Tag Archives: donald trump

Assessing the French Election

The United States and France have been intertwined since the birth of the American Republic. When our nation was paltry and struggling, France intervened with support, and years later, while France was run by the Vichy Regime, the U.S. stepped in to support the French against the Axis coalition. This close relationship and shared western culture has brought both countries to the forefront of international politics, and this shared election season between the two states has seemed to bring them even closer together.

Here and abroad, the left-right conflict has been intruded upon by a new party, a sort of populist response to elite government. This new fervor culminated in the Donald Trump presidency in the U.S., and in France it shows itself in the notable support for French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

Le Pen’s proposals, for the most part, are reactionary, and will hurt France in the long run, especially her domestic policies. Perhaps the most extreme of these proposals, her plan to shut down especially “extremist” mosques, is an attack on religious liberty. Except for her views on French involvement with the rest of Europe, Le Pen’s programs are ill-advised. The liberal-center candidate Emmanuel Macron of his new French political entity En Marche! has the best combination of both right and left wing policies to improve the wellbeing of the French state and its people.

The main points of Macron’s policy involve deregulation, a tax cut, increased infrastructure spending, and a unification of the Eurozone.

As a center-right individual, I agree with Macron’s plan. Deregulation will help France even more than it would the U.S., and given France’s cumbersome system of rules in the economic sphere, a tax cut would incentivize investment. Better infrastructure helps almost every party in the French state. I would, however, disagree with the push toward a more unified Eurozone, but this stance helps Macron draw support from members of less popular parties. This cross-spectrum of left and right policies has earned Macron the support of center-right candidate François Fillon and left-socialist voice Manuel Valls.

Meanwhile, Le Pen is advocating for a variety of populist policies, such immigration restrictions, creating a stronger national identity, and increasing tariffs, along with greater welfare benefits.

Each of these proposals won’t help France. Over-extensive immigration restriction will simply cultivate French intolerance toward foreigners, and although this might help France unify its identity, it does so at the cost of creating a homogenous population. That’s not true French unity. A unified country does not consist of one demographic, but a variety of demographics united through a shared set of values. An increase in tariffs will simply make it harder for France to export, further restricting the struggling French economy and appreciating the Euro. Increasing welfare benefits, reducing the hourly work week, and lowering the retirement age would worsen France’s already stagnant economy. All these policies do is incentivize short-term-minded voters to support Le Pen, and it seems to be working, for now.

One of the only redeeming qualities about Le Pen’s program is her emphasis on France’s separation from the European Union—a controversial idea. Most liberal-center minds support the E.U., citing its way of linking Europe economically and reducing transaction costs. Yet, despite these advantages, it’s difficult for a sovereign state to exist without complete control of its central bank. The ability of the Federal Reserve in the U.S. to manipulate monetary policy and stabilize the economy has enabled it to enact changes even within a political stalemate. Without similar control, France is at the whim of a highly bureaucratic European Central Bank.

Creating an independent currency, like England has retained, will allow France to make quicker economic decisions to navigate the complex global marketplace, and Le Pen wants to do just this.This does not mean, however, that France should exclude itself from other facets of the E.U. Reduced trade barriers and a linked economy bring Europe together and benefit the citizens of each country, and France should keep these benefits while regaining control over its economy.

No candidate is perfect, and in almost every election, the ideal politician holds a combination of different forms of policy. If Macron can bring populist energy combined with effective economic policy, and make France inclusive, yet not beholden to the whims of the E.U., then France, Europe, and the world in general will benefit.

Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor

America Landed Itself into Trump Presidency, Prof. Says

Questions of racial inequality, economic imbalance, and social responsibility filled Devlin 101 this Thursday as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor discussed how the United States has landed itself in a presidency led by Donald Trump and where the Black Lives Matter movement stands in the Trump era.

Taylor, an assistant professor in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, began her talk by discussing the mindset that spread across America after Barack Obama was elected president.

After the 2008 inauguration, the possibility of an America without racism was in the minds of people across the country—a stark contrast from what Americans saw in the 2016 election.

“It is not a hyperbole to say that white supremacy sits at the heart of the American government,” Taylor said. “Donald Trump’s election has unleashed the beasts of racism and reaction.”

