What Would You Do if You were Stuck in an Elevator with Donald Trump?

As a journalism student, something I’m learning to do is ask questions. Not just any questions — open-ended, thought-provoking, hard hitting questions. In line with this, and coupled with my affinity for self-reflection, I often find myself pondering over questions that I’ve asked myself. Last week, I posed a random, though difficult, question to myself: What would I do if I was stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump?

My first instinct was that I wouldn’t feel safe in that situation, in a confined space with a man who doesn’t seem to respect the rights of anyone who doesn’t agree with him. Then, for some reason, I thought of throwing cold spaghetti at him (though this wasn’t an entirely arbitrary thought — on her podcast Not Too Deep, Grace Helbig asks her guests who they would most like to throw cold spaghetti at, so it’s a topic that I’ve already given some thought to).

I’m Canadian, so Trump’s policies don’t directly impact me (although his policies on things like free trade and the economy do impact me as a Canadian). But his policies are reflective of some people’s attitudes, and these attitudes and policies are already having an extremely negative impact on other people’s lives. So, in short, I think I could make a pretty convincing case for throwing cold spaghetti at Trump.

However, I could also make a convincing case not to do this. Although these situations are markedly different, thinking about what I would do if I ever encountered Donald Trump made me think of what Malala Yousafzai said she would do if she ever encountered a member of the Taliban, after they shot her for advocating for girl’s rights to education.

“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ Then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’”

– Malala Yousafzai on the Jon Stewart show

Again, I know that these two situations — mine, purely theoretical, Malala’s, a frightening reality  — are completely different. But the truth that Malala shared in that interview can be applied to the situation I am imagining. Because she is right. If, in this hypothetical situation, I yelled abrasively at Donald Trump, or ruthlessly insulted him, I would be no better than he is. And, as angry as he makes me, I would not want to stoop to his level. I would rather take Michelle Obama’s advice: “When they go low, we go high.”

I think again, though, that it is important to consider that I’m Canadian, and I’m privileged in that many of Trump’s policies don’t affect me (due to my race, for example). It may be easier for me to say that I wouldn’t stoop to his level, because my life hasn’t been turned upside down by his presidency. If any Americans who have been negatively impacted by Trump wanted to throw cold spaghetti on him, I wouldn’t stop them. I can only speak for myself when I say that I wouldn’t want to stoop to his level, and maybe my privilege plays a role in that.

Moving on from what I would do in this situation, though, another question is what I would say. What words could possibly reach a man who frequently rejects the truth? Clearly, some words get through to him — there is evidence showing instances where Trump has copied tweet material from cable TV shows. I’m inclined to believe in the positive power of words, as someone who hopes to make a career out of writing them. But so many words have been shed trying to convince Trump that he is not making good decisions (to put it lightly), and I’m not sure those words have been successful. What has been successful are the American courts, as demonstrated by the response to his travel ban, when the courts acted as checks on Trump’s power. And the lawyers didn’t even have to endure an elevator ride with Trump.

But what would I say? I would tell Trump that there are real people being negatively impacted by his policies. I would tell him that not all Muslims are terrorists, that, in fact, people from the countries he has included in his travel ban have not killed anyone in terrorist attacks in America. I would tell him that women are not objects, that we are fundamentally equal to men and deserve to be treated as such. I would tell him that his focus on “America first” should include the American people — including women, people of colour, Muslims, immigrants. Everyone. I would tell him that the fourth estate is critical to American democracy. And, finally, I would tell him that the way his policies are currently lining up, he is not making America great “again” — and that I’m not fake news for saying that.

Having said, or written, all of this, I’m curious. What would you do or say if you were stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump? Comment below and let me know or, if you feel so inclined, write your own post on the subject and link it back to me.

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Kanye West, Young People, and Politics

When I decided to stop watching the VMAs last night, I thought I had seen all of the important moments. I had seen Taylor Swift and her squad walking down the red carpet; I had seen her performance with Nicki Minaj; I had seen a few awards doled out. I went to bed questioning pop culture, but satisfied that I had seen the buzzworthy moments of the show. Boy, was I wrong.

