During his State of the Union address, Donald J. Trump was for me, at his most Presidential yet during his first year serving as President of the United States.
Sure, he still said ‘China’ in his catch-phrasey way, that everyone was doing a ‘great job’ and that his administration was ‘breaking records,’ But a year on, it is now much easier to distinguish what is idiosyncratically President Trump. Everything else during the State of the Union, seemed to fit the image of a widely broadcast political address.
President Trump spoke slowly and respectfully, lapping up the applause that would breakout at given points within his speech. Senators and other important social figures would consistently rise to their feet, clap and sit. Others were less elegant, whooping and hollering from the crowd. To the adoring congregation, President Trump cast his gaze, gratefully nodding and clapping in return.
Common civilians were also a strong feature in his speech, as he used everyday stories of soldiers, families and business owners to reaffirm not only the progress of his administration, but also his legitimacy as Commander-in-Chief.
This was not Donald Trump – stream of consciousness Twitter user.
This was Donald J. Trump, measured, concise – Presidential.
That’s not to say that everything else he has said and done is now excused.
Yes, he called certain countries ‘shitholes.’ And yes, he tried to ban Muslims from entering the USA. And yes, he has a litany of sexual assault claims to his name. But a year on, we have spent more time engaged in a battle of character, and less time thinking about the policies and issues that matter.
When Trump was elected into Office, I as an ethnic minority living in the West felt a strong sense of fear. The election of a man in the world’s most ‘powerful country,’ riding a wave of divisive and disruptive rhetoric would ultimately set a new standard. In the coming months, we began to see more brazen and abrasive politics seize systems across Europe and here at home in Australia.
Measured conversation – or calls for it at least – no longer seemed enough. Soon our political climate devolved into an abyss of name-calling and character assassination, and intelligible dialogue was no longer on the table. The whole world had been roped into a game of ‘who’s rhetoric was the strongest.’ While on the issues that mattered the most, as a global community, we made absolutely no progress.
When Michael Wolff decided to write his controversial book ‘Fire and Fury,’ Wolff asserts that he had set out with the best of intentions, to not only document the first 100 days of the Trump presidency for the wider public, but to in his words – “humanize the President.” However since the books publication, the news cycle has been filled with the shocking and concerning revelations about both the administration and the President himself. From taking a cheeseburger to bed every night to not being able to stay on subject in meetings, the book served its opposite purpose, stoking the flames of political divisiveness once more.
But there was one moment in the book that humanized Trump for me.
During another Assad ordered gas attack in Syria, Trump was sat down in a briefing to decide how to respond to such a horrific event. Aides produced photos from the attack to the President – Syrian children frothing at the mouth – who reacted in a horrified manner.
“These are just kids…”
A man so outspoken on many topics including Muslims, Immigration and funding the UN was in that moment, for me, like the rest of us – human.
And that’s easy for us to forget.
Politics is very much an act, a show. And the politicians, the stars of it. That’s why Trump won, he’s a showman by nature. His boisterous and unashamed personality perfectly filled the political ennui that everyday people were suffering from. But, in that briefing room, the pain and suffering of others pierced his thick skin and spiteful tongue.
A reminder that President Trump though polarising, is merely mortal.
Yes, we have to hold our political leaders to a higher standard. But, we must not focus on ones personality to the point of abandonment. As members of the public, we have a responsibility to ensure that the issues that matter don’t slip out of collective consciousness and insist that they be dealt with for the greater good.
This is not forgiveness by any means.
This is more a reminder that a year on, the world has three more years of President Trump to go.
The question now being, do we want to spend another three years bickering and poking fun, or do we want to see shit actually get done around here?
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
Get in touch ~