Taylor highlighted the hate crimes committed all over the country, citing them as evidence for the argument that a black president does not signify a post-racial society.

In her effort to address multiple forms of inequality in her speech, Taylor also discussed the dangers of Trump’s cabinet for both racial and economic reasons.

She pointed out that while some cabinet members, like Steve Bannon, may be more blatant in expressing racist sentiments, all of Trump’s cabinet picks are individuals who have always benefited from inequality of wealth and power in society.

 “We cannot actually understand the rise of Trump without taking into account the failure of Obama to deliver on his promises of hope and change,” Taylor said. “Trump’s rise is actually a story about who did not vote more than who did vote.”

Taylor turned to the tens of millions of voters who did not vote in the 2016 election to portray her message, claiming that the nature of America’s two-party system creates room for more indifference and less analysis when it comes to presidential candidates.

After the disappointment felt by much of the black community following Obama’s failure to fulfill many of his promises, whether by his own fault or not, many voters lost faith that their status quo would ever be changed.

According to Taylor, when working class voters saw the two candidates they were choosing between in the 2016 election, they saw no possibility for improvement in their lives and lost faith in the system.

This, Taylor points out, was the key problem in the 2016 election. With only 60 million of 238 million eligible voters in America casting their ballots for Donald Trump, his win was attributed more to the voters who lost faith in the system than those who actually voted for him.

“Within the narrow space of choosing between one party of millionaires over another party of millionaires, the key questions facing ordinary people in this country go unanswered,” Taylor said.

“For millions of people in this country, it is the status quo that is increasingly intolerable,”

— Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, professor at Yale University

Taylor argued that while Democrats often blame Fox, the FBI, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, and Russian hackers for the loss of the election, many fail to consider that the party has neglected to represent the people for which it is supposed to stand. It is the working class that has faced everyday problems that have long been unresolved by the government, despite promises made by politician after politician.

“For millions of people in this country, it is the status quo that is increasingly intolerable,” Taylor said.

This status quo, according to Taylor, is comprised of the nationwide opioid crisis, the decline in life expectancy for white women due to a multitude of reasons, the quiet deportation of undocumented immigrants, and countless other issues.

Taylor brought the focus back to the Democrats’ social responsibility to explain just how disappointed immigrants have been by both parties.

During Obama’s administration, 2.5 million undocumented immigrants were silently deported out of the country, uprooted from their lives and oftentimes families to be forced out of America.

 “We can all look in horror at the indiscriminate way that Trump has empowered immigration control enforcement agents to swoop into immigrant communities and round people up,” Taylor said. “But we must acknowledge that the Obama administration greased the wheels to this machinery of injustice a long time ago.”

The rise of shootings and murders in Chicago is another dangerous status quo that is a reality for many of the city’s working class communities.

While the media and elected officials often turn to reasons like retaliation or parenting to explain these crime rates, Taylor turned to economic explanations like the high black unemployment rate in the city.

Taylor argued that any other explanation of the death tolls in Chicago related to retaliation or black on black crime are tools used by the administration to distract from the rampant police brutality present today.

This, she claimed, is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important. Social movements, Taylor pointed out, are key in bringing attention to misconduct, showing others how to react to issues such as police violence, providing language for people to articulate their emotions, and fostering analysis regarding today’s political issues.

Taylor’s argument for the reason economic inequality and racial injustice work as a team is the same argument she used to explain the importance of solidarity among all different marginalized groups.

“We have to stop constraining our own political imagination into what is deemed pragmatic and possible,” Taylor said. “No social movement has begun with the question of what is realistic.”

Featured Image by Jake Evans / Heights Staff

LeBeau Reflects on Reporting in Era of ‘Fake News’

Phil LeBeau beamed with visible delight.

“Ah, the ‘fake news’ question!”

An audience member had asked him to comment on the myriad of accusations levelled by United States government officials against journalists in recent months.

LeBeau, an Emmy Award-winning Chicago-based reporter who covers the auto and airline industries for CNBC, spoke in the Fulton Honors Library on Monday as a part of the “Lunch with a Leader” speaker series. The event was sponsored by the Carroll School of Management’s Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics.

Last week, when LeBeau covered a meeting between airline executives and President Donald Trump at the White House, a new atmosphere of hostility toward reporters was noticable, he said.

