We Cannot Stop The Push for Gun Control

If you think there’s a kind of cruel cycle playing out in America right now, you’re not alone. It starts with a horrific, mass shooting. People call for better gun control. Nothing happens. Another mass shooting happens. And the cycle repeats itself, causing the loss of more innocent lives at the hands of someone who was too easily able to access a deadly weapon.

This week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, which saw 59 people dead and over 500 injured, was the worst in American history. In June 2016, 49 people were killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. In December 2012, 28 children and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. 

After mass shootings, satire site The Onion publishes the same article with the same headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Happens Regularly.” Although they change the details and location of the story, it’s the same every time—because after every mass shooting, a conversation ensues about the need for better gun control laws but little, if anything, ends up happening. 

Barack Obama spoke passionately about the need for gun control, especially in the wake of Sandy Hook. But he had to use executive action to make progress because of the Republican congress. Barely a week after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, his new administration was already revoking certain gun control policies set out by Obama.

It’s unthinkable, really, that after young children were shot and killed, legislation making it harder to purchase guns still couldn’t pass. Even in addition to the terrible mass shootings, there are examples of gun violence every day in America. Mass shootings (defined as an incident in which four or more people are killed, which can include the shooter) average out to more than one every day in America. 

In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, Vox published an article containing 17 infographics that paint an eye-opening picture of America’s problem with guns. Two infographics tell an important story: that the states that have more guns have more deaths caused by guns; and that the states that have tighter laws around gun-control have less deaths caused by guns.

Want more proof that gun control works? Check out the example set by Australia—the government banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms after a shooting where 35 people were killed in 1996. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since (again, a mass shooting is defined as an incident where four or more die). To summarize: if laws make it harder for people to get guns, then there are less guns out there and less people die from guns. It’s not that complicated, except some people make it out to be.

Some say that the debate around gun control is a debate around the second amendment; the right to bear arms. But at its core, the debate around gun control is a debate about people’s lives—the tragic events in Las Vegas, along with all of the other examples in American history, are proof of this. When people attending a concert, enjoying a night out with friends or going to school are targeted, injured and killed, gun control is a question of life or death.

I’m 19 and there have been far too many mass shootings in my time on this Earth. I’m not American, but I don’t want young people in the U.S. to grow up in a place where they have to be fearful for their safety. I’ve had discussions with friends where we talk about the fact that, because of shootings in public places, we’re always conscious of checking emergency exits in crowded areas. It’s good to be vigilant, of course,  but I don’t think anyone should have to be concerned about something like gun violence when there are legitimate options on the table to reduce its prevalence.

In the days since the Vegas shooting, there have been conversations about gun control. Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea for action; social media has been awash with people fed up with the lack of anti-gun legislation. We need to leverage the sadness, anger and frustration we feel after the senseless violence in Las Vegas, and we need to demand action and accountability from America’s elected leaders. Thoughts and prayers are wonderful, but they are not enough when people are dying and it is in the power of the American government to prevent their deaths.


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Today I Woke Up

Like most of the world, today I woke up to the news of an incomprehensible tragedy in Las Vegas. A man with at least 10 rifles fired, repeatedly, from the 32nd floor of a hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Over 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Today I woke up and was quietly stunned and wholeheartedly sad as I read about what had happened. As I went about my morning with a heavy heart, I searched for the words to say. Because what do you say, after so many innocent lives have been lost?

I realized in the midst of thinking about how to grasp all of this that I had already written what I was trying to say. Two years ago on a day where two mass shootings occurred, I wrote the piece I shared below. I thought it was worth sharing again today because seven billion people woke up to the news of a horrific shooting this morning and, as I wrote in my older post: “Tonight, 7 billion people will go to sleep. Some will have had lost the people they cared about most, some will sob at the empty bed of the victim of a senseless act, and some will have woken from a nightmare to find themselves in a hospital bed. What kind of world will they wake up to?”

It is my hope that soon, we will all wake up to a world where American leaders and legislators are working hard to create stronger gun control laws to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

sherinaspeaks

Today I woke up snuggled in my warm duvet. I jumped out of bed when I realized that I had woken up almost half an hour later than I had intended. I quickly checked my phone, packed my backpack, threw on some clothes, ate breakfast, and hopped in the car to go to school. I had a business test and when the final bell rung I walked home with my sister and started on my homework.

