2 Reasons Why We Feel ~a Certain Way~ about Our President's Tweets
I’d like to say that I’m above the Bachelor Nation drama--that I prefer to watch film adaptations of sophisticated 18th-century British literature and read Malcom Gladwell after a long day at work. I’d like to say that, but I can’t.
If you’re with me, then you’re still (yes, still) living off of that The Bachelorette episode where Alabama Hannah fi-*clap*-nal-*clap*-ly-*clap* had a moment of clarity with Luke P. and sent that boy home. We were all left wondering why he was around for so long. Was it a novel fascination? Was it his pretty face? Was it a masochistic tendency to seek out manipulative relationships because it’s all she’s ever known (amirite ladies/gents/folks)? Who knows, but the spell was broken at last.
Now that we’ve discussed reality TV, you might be wondering what this has to do with the outbursts of xenophobic rhetoric in our nation. Or you’re like me, and you’re drawing way too many comparisons between Hannah’s consistent return to Luke’s toxicity and the inexplicable American tendency to constantly fall back into racist rhetoric. Let’s start with The Tweet™️, shall we?
In the wake of this comment made on social media by Donald Trump on July 14, the nation launched into chaos. Rep. Ilhan Omar, to whom the tweet was in part referring, has been the recipient of both racist rally chants and victorious airport receptions. It seems as if both sides of this divisive controversy are getting more cantankerous with each passing day. To truly understand the extent of the polarization, I did something I never, ever do. I scrolled through the President’s tweets and retweets.
After a mere ten minutes of running down Twitter-scape rabbit-holes, I was exhausted. The overwhelming amount of name calling, xenophobia, and accusations of anti-semitism was a shock to my system, and I was left wondering, is this what political rhetoric has become in America? Then, an article by NPR reminded me that racist rhetoric in America is not a new thing whatsoever.
We can trace the “you don’t belong here” sentiment back to at least 1798, and I’m sure you can conjure up your own examples of anti-immigrant rhetoric from your own knowledge and experiences. Personally, as a young woman who grew up in an affluent community in California, I remember some of my closest and trusted family friends expressing similar attitudes about the immigrant populations in my small, northern California hometown.
We know this to be a sobering fact: America has a long-rooted history of racism. It’s deeply deplorable, but it shouldn’t be shocking to us. We’re surrounded by the lasting effects of our nation’s racist past, and we’re left to confront those truths head-on today in 2019.
So, if we know that yes, racism is a thing, what exactly is the most shocking part of Donald Trump’s tweets?
While realizing that there is a surfeit of acceptable responses, I’ll propose two answers to this question:
The job description.
The job description.
It was the last semester of my undergraduate career, and I was sitting in a US history class with a bunch of freshmen trying very hard to care about the subject matter. Fulfilling my general education requirements, I listened on as my professor launched into a lecture on how the presidency has lost its decorum over the years. Gone are the days of fireside chats and sensible addresses from the Oval. My professor mourned the loss of the perceived dignity of the head of the Executive Branch of the United States.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 hopeful, said that “the strength of the [presidential] office should be to lift people up, and not beat them down.” Whomever occupies the West Wing, be them man or woman, Democrat or Republican, should strive to pursue greatness for America and by nature, elected American representatives. In other words, we’re all on the same team here. Or at least we should be.
The job description for President of the United States has undeniably changed over the years and is inevitably being shaped by the person currently holding the position. We must weigh our expectations for this incredibly consequential office. We must decide, as a nation, what we hold to be either valuable or unacceptable behaviors for a US president to exhibit. With 2020 approaching, we’re getting down to the wire here folks.
In the same lecture, my professor waxed poetic about the ye olde pre-social media days of radio broadcasts and a world where print journalism was booming. As a social media industry worker, I feel a little attacked here. But maybe my professor was onto something.
It’s perplexing for us as Americans to receive so many messages about the loss of free speech from a president that seemingly speaks as freely as he wants on social media. We live in a world of instantaneous sharing of a swath of messages ranging from fact to opinion to blaring fiction. This summer, Twitter was wrapped up in this very question of unfiltered free speech on social versus prioritizing the safety of their online community, we haven’t decided where we land as Americans on the freedom versus security continuum when it comes to social media.
The President’s tweets make us face this reality. Sooner or later, America will have to decide exactly what is protected as free speech within privately held social media domains. Sure, it’s weird to read about Twitter in case briefs when we were just scrolling through TikTok videos and “hot girl summer” posts on the same platform, but these controversies are not going away anytime soon.
Jenna is a coffee-loving, overalls-wearing CA-to-DC transplant who also happens to be the Creative Director of Hey Mira. She does the social media thing for her day job (follow @dcfray *shameless plug*), and she's currently trying to navigate the wild waters of being a young, idealistic professional. One day, she'll change the world. For now, she's just trying to ace the (vegetarian) meal-prep game first.