In turn, Trump’s accusations that the media is engaged in a conspiracy to mislead the public, and his constant use of the term “fake news” to describe the work of career journalists, have deeply insulted and alienated many in the industry, LeBeau said.

“There is definitely a feeling of tension [between journalists and the administration],” he said.

When asked by a student to elaborate on the “fake news” phenomenon, LeBeau said that the only way for reporters to deal with such accusations is to strive for honesty while trusting in the discerning faculties of the public.

“If somebody says that what you’re reporting is ‘fake news’—if someone chooses to believe that—there’s nothing you can do aside from reporting the facts and having faith that consumers will realize when something is fake and when it’s not,” LeBeau said.

LeBeau also drew a distinction between “fake news,” which consists of the presentation of fraudulent facts, and differences of perspective which may lead a reader to disagree with a writer’s conclusion or analysis.

“All reporters come at their job with their own background, their own influences, and their own perspectives,” LeBeau said.

In a free society, the general public—the consumer of what the media produces—must evaluate the veracity of available news sources. Writers and reporters may not always draw the same conclusions from the facts, but a multiplicity of media perspectives is not necessarily injurious to the nation, LeBeau said.

“That’s part of society’s interacting with, taking in, and consuming journalism,” LeBeau said.

LeBeau emphasized the importance of readers taking responsibility for both what reporting they believe and what news sources they choose to trust.

The media industry has changed dramatically since LeBeau began his career, due in part to the emergence of the internet. LeBeau advised the undergraduates in attendance to prepare for seismic shifts in their own professions after they graduate.

“[Your industry] will be completely different in 30 years,” LeBeau said.

Despite changes in the way news coverage and analysis are transmitted to the public, many aspects of the journalist’s craft are timeless—grounded by years of well-founded tradition, LeBeau said.

“The method in which I deliver the news is dramatically different,” he said, “but certain bedrock principles—how to tell a story, collect facts, and develop sources—will never go away.”

Featured image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff


UGBC Pursues Free Housing for Those Affected by Travel Ban

On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for three months, halting admission of all refugees for four months, and suspending the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. This past Sunday, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Student Assembly (SA) unanimously passed a resolution calling on the University to support affected students, faculty, and staff.

“The main point of the agreed upon text was calling on the University to provide free housing to students, faculty, and staff, if applicable, based on the immigration challenges posed by Trump’s executive order,” said Russell Simons, UGBC president and MCAS ’17.

The resolution, sponsored by Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20 and co-sponsored by Michael Proietta, MCAS ’19, also reaffirmed UGBC’s commitment to protecting and advocating for the safety of the diverse identities within BC’s community.

Sheikh said his initial inspiration for drafting the resolution was the protests that erupted across the nation. His parents went to a protest in Dallas, and he was touched by the lawyers who declared that they would volunteer their time for legal counsel. The specific actions that the resolution calls for, however, were a response to University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.s’ email last week condemning the executive order.

“In his email, he advised students who weren’t nationals, or who were affected by the ban, not to leave the country if they were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to re-enter,” Sheikh said. “But, if he’s telling them not to leave, then where are they going to stay?”

Sheikh continues to acknowledge that during Spring Break and Thanksgiving Break, students are allowed to stay on campus. If Leahy is to give such advice to students, then Sheikh feels that the burden falls on the University to provide housing during Winter and Summer Break.

Sheikh said he knew that any of the other senators in the SA would co-sponsor the resolution with him. But he picked Proietta, a senator in the SA who is known to have a more moderate view than many of his peers in SA, to co-sponsor the resolution to make a point.

“I thought if Michael could co-sponsor the resolution, it would signal that this is an issue greater than different ideologies, it’s about humanity,” Sheikh said.

The logistics of how the University will accommodate students, faculty, and staff who may need housing over Winter and Summer breaks is still an ongoing conversation. While the national conversation revolves around whether the travel ban is a constitutional or legal action by Trump, the conversation on campus is in preparation for a scenario in which the travel ban holds in courts.

“The situation is tumultuous, and nothing is certain about the way it will be resolved or if it’s going to be kept or nixed,” Simons said. “We were talking as if it’s going to remain in place, and we should be acting, as a University community, in accordance with the ban’s original intent, which was to bar immigration.”

