If you have done absolutely nothing except exist on the simplest level possible for the past year and a half, you have heard the phrase “Make America Great Again.” Donald Trump’s inescapable, bombastic rhetoric has reverberated not only across the United States, but across the international stage as well. His still-nascent administration has been, at its heart, an extension of his campaign, and he has taken the “America First” rhetoric that propelled him to the presidency and given it a top-shelf position in the West Wing, despite still not knowing where the light switches are.
Trump’s campaign was based on divisiveness — it doesn’t take a political analyst to recognize that. He built a platform and a following on the fear of Middle America and scapegoating the terrifying other, notably Mexicans and Muslims. It was painted as Us versus Them, an invasion of our fortress, threatening its integrity. This stretched into his foreign policy as well, as he pledged to withdraw us from treaties and international organizations. Donald Trump’s world is divided into winners and losers, and he promised white America the gold medal.
History, however, is pretty clear about what happens when you follow this kind of path: people die.
In the aftermath of the Muslim ban, parallels were drawn to the St. Louis — the ship carrying German Jewish refugees which was turned away at the United States’ border. Hundreds of its passengers were ultimately killed in the Holocaust. Today, refugees are still boarding ships and sailing to their deaths, although the modern equivalent is a flimsy raft crossing the Mediterranean. According to the UNHCR, as of October, 3,740 lives had been lost attempting this passage in 2016 alone — just one year of the Syrian war. Refugees will continue to flee certain death in their home countries only to encounter certain death in hostile, unfamiliar territory. People will die as a result of Trump’s disastrous immigration policy, deportations, and wall. People will die.
It may be a stretch now to start predicting a nuclear holocaust or the outbreak of World War III, but Trump’s actions so far are cause for concern. He’s divorcing the US from collective security: the cooperation of several countries in an alliance to strengthen the security of each. What happened when the League of Nations (the precursor to the UN and an early attempt at collective security) collapsed? World War II, the very thing the League was created to prevent. After the bloodshed of WWII, the countries of the world said, “Hey, maybe there’s something in this whole collective security thing after all, let’s try it again.” So the UN was established. And though the UN is problematic and ineffectual, it still stands as a symbol of that collective security to prevent a global war on the scale of WWII. To weaken it further by pulling the United States out and to isolate the U.S. by withdrawing from other international organizations and treaties would be to set up the kind of volatile, unstable international system that allowed a single assassination to spiral into a World War. Couple that with cavalier phone calls to foreign leaders? Let’s just say I’m uneasy.
I know it’s been said before, but we are stronger together. Trump can consolidate his power by pitting people against each other, both here at home and across the globe, but public unity can keep the government in check. We need to stop seeing his scapegoats as the other and instead as human beings deserving of dignity, security, and life. “America First” will get us nowhere. “Humanity First” will make progress.