Luke Johnson | SIPA Class of 2018 | February 22, 2017
(This is the first of two responses to an article. See the other response here)
The underlying message of the recent article by Leyth Swidan is great, even if the article, puts forth some myopic, irresponsible, and self-righteous tones and ideas. The article is – in my view, rightly — urging readers not to shy away from government work just because they despise the policies, rhetoric, conduct, history and/or personality of the current president. However, the following are some thoughts which came to mind as I read through the more hyperbolic and unfounded methods.
Firstly, I do not think working at the State Department during the Obama era could be accurately described as “serving the greater good of humanity and the world.” Either this is an incredibly America-centric view to suppose that America’s interests align perfectly with “humanity and the world” or the State Department is acting outside the interests of America, which, some could easily argue, is itself immoral. To offer specific examples would be to digress too much, but I will say the internationalist guest speakers and readings during Conceptual Foundations, particularly the weeks on Humanitarian Intervention, Democracy, and Globalization, broadened my understanding of both the positive and negative consequences of America’s actions.
Secondly, the point that the United States is currently in despair is to succumb to the same mistake suffered by surprised Clinton supporters on election day: a fundamental failure to understand a huge chunk of American voters. Whether readers of the aforementioned article like it or not, there are people out there who happily support the actions of the current president. To willfully pretend they do not exist is counterproductive. Ignoring the beliefs and fears of half the country will not make them go away.
Similarly, the article makes no reference whatsoever to any reason why, in this democratic country, Trump won the election. In the world of this article, people with opposing perspectives do not exist. Instead, the author calls for unity against an idea embodied by Trump. The article paints an “us vs. Trump mentality” when it presents “massive protests in just about every city in the country” to prove the supposed ubiquitous despair of the US population caused by the actions of our “tyrant.” Without any sense of context, such as the proportion of the US population which participated in the protests, the article risks misleading readers.
Finally, I would like to address the section talking about “fighting for what is right in this country, like being pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ equality and pro-immigration reform, must be a priority.” I will preface by saying that I agree with each point, but I would not go so far as to declare that I am universally right. I always assume that I am wrong to some varying degree and my lifelong goal is to be gradually less wrong. Since “pro-immigration reform” could mean anything in his context, let’s look at Trump’s view on LGBTQ and pro-choice.
Does anyone remember that picture of Trump walking across the stage waving an LGBTQ flag? Of course, this does not prove that Trump is pro-LGBTQ at all. Most of the back-and-forth, unsubstantiated rhetoric and lies to date have taught me that lesson multiple times already. I am fairly certain the author is unaware that Trump ever waved such a flag. The stories which cover Trump’s resistance to LGBTQ progress are very shaky if you read them closely enough (Vox, Huffington Post, human rights watch); the Huffington Post article link is just a list of theoretical situations which could happen.
About his comments on pro-choice, someone extremely close to me used to be hard-core pro-choice, but, after having children, switched to the pro-life side. This shook me greatly and forced me to reevaluate my opinion. As a male, I will never share her experience, so what right do I have to hold an opinion at all? Should a direct stakeholder with more relevant applicable experience not have more weight than I, a childless man? It feels more responsible to remove myself entirely from the discussion.
Please understand that these thoughts are not push-back or opposition to his underlying message. But, if the goal is to win over moderates and those undecided, then an article which triggers so many incredulous reflexes is counterproductive to the progressive movement.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Morningside Post.