Simons said students with individual concerns should reach out to the office of residential life, where they can address concerns on a case by case basis. He added that if students have any concerns about talking with administration, and would rather talk with their peers, they should reach out to him or Meredith McCaffrey, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17, on their personal email accounts.

Sheikh will meet with George Arey, associate vice president of residential life,on Thursday to discuss the logistics of providing free housing.

In the future, Sheikh hopes to pass a resolution that establishes a fund that will help students at BC. Originally, the resolution concerning the “Muslim ban” had included a clause to donate DIP revenue to a third-party organization, but was ultimately deleted due to restrictions on which external organizations UGBC can donate to, as well as how much UGBC can donate.

“I want to make this happen. I believe that this is definitely a burden on the University, as in they have a responsibility to do this,” Sheikh said. “I’m very optimistic.”

Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff

Muslim Students Association Plans Friday Protest of Trump Executive Order

Last Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspending all refugee entry for 120 days, and restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. While the order has sparked praise from some, many have protested the order around the nation. The vague language of the order and various interpretations of its repercussions have resulted in confusion and fear for many. That includes Boston College, where a demonstration has been planned for Friday by members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

“Detainment and interrogation and discrimination of Muslims has existed for a while now,” said Isra Hussain, director of external relations within the MSA and MCAS ’17. “But having a policy in place like this makes it very hard for our families, cousins, relatives, friends, to stay in the U.S., and live peacefully in the U.S.”

The MSA’s demonstration, which will start Friday at noon with a moment of silence and then proceed to include student and faculty speakers, will be about standing in solidarity with those affected by the executive order.

“It’s really hard living your everyday life being a normal student when you have this uncertainty hanging over your shoulder,” Hussain said. “We’re hoping for this event to be a place where people reflect and really breathe together and digest everything that’s happened in unity, and move forward from there.”

In planning for this demonstration, Hussain has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support that other student organizations have been showing the MSA. From Climate Justice at Boston College to Freshman League and Sexual Chocolate, more than 30 organizations on campus have come forward to collaborate with the MSA for this demonstration.

“We’re just hoping for a place to come together, find that solidarity, and really move forward together to try and get passed this in a very productive way,” Hussain said.

While the speakers have not been finalized yet, Hussain has been in the talks with the Undergraduate Government of BC, the theology department, the LGBTQ community on campus, and the Graduate Students of Color Association to find speakers who will contribute to the message of solidarity and unity. Hussain also emphasized that any student, staff, or faculty member who would like to speak is encouraged to step up during the demonstration.

“We’re hoping to get a theology professor especially being a Catholic university, to understand where Catholic social teaching, where different faiths come into what’s been going on recently, and how faith might help us move forward,” Hussain said.

Following the demonstration, MSA is inviting everyone to join them for their Friday prayer in the Multi-Faith Center. Hussain hopes that students and faculty will take the opportunity to get to know some more people in the community.

“A lot of it was for ourselves, and I know that’s why I want to do it,” Hussain said. “I wanted a way to project all of this energy I’ve had following the immigration ban into something more productive, and I think a lot of people were feeling that BC should come together in some way.”

Sara Elzeini, an active member in MSA and MCAS ’18, originally came up with the idea of holding a solidarity demonstration. As a first generation American and daughter of Egyptian immigrants, Elzeini felt hurt by the executive order and empathized with those who could no longer visit their loved ones.

“My mom was kind of stuck in Egypt for a whole year last year, and I know that feeling of having a family member removed, in a different country,” said Elzeini. “There are families literally being stripped apart because of this, and just creating more of a divide and prejudice against Muslims.”

Upon being granted the permit to demonstrate by dean of students Thomas Mogan, Elzeini began sending emails to various student groups, receiving only responses of support and excitement.

“It’s honestly been the most supportive time I’ve had at BC so far,” Elzeini said.

Trump’s executive order also applies to permanent residents of the U.S., green-card holders, who were traveling overseas for family or for work. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, however, suggested on NBC’s Meet the Press that the order wouldn’t affect permanent residents going forward, but later appeared to contradict himself in the same interview.

Hussain, as the child of Pakistani immigrants, is fearful that the immigration ban will extend to Pakistan. She fears that her cousins, in the U.S. on student visas, will not be able to return to America if they visit their families.