Today someone woke up in Savannah, Georgia in the early morning because their telephone was ringing. Still half asleep, they answered it. The voice on the other end was crisp and male. It was a doctor from the hospital — where one of their loved ones had been admitted after being shot in the street.

Today someone else woke up and got ready for work at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California…

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Changing the Way We Look at Ambitious Females

If you want proof that I’m an ambitious person, you should take a look at my day planner. I like to try to stretch the potential of the hours in my days; I have a ton of goals, and every day I pencil in mini-steps that I can take each day to achieve those goals. Both my overall plans and daily actions are, in their own ways, indicative of my ambitious nature. I don’t say this to brag; my ambitiousness is something of which I am proud. Ambitiousness as a whole, however, is not always appreciated by society, especially when the person is an ambitious woman.

Reese Witherspoon recently wrote about this in an essay for Glamour titled “We have to change the idea that a woman with ambition is out only for herself.” She was asked to write the essay after she spoke at Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year gala. There, she asked a bold question: “What if all women were encouraged to be a bit more ambitious?”

Reese Witherspoon herself is a perfect example of an ambitious woman; as she writes in the essay, five years ago she created a production company “to create more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes.” She also started a multimedia company after the U.S. election to listen to and gather stories from women across America. These projects have a meaningful goal: to amplify the often-unheard voices and stories of women. They are, by their very nature, ambitious projects. But Reese is an ambitious person, and in her essay she drives home the point that ambition should be a trait which is celebrated, not admonished.

Around the world, there are systemic obstacles which prevent ambitious women from being able to accomplish their goals and dreams. Not being able to go to school, being forced into child marriages, not being given equal opportunities to be CEOS and executives are all examples of such obstacles. It is ambitious to seek to change these issues, but there are determined people around the world doing just that. If it were not for ambitious women, for example, the women’s suffrage movement would likely not have existed. Despite obstacles, ambitious women have changed the world in the past and continue to change it today.

I think parents have a large role to play in fostering ambition in their daughters; mine certainly did for me. I have no doubt that I inherited my ambitiousness from my parents, and whatever wasn’t passed down genetically I have learned from their constant support of my endeavours and goals. Thanks to my parent’s encouragement, I was raised with big dreams, and the belief that I could one day achieve them. Reese wrote in her Glamour essay, “As moms, we have a unique opportunity to keep changing this attitude that ambition is an ugly quality in women… We have to do our part to change the idea that a woman with passion and ambition is out only for herself. So talk to your kids about ambition as a positive trait in men and women.”

Even those of us who are not parents are still role models to other girls. We can all support and inspire females; by not laughing at, or discouraging, their career goals; by encouraging them to have big dreams for their lives; by teaching them that they can have a real and powerfully positive impact on the world.

Reese’s essay struck a chord with me because it reminded me that, while I am fortunate to have been raised to be ambitious, not all girls and women are taught that having ambition is okay. And really, being ambitious is more than okayit is amazing. It is life-changing. It is world-changing. So go forth; be ambitious, and inspire ambition in others. The world will be a better place because of it.


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Look What You Made Me Do

“I don’t like your little games,” Taylor Swift sings in the opening of her brand new single Look What You Made Me Do. She continues, “Don’t like your tilted stage. The role you made me play. Of the fool, no, I don’t like you.” I had speculated that this single, the first off her new album Reputation, dropping November 10th, would be like this; different, dark and directed at the people who she perceives to have wronged her in the past few years.

What I didn’t expect, though, was how vengeful the song would be (maybe I didn’t read closely enough into the snake images posted on her Instagram). The “you” in the song seems ambiguous; it could be Kanye West, who toured on a “tilted stage,” or Kim Kardashian, who leaked a phone call between Taylor and Kanye over a dispute about a lyric in one of Kanye’s songs. It could also refer to Katy Perry, who also publicly feuded with Taylor over dancers leaving her tour. But “you” could also mean a more conglomerate group; the media in general, perhaps, or even the general public. Look what all of these people say about me, look at the hate that I endure, she could be singing; I had no choice but to fire back in this song. Look what you made me do.

I have to wonder: does it matter who the song is about? To many people, the answer is yes. I suppose I’m undecided. I don’t want to enjoy the song because it’s adding fuel to the fire of Taylor’s celebrity fights. I want to enjoy it because it sends the message that if, for whatever reason, you feel knocked down by something, you can use that as motivation to come back and be stronger than ever. This is embodied in the lyrics, “But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time. Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.” To me, the entire premise of the song is that her past struggles have “made” her come back and release what already looks to be a successful single.

