The Dangers of Downplaying Political Problems
World War II was only a blip in human history. The number of people who died was small compared to the number of people in the world; proportionally speaking, WWII was not that bad.
I found this claim hard to swallow when my European history professor introduced it in class last week. To boil down a morally and politically catastrophic event to a statistic that helps people look at things “on the bright side” is ridiculous.
This distortion of major events in history is more important now than ever. I don’t think anyone needs me to recount the political disaster that was 2016, nor review the rebellious spirit of the last couple of days. But I do think that people need to be reminded that there is value in such dramatic moments in history, moments that should not be disregarded nor minimized.
I say this knowing full well that millions of people contributed to the Women’s March around the world this past weekend. I realize that the news has not stopped reporting on our president’s first few moments in office, and that comedians like Stephen Colbert continue to open their shows with jokes about America’s political condition. The rise of Donald Trump is a controversial topic that is hard to simply disregard.
However, there are many people who look at this moment in our country’s history and think, “It’s no big deal. Nothing is going to change.” They look at the marches and call them absurd. They hear fears about Trump’s presidency and feel they are unfounded. They laugh at the melodramatic reactions to this transition of power.
Those who are able to look at the recent election and inauguration with complacency are not only the Trump supporters, but the moderate and even liberal Americans. Because for some of them, little has changed and little will change. They will be unaffected by new immigration laws, reconsiderations of Planned Parenthood, and the removal of ObamaCare. In their average daily life, whatever happens with the presidency will only be perceived via a news reporter on a screen or a writer in a periodical.
This indifference towards the Trump presidency, not to mention the lack of empathy towards those who are directly (and painfully) affected by it, is the kind of attitude that allows its importance to be minimized. And when you decide to ignore the gravity of a situation, you allow its seemingly petty problems to grow into costly ones. Everyone from the Russians to the French made fun of the Jews long before Hitler came to power, and no one thought that this would lead to genocide in Germany. In fact, their stigmatization of the Jews is so overlooked that most people reading this probably don’t even know about it. It’s a blip in history.
And to this, those same indifferent people will say that I sound insane. I started off this article talking about WWII, and now I’m talking like we’re headed for WWIII.
Maybe we’re not going into another war, but we are approaching a defining time in our history that makes the diminishment of issues like race, gender, immigration, and climate change are dangerous and foolish. To say that nothing big will happen is to blissfully and grossly ignore the fact that already the White House website has deleted any information it previously had on topics from civil rights to climate change, and to show nothing but apathy to the millions of Americans whose success and security are hanging by a thread.
I say this as a person who has not and likely will not be affected very much by the presidency. But I also say this as someone who knows struggling college students who might lose their health insurance, and successful young adults and members of society who might be deported because of changing immigration laws.
It would be easy for me to say, in my position of certain security, that those who aren’t as lucky as me should stop fearing, because everything will work out somehow. At the very least, everything will work out in favor of the good of the country. But the numbers speak for themselves; many more people turned out to protest Trump’s inauguration than those who showed up for it. Looking at things proportionally, the good of the country is very much at stake here, in a way that is becoming morally and politically catastrophic.
Michelle Bui is a second-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.