried on Election Day, the day after, a month afterward and the day of the inauguration; I am not ashamed to say that I couldn’t bring myself to leave my room the day after and struggled to last through a full day of school for the rest of the week. I am not ashamed because my feelings, like many minorities, have been dismissed for far too long.

White conservatives told me to “get over it,” and even some white liberals shrugged and told me that, “hard as it may be,” I had to “accept” our new president and “give him a chance to govern.”

But do these very same people know what it is really like to be a minority? Do they know what it is like to grow up as an outsider in their community? Have they ever watched the news and seen major political figures denounce their entire race, ethnicity, religion or sexuality?

When I was 11 years old and a woman screamed at my mother, called her a raghead and told her to “go back to Afghanistan,” I comforted myself in knowing that my president repeatedly denounced bigotry and Islamophobia. At 12 years old, when I watched my mother and her four children get kicked off a plane because, as the airline official later said, “the flight attendant didn’t like her headscarf,” I looked to Obama, who refused to perpetuate the belief that Islam and terrorism are synonymous. I looked to Obama when, nearly every single time “ISIS” was mentioned on the news, my father urged my mother to take off her headscarf— because no matter what people on Fox News or Twitter or Facebook said, my president refused to say the words “radical Islamic terrorist.” I looked to Obama when I was nervous to tell people that I wasn’t a Christian, because he held a Ramadan dinner every year at the White House, always made a statement about Muslim holidays, and made me feel like being Muslim in America was almost normal. When people made fun of my name over and over and over again, I looked to Obama because he had a weird, foreign-sounding name, too— and he even had the same middle name as my uncle. I looked to Obama when my father told me it would be nearly impossible for a Muslim woman to succeed in politics because Muslim women worked in the Obama White House— and people had told Obama he wouldn’t succeed in politics, too.

But now, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. For the next four years, I will not look to the president for comfort or hope— I will look to the president as a reminder to do anything I can to ensure that someone like him will never become president ever again.

I am not a “crybaby liberal” who will not accept Donald Trump simply because he is a Republican. In any other instance, I would respect the integrity of our democracy and the outcome of the election, Republican or not.

But I will not accept Donald Trump because to have a president like Donald Trump— a president who condemns a civil rights leader more quickly than a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who reveres dictators, who defended his proposed ban on Muslims by comparing it favorably to Japanese internment camps, who claimed that he could shoot someone and still not lose any voters, who called global warming a “hoax” invented by “the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” who mocked a disabled reporter, who spent five years refusing to admit that President Obama was born in the United States, who repeatedly promises to mass-deport 16 million people, who encouraged Russia to commit espionage in the United States, who coerced low-income Americans into spending an obscene amount of money on the fraudulent Trump University, who suggested that there needed to be “some form of punishment” for women who get abortions, who said he doesn’t view transgender rights as “civil rights,” who said that the Black Lives Matter movement “ignited” police killings and is widely believed to be an “inherently racist” organization—is not normal.

This is not a partisan issue— Donald Trump is not normal. Many have denounced opposition to Trump in claims that we must, as a nation, “unite” and “accept opposing views”—but America should never dismiss bigotry, inequality and discrimination as “opposing views.” Opposing views are differences in economic policy and social welfare policy— issues that are debatable and disputable. Discriminatory remarks and actions against an entire race, gender, religion or sexuality are not mere “views” and “opinions” that the United States should tolerate much less accept.

With just a few quick strokes of a pen, he has banned nearly 218 million people from entering the United States—immigrants who look like my parents, women with the same headscarf as my mother, Muslim girls who look like me, young refugees who look like Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy found face-down on a Turkish beach in September 2015.

There is but one group in the United States who did not come here as an immigrant or refugee seeking asylum, and Donald Trump has signed orders reviving the construction of a pipeline through their land.

Those who refuse to graciously accept the new commander-in-chief are made to feel as if they are overreacting or dramatizing this period in American history— as if there is nothing unusual or abnormal about an administration that invites praise from the Ku Klux Klan.

Conservatives attack those who delegitimize the new president, as if Trump’s own birtherism against the first black president never happened.

Democrats are criticized for their reluctance to work with Republicans and the new administration, as if record Republican obstruction against Obama never occurred.

The Black Lives Matter movement is condemned by conservatives in claims that “All Lives Matter,” but these very same conservatives are silent when refugees displaced by violence and fleeing from terrorism— the same violence and terrorism that the United States is so terrified of— are banned from entering the country.

To have a president appoint white supremacist sympathizers, conspiracy theorists and climate-change deniers is not normal. To have a president who endorses torture is not normal. To have a president who ran a campaign fueled by themes of American industrial decline and opposition to foreigners and modernity is not normal. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened closet bigots and white supremacist groups— this is not normal.

To put it simply, I have no obligation to afford Donald Trump the slightest respect. These next four years should be four years of aggressive resistance, obstructionism and protest.

Yes, this is a time for unity— unity among the real “silent majority,” the women who are objectified, assaulted, overlooked, paid less, gaslit and dismissed, the members of the LGBTQ community who conceal their identity out of fear, the people of color who live every day knowing that the amount of melanin in their skin will influence people’s opinions of them long before they can even open their mouths, people with disabilities who are treated as ill-functioning, mockable members of society, the immigrants who work 18-hour work days but still cannot become citizens or have a say in our political system, the Muslims who are categorized, stereotyped, scared to practice their religion and expected to denounce every terrorist attack as if they held any role in it.

Trump, of course, did not create any of the social afflictions that led him to the White House. His election only illustrates the complacency of a nation that has long tolerated intolerance, and every time we watch a “Saturday Night Live” skit “poking fun” at Trump, opt for the term “alt-right” rather than fascist and turn away rather than push back, we are accommodating extraordinarily dangerous prejudices— prejudices that have the power to metastasize into real policies. The United States cannot allow itself to become accustomed to Trump’s atrocities, for the normalization of the abhorrent paved the path for the disaster we now face.

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