I worry that for young Taylor Swift fans, though, that message could be misconstrued. Because, following those emboldening lines about rising from the dead are these lyrics: “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red underlined.” Those words seem to suggest that if you don’t like someone, you should publicly announce it and act in retaliation; get revenge instead of trying to come to a mutual agreement and heal your wounds. I hope that listeners, especially young ones, can look past the drama and bad blood (see what I did there?) and see that the song has an empowering message.

But maybe that is the point—that many members of the media and many people in society simply can’t look past the drama. We say we don’t care, but we can’t look away from the headlines, the gossip and the snarky social media posts. Taylor’s drama with Kanye, Kim and Katy would almost certainly not have reached the levels it did had it not played out in the news for everyone to watch. And that damage, real or perceived, to Taylor’s “good girl” image, may very well be the driving force behind this single and this new era of music for Taylor.

Even in the songs from 1989, her last album, she seemed willing to challenge that label of the innocent, golden girl. I wonder now if she’s throwing it out the window entirely. I’m inclined to believe her when she sings, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh ‘cause she’s dead!” In each of her albums so far, Taylor has experimented with new sounds and new themes. She successfully crossed the line from country to pop, shedding her skin like the snake on her Instagram. Taylor Swift is no stranger at reinventing herself, doing so in the public eye, therefore altering her—wait for it—reputation.

Still, despite the fact that she consistently sheds her skin, so to speak, the theme of rising above negativity or hatred is nothing new for Taylor Swift. Take, for example, the first single from her last album. In Shake It Off, she sings about “what people say”that she stays out too late, has nothing in her brain and “goes on too many dates” but “can’t make them stay.” She counters these claims by singing that the haters are, well, gonna hate; and that she’s just gonna shake it off.

An even earlier version of this comes from Taylor’s song Mean from her album Speak Now. In that song, she hits back at a music critic who said that she couldn’t sing. The chorus goes, “Someday, I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean. Someday, I’ll be big enough that you can’t hit me and all you’re ever gonna be is mean. Why you gotta be so mean?”

Those songs, though, seem to fight back against people who are just plain mean, not people with whom you’ve been engaged in a two-way argument. So does the song send the message that if you are fighting with someone, you should publicly declare your dislike for them and make it clear that you’re seeking revenge? Or does it send the message that you can rise above actions that hurt you and be successful despite what you’ve endured?

It’s open to interpretation, really; but one thing is for certain. If you don’t like this song, Taylor Swift isn’t interested. After all, “you” made her do this—and I have a feeling that this single is just the first nail in the coffin. Welcome to the Reputation era. Enjoying your stay so far?


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On the Virginia Protests, White Supremacy and Donald Trump

Reading the headlines about white supremacists rallying at the University of Virginia makes me wonder: Shouldn’t it be easy to condemn these people and their racist viewpoints? Shouldn’t we be able to, unequivocally and without hesitation, say that their actions are wrong? I am curious especially because the President of the United States seemed to be unable to do these things at his press conference today.

Watching Donald Trump speak, I was, like many others, waiting for him to utter the words “White supremacists.” But he did not call the protesters what they are. He didn’t even acknowledge that they were any more in the wrong than the counter-protesters (some of whom, by the way, were hit with a car in what many are calling an act of domestic terrorism).

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” Trump said. His words have prompted many to ask: “What sides?” The torch-carrying, Nazi-saluting white supremacists started this protest last night; the “other side” would be, I guess, the people counter-protesting. There are not “many sides” contributing to the hatred and bigotry—there is only one.

That Trump didn’t outright condemn the protesters speaks volumes. His campaign rhetoric emboldened people because it made it seem like it was OK to act upon stereotypes and to discriminate against people. And his policy and legislation as president—from his Muslim ban to his recent immigration policy which would reduce the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. and give preference to those who speak English—only further invigorate white nationalist sentiments.

After the election, David Duke, former leader of the KKK, said that Trump winning was “one of the most exciting nights of (his) life.” Today, Duke said that, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump.” Trump has rebuked Duke in the past, but today he failed to openly decry the values of the white supremacists.