“It really gives me hope that my peers have some kind of ‘common sense’ in a way, and know that the only way we can move forward from this grief is if we’re together,” Elzeini said. “My main message is unity and strength and being there for each other.”

Featured Image by Fatmah Berikaa  

Climate Justice at Boston College to Participate in National Walkout Monday

Update Jan. 24, 2017, 8:31 p.m.: Salzmann incorrectly stated that the GLBTQ Leadership Council was co-sponsoring the event with CJBC and Eradicate BC Racism. GLC was not involved.

Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC) will host a rally today from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Heights Room as a part of a nationwide day of action to resist and reject President Donald Trump’s denial of the severity of climate change. The group will also call out the BC administration for maintaining its investments in fossil fuel energy. The GLBTQ Leadership Council and Eradicate BC Racism will co-sponsor the event.

The nationwide day of action was created by the Divestment Student Network, a group that coordinates peaceful student rallies calling for divestment, and 350.org, a group that works to build a movement for climate justice. This movement is set to be the largest coordinated student action calling for divestment in history.

“The reason for the timing of this nationwide movement is the convergence of BC’s investment in the fossil fuel industry with a new Trump presidency,” said Aaron Salzman, a member of CJBC and MCAS ’20.

Salzman said that he often hears the argument that the BC administration does not want to “get political” with the endowment, potentially creating tensions with the University’s largest donors. He believes, however, that the Trump administration has made climate change a political issue because of its denial that climate change exists and is caused by human activity, despite overwhelming scientific research that supports this claim.

“[BC has] to face the reality that divestment is a critical issue and it’s a necessity in order for BC to return to its Catholic, Jesuit values,” Salzman said.

Dean of Students Thomas Mogan has largely been supportive of CJBC’s intentions to hold rallies. The group often meets with Mogan when it registers its rallies through the University.

“I met with leaders of Climate Justice after their last rally … and I felt that we had a productive dialogue,” Mogan said in an email. “I met with some of the same leaders to register their event for Monday and the process went smoothly. I am planning on attending the event on Monday.”

CJBC has other events planned for this semester after today’s rally. It will host an event next Monday calling together all the people who attended the rally to get them more involved in CJBC. The group also plans to have education campaigns, host speakers, and have a band powered by solar energy perform on campus.

“I think in CJBC’s view, justice means more than just accepting the institutions that are present, and it really means challenging the things we find wrong in institutions,” Salzman said.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

Is the Far-Right Here to Stay?

The coronation of Donald Trump is an undeniable shock and a challenge to our axiomatic assumptions. By now, post-hoc analysis is becoming a bit of a worn cliché, since everyone and their mother has given their insight and commentary on the results of the election. It’s important and worthwhile to deliberate and consider just how groundbreaking and system-shattering Trump’s victory is. Given the riptide of the right moving across the world, his rise begs the question: is this the new normal?

The president-elect was messianic. His candidacy delivered a series of blows to establishment politics, liberalism, and the very nature of our world order. Zigzagging and flip-flopping across the country, he stuck it to the elites as a renegade outsider, pledging loyalty to nobody and taking marching orders from only himself. As a cheerleader for those hit in the gut by automation, globalization, and technological development, he galvanized a silent majority in the flyover and rust-belt states of Middle America. He rallied resentment against the bicoastal barons and media gatekeepers. He challenged liberal smugness and political correctness. And he won.

His unlikely emergence as leader of the free world is—on paper—certainly a shock to what we knew (or what we thought we knew). But the vindication of a clairvoyant Trump is concurrent with a broader global trend: globalism, cosmopolitanism, and liberalism in retreat. Apostles of resentment are rising from the right, skeptical of international cooperation and weary of the tides of globalization. In general, these leaders are pessimistic, populist, and P.O.’ed. They are ready to turn their countries inward, raise the walls, and build a moat.

Across the Atlantic, amid a massive influx of migrants, sluggish economic growth, and profound disappointment with the central planning and bureaucracy of Brussels, the Europeans are getting bearish on the European Union, and they are toppling the liberal optimists of the West’s old guard left and right. Gone are the days of cheery diplomacy, climate accords, upbeat G7 meetings, and steady resolve in beating back the Russian bear in Europe’s backyard.