This morning, I woke up to find that I had missed perhaps the biggest event of the night (and certainly one of the most talked about): Kanye West announcing that he plans to run for President in 2020. Everything about that statement seemed strange to me – especially that, of all the platforms available in this day and age, Kanye would choose an awards show geared at teenagers to announce his presidential bid.

Kanye at last night’s VMAs (source)

The more I thought about it, though, the more sense it made to me that Kanye would announce his political ambition to an audience teeming with young people. His actions represented the growing shift in the dynamic concerning young people and politics; comprised of, in my opinion, a change in the way adults and organizations are viewing the teen demographic, and a significant change in the way teenagers get involved in politics.

Many of the people who watched the VMAs are too young to vote. They are not, however, too young to voice their opinions. “[T]he worst thing that we, as young people, can do is to accept things [as] the way they are because of our age,” writes youth activist Rebekah Bolser in her article ‘The Key to being a Youth Activist’ on Huffington Post Teen.

She adds, “I know it’s hard to not find yourself discouraged by politics and the current system. But we cannot allow the people who pass these laws to create the world we will live in. We have to build that world ourselves.” Lately, it seems like more and more young people share Rebekah’s attitude of taking responsibility for the things that aren’t right in the world; and, in the process, breaking the barrier of age.

My interest in politics has skyrocketed in the past couple months. When I was younger I was mildly interested in poll numbers and policies, but these interests manifested themselves only in watching the news on election night.

Today, I am still too young to vote; but I consider myself more informed about politics than I used to be. I read articles in the newspaper and online about politics; I seek out more information when a subject particularly interests me; and I have debates and discussions about politics with my family and friends.

This may sound strange but I genuinely think that what jump started my interest in politics was Donald Trump’s campaign, as I am a fan of The Apprentice. Having seen his attitude in the boardroom on The Apprentice, I was interested how Trump would act in political settings when he wasn’t just in it for the ratings (he might still be in it for the ratings, in actuality – so that’s debateable).

The Trump announces his presidential run (source)
The Trump announces his presidential run (source)

In the months since he announced his plans to run for President, I have paid close, curious attention to Donald Trump’s campaign (my interest can be summed up by this article from The Onion). This has caused me to pay attention to Hillary Clinton’s campaign as well, as well as the American election as a whole (even though I’m Canadian). Politics – both American, and Canadian – have become a common dinner table discussion for my family.

Earlier in the summer, my cousins came to visit. One of them is a year younger than me, and a year older than my sister, and and she’s very interested in politics. One day we took online quizzes to see which political parties aligned with our standpoints on various issues. That night, we all had a sleepover in my basement. Having just watched a Harry Potter movie, you’d think that our late-night discussions would have focused around magic and wizardry. They did not: instead we talked about taxes, and whether the 1% should have to pay more, and which political hopefuls agreed with our viewpoints.

As I fell asleep, my head filled with unsaid questions and debate points, I wondered how many other teenagers stayed up late discussing politics. I think, honestly, the number would be significant. The fact of the matter is that even youth are affected by the issues that politicians deal with; and because we can’t vote, we need to find other ways to make our voices heard.

An example that comes to mind are the strikes that recently happened in my local education system. Students were directly affected by the strikes, and many made the news for setting up online petitions and groups to protest what was happening. This, to me, highlights the growing realization of youth that making our voices heard is a way to affect change – and that often, politics factor into this.

Caring about the issues in our lives causes young people to care about politics, and many organizations and adults are taking notice. In the last municipal election, my school held a mock election. This is an example of one of the many initiatives geared towards harnessing the interest youth hold in politics.

Even without those initiatives, though, the discussions are still happening: on social media, in schools, at dinner tables, probably even at malls. And now, thanks to Kanye West, they are happening at awards shows.