More and more, our societies are becoming more diverse. Many of us believe wholeheartedly in the undeniable truth that people of all races and ethnic backgrounds are, and deserved to be treated as, equal. So people like the white supremacists in Virginia feel threatened. In a Twitter thread, user @JuliusGoat made an excellent point about the protesters. “They are chanting ‘we will not be replaced.’ Replaced as … what? I’ll tell you. Replaced as the only voice in public discussions. Replaced as the only bodies in the public arena. Replaced as the only life that matters,” he said.

The actions of the protesters, as well as Trump’s response so far, are disturbing for a myriad of reasons. Had the protesters not been white, it’s likely that Trump would have issued a much stronger condemnation of their actions and words. Furthermore, that white supremacists are marching at all—in a progressive America, in 2017, no less—is a chilling indication that we, as a society, have not come as far as we may like to think.


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Oh, Canada

If you live in Canada, you may have heard that our nation is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Actually, let me rephrase that: if you live in Canada, you’d be hard-pressed to not know that we are celebrating our 150th anniversary. If I had a Royal Canadian Mint special-edition glow-in-the-dark coin every time I heard, saw or watched an advertisement for Canada’s upcoming birthday (one literally just played on Spotify as I typed that), I would be rolling in money.

This week, the Algoma University Students’ Union voted unanimously to not sanction or endorse events associated with Canada 150. Why? The university was once the site of a residential school, and, according to the Toronto Star, the student union president said that the decision was meant as an act of solidarity with Indigenous students at the school.

As the introduction of the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada states: “For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious and racial entities in Canada.”

For some, Canada 150 is a celebration of a nation with an established reputation as a peacekeeper, a country with open arms for refugees and a country that fought in two world wars to support freedom. For others, Canada 150 is a celebration synonymous with a legacy of colonialism, genocide, racism and injustice.

Canada projects itself as a “global human rights beacon,” Christie McLeod writes in an article for Maclean’s. Yet within our own country, we have often failed to recognize and uphold the same rights we purport to champion on the global stage. McLeod gives the example of Canada introducing the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which would see states have an obligation to intervene when other states fail to protect their own citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This doctrine asking states to take action against genocide was announced in 2001—just five years after Canada’s last residential school, an example of government-funded cultural genocide, closed.

For those of us not negatively impacted by Canada’s colonial history, it’s dismally simple to see our country as a glorious land of justice, equality and human rights. But we should reflect on the fact that some 6,000 children died at Canadian residential schools, and that thousands more have had to live with the consequences of being stripped of their culture, community and dignity. We should also remember the current suicide crises in Indigenous communities and the “third world” conditions of water advisories on reserves. There are issues which all of us—Indigenous, and non-Indigenous—can play a part in working to solve.

There are, of course, many good things to say about Canada; so as we consider what we are really celebrating as Canada turns 150, we should remember that there are actions we can all take to make Canada an even better for everyone who calls it home.


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Trump’s Remarks About Journalists Are Unacceptable, But Unsurprising

So much of what is happening in America lately is, to put it simply, unfathomable. Many actions may seem appropriate for an earlier time period, but are strikingly out of place in the “modern democracy” of the United States (quotation marks seem necessary). I could reference about any number of topics, from the growing evidence that Trump tried to stop FBI investigations into ties to Russia to his expansion of a policy he revoked early in his presidency to give U.S. aid to abortion providers across the world. I want to focus, though, on something close to my heart: the treatment of journalists under Trump’s administration.

In the aftermath of the explosive New York Times report that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating his also-former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, another appalling tidbit was lost in the chaos. Trump suggested that Comey “Consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information,” writes Michael Schmidt.

This remark is startling at best and deeply troubling at worst. It is reminiscent of authoritarian governments and starkly un-American values. It is also, sadly, not a surprise coming from Trump, who has displayed malice towards journalists at every step of his path to the presidency.

Now, in the Oval Office, he still can’t see that journalists are an essential part of a democracy. I mean, it’s probably hard for him to see this, considering the impact of journalism on his reputation. Just this week, outstanding reporting from journalists at the Washington Post and The New York Times brought quick and serious implications; from calculated throwing around of the word “impeachment” — from both political sides — to the worst day in the stock market since Sept. 2016.