David Cameron of the United Kingdom was ousted from office when Britons voted for Brexit, a vision for the country sharply at odds with his own. In France, François Hollande saw his approval rating bottom out at 4 percent last month. Vying for his spot are Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen, who are both fond of Russia and critical of France’s Muslim population. And just this week in Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that he will resign following the country’s forceful populist-driven vote against his proposed political reforms.

In Eastern Europe, far-right politicians are winning. Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland have elected parties that “range across a wide policy spectrum, from populist and nationalist to far-right neofascist.” The rhetoric and ideologies of these politicians seem more similar to that of Europe’s eastern neighbor, Vladimir Putin, than they do to that of bulwarks like Germany’s Angela Merkel. Countries in this bloc are balking at a weakening E.U. and beginning to embrace an emboldened Russian-led push for regional hegemony.

Improved Russian relations might be in store for even the continent’s western flank, which could pose challenges to global stability with America as top dog. For all his talk on warming to Russia, Trump would surely recoil at the thought of the country dominating in the Middle East, ramping up cyber interference, or gaining the edge in proxy conflicts.

Former Soviet Union satellites and Eastern European countries with particularly bleak socioeconomic prospects pivoting to the far right is one thing. But the U.S., France, England, and Italy—nation-states typically seen as post-WWII bastions of liberalism and stability—are also experiencing far-right nationalist and populist pushbacks. As Florian Phillippot, vice president of France’s National Front party, tweeted on Nov. 8, “Their world is crumbling. Ours is being built.”

With Trump, Euro-skeptics, and authoritarianism, the world order as we know it is in store for some big changes. Multilateralism and the free flows of capital, trade, and people could take a back seat to parochial pushes for national sovereignty and “taking the country back.” The neoliberal nature of the West is at stake as economic nationalism is becoming the policy du jour. The ‘New World’ is being built: two parts systemic shock and disruption, one part Trump, three steps to the right, and a sprinkling of populist rhetoric thrown in for good measure.  

The president-elect might as well be the standard bearer for this “New World.” He will preside over a melting pot that he has violently stirred, elected by a democratic process he has time and again inveighed against, constrained by a system of checks and balances which he has repeatedly insulted, and able to dismantle a Pax Americana he has vociferously raised doubts about. Though his ascent might have been disruptive and unprecedented, his place at the top of the pecking order in the “New World” is unquestionable. However, his ability to stay atop is certainly questionable.

Illiberalism and a form of splintering tribalism seem to be on the rise, but if global cooperation and diplomacy recede, will it be possible to handle international issues like climate change? Who will keep the Kremlin in check, if and when it jockeys for territorial expansion and cyber dominance?

The “New World” winners want to stem the flow of immigration and free trade. Will isolationism boost a country’s economic prospects or is it a recipe for further malaise?

Many of the West’s new leaders are overtly contemptuous of democracy; some have patently exclusionist, xenophobic, and racist beliefs. Has this full-scale assault on cosmopolitanism and liberalism taken root in the West, or is it a passing—and dangerous—chapter of history?

How Trump and his compatriots in the West handle the uncertainties and contradictions raised above will determine how they fare. Their ascent to positions of power, popularity, and prestige in their respective countries are a clear mandate for fresh and new leadership. However, if they are not able to govern and deliver, then they will be booted just as soon as they were ushered in. The million dollar question is how far these fresh-faced renegades and newly-minted leaders of 2017 will deviate from the west’s current course. If their campaigns and proposals are any guide, the change and disruption could be profound.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee  / Heights Staff

To Protest Trump, Students Walk Out of Class

While the outcome of the 2016 presidential election may seem like a distant memory to some, Bostonians are striving to keep the election results at the forefront of the public memory. Many of those joining protests are students.

On Monday afternoon, hundreds of students—ranging from middle school age to college—walked out of their 1 p.m. classes to attend the Boston Student Walkout and protest the election of Donald Trump. Organized by a wide-range of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students in the Boston area, the rally officially began at 2 p.m. as protesters gathered in front of the Boston Common gazebo.

With the crowd standing below them, the organizers positioned themselves inside the gazebo, using megaphones to lead the crowd in chants ranging from ‘No Trump, no KKK, no fascist, racist USA’ to ‘Street-by-street, block-by-block, we stand with Standing Rock.’