Interestingly, as Politico reporter Josh Dawsey noted on Twitter, Schmidt, the journalist who wrote about Trump asking Comey to stop investigating Flynn, was the same journalist who first broke the story about Hillary Clinton’s private email server. So was Schmidt “out to get” Trump? Or did he simply use the same journalistic rigour he applied to a story about Clinton to write a story about Trump?

As a journalism student, I am inspired by the persistence of journalists who cover Trump. They are up against serious odds — barred from press briefings, not invited to meetings with foreign officials, for example — and often have to decipher fact from fiction when White House officials blatantly lie (this is not to say that there haven’t been problems with media coverage of Trump, because there have). Journalists keep going, though, because what they do is important. The public has a right to know what is happening in their government, and journalists fulfill this critical role of gathering and communicating information.

Trump’s treatment of journalists both on the campaign trail and as President is unacceptable. But it is also unlikely to change. As the newly-appointed special prosecutor begins his investigations, I can only see journalists rightly continuing to cover Trump. But, sadly, I can only see Trump continuing to berate and belittle journalists in return.


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Dear School Boards: Stop Blocking Social Media

Four schools in Madison county have instituted a program to block students from accessing over 30 social media apps, AP reports. Closer to my home, the Toronto District School Board is similarly banning social media apps at school, though their measures are expected to be temporary until their Internet systems are replaced.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the recent string of school boards banning social media use in high schools, but I also can’t say that I support the decisions. My high school epitomized a twenty-first century learning experience — with no textbooks, only laptops. I became an avid supporter of this, speaking to educators at conferences and parents at school events about the values of this style of learning.

A point that I was always careful to emphasize was that our use of laptops (and programs like Google Classroom, Google Plus, and even Twitter and YouTube) were accompanied by lessons on digital citizenship. We learned how to use these tools effectively (and safely) and we also learned how to use them to foster real-life collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

My high school opened when I was in grade 10. That year, the school board raised the question of Internet filtering, and students in my school responded in full force, leaving insightful comments on a trustee’s blog about why the proposed filters would not work. I was one of two students who, joined by a team of teachers, spoke at the school board meeting where the filter was voted on. We felt that filters sent a message to students that they couldn’t be trusted to make their own decisions.

Plus, students with cell-phone data would be able to bypass the filters, and many tech-savvy students said they’d find ways to block the filters. Ultimately, the filters were not implemented in high schools. Many board members said that they were glad to hear a student’s perspective, since the issue directly impacted students. I think this is an important point — involving students in consultation and planning processes is a good way to ensure that the outcomes are beneficial for them.

In terms of the recent decisions of schools to ban certain social media apps, like Snapchat, Netflix, and Instagram, I understand that students’ use of social media takes up bandwidth and Internet usage. But if students are not engaged in what they are learning they will find ways to distract themselves, with or without social media. By incorporating social media into the lessons (such as asking students to find examples of, say, racism on Twitter, or using Google News to analyze headlines in news articles), students will be less likely to distract themselves from what they are learning.

Students use social media to communicate with each other, learn about the world, and develop their digital identities (something which is hugely important in our increasingly digital workplaces and world). Banning social media altogether means taking away a huge part of a student’s identity. Not only this, but it sends a message to students that they’re not responsible enough to choose how they spend their time in class.

Once students graduate, they’re in a filterless world. Now that I’m in university, I can’t tell you how many students I’ve seen watching Netflix during lectures. It is the decision of those students what they do with their time. Come exam time, I’m sure those students realized that paying attention in class would have been beneficial to them. Allowing students to learn this on their own makes the learning so much more valuable than having it enforced through a top-down filter. And allowing students to learn this in high school means students are better prepared to enter post-secondary education and, ultimately, the workforce.

I understand that for some school boards, allowing social media use to continue is simply not feasible. I hope, though, that school boards can understand the negative implications of their actions, especially when they have implemented a filter without listening to the thoughts and concerns of students.


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Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth day; the President of the United States thinks climate change is a hoax propagated by China. Many of his fellow Republicans similarly deny climate change. Because why take the time to look into valid scientific data when you can simply play the whole thing off as an economic ploy, or as #fakenews? In case you weren’t aware, climate change is real. During the last century, the global sea level rose 8 inches. The temperatures in 2016 were the warmest ever recorded. Ice sheets and sea ice are melting, and glaciers are retreating. Extreme weather events are becoming more common. These facts, from NASA’s Climate Change site, are not a Chinese hoax.