As participants flooded in, highlighted by an impressive contingent of students from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design carrying brightly colored signs, the organizers gained fire, and began to list off the demands for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. These five demands—that Baker protect public education; protect vulnerable populations of students and their families; declare Massachusetts and Boston sanctuaries for immigrants; and denounce Trump’s connections to racist and white supremacist movements—served as the foundation for the Walkout.

The Walkout organizers, specifically 20-year-old Michael Jones from Boston Day and Evening Academy, also stressed the importance of the power in the youth’s voice through this form of protest. He believes that young people must stand in solidarity for nonviolent demonstrations to get themselves heard.

“The reason that [we are] standing up [with our demands] is that a lot of the things that Donald Trump will be putting policy towards … will affect the future, and the youth are the future,” Jones said. “It correlates all with that.”

And this voice was certainly heard throughout the afternoon.

During the first hour of the protest, organizers led chants with brief speeches from student speakers regarding the importance of each demand. Immediately following, organizers led the ever-growing group of protesters to the Massachusetts State House. As the large group slowly moved down the Common pathways, they continued to loudly chant and wave their signs. Cameras of various media outlets swarmed around them. Passersby looked on with curiosity, often joining from afar with shouts of encouragement.  

Once there, the protesters continued loudly chanting and sharing stories centering on the organizers’ demands before sending a large delegation of students into the State House to present Baker with the demands. For many students, like Mike Wilkins, a sophomore at Northeastern University, this opportunity was ultimately the reason for skipping their afternoon classes and attending this walkout.


“Students need to stand in unity against Trump and against bigotry. We need to show in numbers how we don’t stand for all this horror, and we need the government to denounce Bannon,” Wilkins said in reference to Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon. “We just want to talk to the governor and tell him our demands.”

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, took exception to student walkouts during school hours. Although Walsh expressed full support of the students’ rights to make their voices and concerns heard, he questioned the timing of their demonstration.

“I think they can do it after school,” Walsh said.  

Wilkins, however, believes that walkouts exemplify just how much students are willing to sacrifice in order to make their own voices heard and stand up for those who are unable to.

Jones provides a different perspective on the issue. He explained that, that although the students in attendance value their educations, they value their futures as well and refuse to separate the two.

“Our future is under attack, so we want to show that this is what’s most effective, and we also that we use our education,” Jones said. “We view this as an educational time for us.”

The youth’s concern for the future was never more apparent than when a middle school girl addressed the crowd on the steps of the State House before the group marched to the City Hall.  Although the girl wished to remain anonymous, she expressed a shaking and emotional concern for what her future might hold, speaking on behalf of her friends. She believes that Trump does not represent the American people.

“[Trump] appeals to the dark side of people and brings that side out, and then we’re all going to become savages like the boys in Lord of the Flies,” she said.

Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor

Political Correctness in the Age of Trump

Donald Trump has dangerously warped our understanding of the perils of political correctness. Much of America, 71 percent in one poll, thinks political correctness has become a problem. Trump has capitalized on this mood and railed brashly and frequently against our supposedly PC culture throughout his campaign, blaming it for any number of disparate ills that plague our country.

But when Trump goes so far as to cite his disdain for political correctness as an excuse for his countless offensive and tasteless descriptions of other people, he wrongly confuses irreverence for political correctness with plain rudeness and disrespect.

Take his response to Megyn Kelly when she asked him about his long history of degrading comments toward women, many of whom he has called “slobs”, “pigs”, and “dogs”:

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.”

By invoking PC culture to excuse his callous language and behavior throughout his campaign, Trump distracted from the way in which the phenomenon has actually become a problem. In these instances, and so many more, Trump isn’t voicing a reasoned view—he is being mean and vindictive. If our politically correct culture stops Trump and people like him from calling women “dogs”, that is, if it upholds commonly accepted norms of treating other people with respect, I hope we can all agree that it is actually a good thing.  

On college campuses, which pundits often point to as the worst examples of excessive political correctness, we may actually need an even stronger PC culture, if we define it as the suppression of hateful insults. Earlier this semester, on our own campus, someone rearranged the letters of a parking lot sign to spell an anti-gay slur. After the election, several instances of hateful and discriminatory acts toward minorities were documented on other college campuses.

But we cannot let Trump distort the term. PC culture is actually beneficial insofar as it suppresses the use of hateful language. The real problem is that it prevents people from expressing their views, which inhibits constructive discourse. It empowers people to ignore other arguments or instinctively condemn them, or worse, their author, as some sort of “ism” without considering the view on its own.  

In this sense, political correctness does reign tyrannically on college campuses, where the demand for ideological conformity limits intellectual diversity. When people do share dissenting social and political views, some simply refuse to listen, or worse. Innumerable examples have been criticized in the media over and over: Speakers disinvited from campuses, professors and administrators forced to step down, student op-ed columnists attacked and disavowed.     

It seems to me that these examples, which draw ire from all corners, are the clearest manifestations of a much more subtle and insidious culture that represses thought and expression. Campus debate about Trump and everything he represents, or lack thereof (debate, after all, implies disagreement), is a perfect, though regrettable example. Political correctness, if I can use the term to describe this phenomenon, is definitely a problem when students on campus, and indeed people across the country, feel unable to express their views, their instincts—like their support for Donald Trump—for fear of being labeled and attacked.

I was utterly shocked and upset the night Trump won. In the following days, I felt angry and despondent. I had no desire to speak with anyone who voted for him, even though I have very little personally on the line with a Trump presidency.

I realize, then, that this is easier for me to say than for others, but I would not be making this point about our culture if I did not feel strongly that decent and respectful conversation is the only way forward. Not only is freedom of thought and expression critical to the preservation of civilization, but without conversation, hearts and minds cannot change.

People can only be persuaded if they are engaged in dialogue. People can only be engaged in dialogue if they feel comfortable enough to express their views. The more we realize how much we share in common with each other simply by virtue of being human, and that our political views do not define us, the more comfortable we’ll be talking with one another. Let’s forge a culture that both condemns hateful language and supports respectful, intellectually diverse discussion.

In order for this to happen, we all must take the opposite cue from our President-elect: less name-calling, more substance, more evidence, and more conversation. Justice and truth will only prevail as a result of careful argumentation and persuasion, not intellectual and moral intimidation.

My point extends to my own ever-changing view, which has been momentarily captured and expressed here. If you disagree with what I’ve said, please explain why in the comments or if you see me on campus. This is my last column, but I hope the conversation continues, for the sake of moving forward.

Featured Image by Evan Vucci / AP Photo

LTE: A Response to Conservatism After Trump’s Win

In the wake of Donald Trump’s win, there are undoubtedly many competing explanations for such a shocking electoral upset. While I agree with the assertion that the election hinged on the political voices of the disillusioned, it is inaccurate to characterize Trump’s win as a crowning triumph of the conservative movement. In fact, Trump’s platform defies traditional conservative principles in almost every way. The United States didn’t collectively embrace conservatism overnight. The idea that America somehow chose a conservative federal government has no basis in what actually happened on Nov. 8th.

As it turns out, that is the opposite of what happened. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes. Trump performed worse than Mitt Romney in 2012. To say nothing of the irresponsibility and incompetence of Clinton’s campaign for letting this happen, a clear majority of the country rejected Trump. This was not an empowering victory for the conservative movement, regardless of whom President-elect Trump surrounds himself with. I can understand the system was intended to make the federal government work with respect to the will of the minority, as well as the majority. That being said, the Democrats will have virtually no voice in the Republicans’ decision to strip 20 million people of their healthcare.

In your opinion, you fail to acknowledge the irrationality of a man winning an election by a 2.5 million-vote deficit. People aren’t rejecting fairness—they are outraged by its absence in this election. The Electoral College allowed the president to be chosen by a quarter of the population of the United States. Clinton’s ineptitude throughout the election does not negate that basic fact. Conservatism was not legitimized as the true way forward by this election.

In light of everything that was at stake in this election, on top of the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by a huge margin, you cannot dismiss the protests of the outcome. Kneeling to the prospect of Trump’s presidency would normalize the objectives on which he campaigned—very few of which are actually conservative. He advocated for the largest forced deportation since the Holocaust and a national registry for people of a certain religion. Protest is the rational response to an election result that is starkly irrational. Aside from voting, there is no other way for people to voice their outrage.

Andrew Vaccaro, MCAS ’20

Featured Image by Evan Vucci / AP Photo