Happy Earth day; one scientist believes climate change has passed “the point of no return.” Meanwhile, many of us are doing the bare minimum to protect the environment and not planning to do more. There are many reasons for this: unless you live beside an ocean, or in the Arctic, climate change is not immediately visible to you. And so long as there are a few cold days sprinkled in with the hot ones, many people are satisfied that the climate isn’t really warming. Except it is.

Happy Earth day; people are protesting in over 600 marches today because of Trump’s refutal of basic scientific facts, the proposed defunding of the EPA, and his denial of climate change. “March for Science puts Earth Day focus on global opposition to Trump,” a Guardian headline reads. Will this global opposition cause Trump to reverse his views on climate change? Probably not. What it is more likely to do is inspire grassroots change. While this is great, it would obviously be beneficial to have the support of the White House on topics as critical as climate change and environmental issues.

Happy Earth day; what are future generations going to say about us? “Oh, those lucky ones alive in the 2010s — their air was clean enough to breathe without an oxygen mask”? While we certainly feel some of the effects of climate change, future generations will feel those effects even more. And, if action is not taken, they will likely resent the people (politicians and otherwise) who left them a degraded planet with depleted resources.

Happy Earth day; let’s not wail in our despair and ask, “What have we done?!” Instead, let’s ask, “What can we do?” From contacting your local political representatives to using energy-efficient light bulbs, there are many individual actions you can take to reduce the impact of climate change. One of the simplest ways might be to get educated on the facts, and, unlike the President of the United States, choose to believe that climate change is not a hoax, but rather one of the most pressing issues facing our world today.


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When Did Donald Trump Become the President of the United States?

Lately, people seem obsessed with pinpointing the exact moment Donald Trump became President of the United States. In a literal sense, he became the president-elect on Nov. 8, 2016, and was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2017. But, according to CNN’s Van Jones and Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Trump “became president” after his Feb. 28 speech to Congress. And, according to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Trump “became president” after launching airstrikes on Syria on Thursday night.

It matters when Trump “became president” because to a lot of people, he was never a legitimate political leader. A recent GenForward poll suggests that the majority of young adults in America view Trump as an illegitimate president. “Though Trump has legal legitimacy, he totally lacks political legitimacy,” Nancy Altman and Ira Lapu wrote in a Dec. 2016 Huffington Post article.

This explains Zakaria’s appraisal that Trump became more legitimate after the Syria airstrikes. As Zakaria said, “President Trump recognized that the President of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose.” Trump’s recognition of international norms has, in some people’s eyes, made him more like past presidents, and therefore more legitimate.

However, not everyone saw the airstrikes as “presidential”. In a Facebook post on Friday, Dan Rather, a former CBS anchor, wrote that “The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as ‘presidential’ is concerning. War must never be considered a public relations operation.” Rather continued that war is “not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative.”

It seems, though, that gaining a narrative of legitimacy is something that matters a great deal to Trump and his team. Trump “has this deep fear that he is himself not a legitimate president,” author Michael D’Antonio told Politico. D’Antonio also said that Trump’s fear of being illegitimate is one of the reasons why he tries to delegitimize America’s intelligence community; it could also easily be a reason why he has continually tried to delegitimize Barack Obama, from accusing him of wiretapping Trump Tower to blaming him for the situation in Syria.

Trump’s legitimacy could be called into question primarily by the fact that while he won the electoral college, he did not win the popular vote. More people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump. As well, the countless controversies that have plagued Trump and his administration—accusations of sexual assault, refusal to release his tax returns, collusion with Russia…shall I go on?—could also contribute to the view that Trump is illegitimate.

The legitimacy Trump may have gained from his February speech to Congress is very different than that gained from last week’s airstrikes. Early polls suggested that viewers approved of Trump’s speech to congress, although many people also remarked that the bar for Trump to succeed was set very low. “Donald Trump read from a teleprompter and wore a nice suit, and suddenly he’s ‘presidential’?” wrote Emily Atkin for the New Republic.

There are certainly many people who saw Trump as presidential the moment he assumed the title (or even the moment he announced he would run in the election). But there are many others who still do not see him as presidential. The critiques of journalists that certain events represent the moment Trump became president are a fascinating insight into the way Trump is viewed by the people he is supposed to represent. Because, if even a small amount of Americans do not view Trump as a legitimate president, what does that say about the state of democracy in America?


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