This land is your land: American reflections on Trump’s first 100 days

April 29, 2017
This land is your land: American reflections on Trump’s first 100 days
Stories of worry, bullying, anger, relief and, in one case, newfound confidence

“Somebody said to my son, ‘You’re going to be kicked out,’” she said. “He very calmly turned around to the guy and said, ‘You’re so dumb. I am an American citizen, I won’t be kicked out.’”

Mubashir, who has been the victim of bullying even before Trump became President, has found new friendships with his classmates from Latin America in the last few months. “All of his friends are suddenly Hispanic,” Faruqi said. “I asked him why and he told me, ‘People hate Muslims and Mexicans, so I figured we have to stay together.”

Bullying has increased, even as “teachers don’t take it seriously,” Faruqi said. Other students “call my son a terrorist and I complain to the teachers and they laugh and say the kids don’t watch TV. I feel it is more blatant now. ”

Faruqi, a writer, said she has felt the animosity herself when she’s out at the supermarket or running errands.

“I feel like people are more able to say things that they maybe would not have said before,” she said.

But, Faruqi said, “I have also had people who have been acting more friendly than they would have before.”

And Mubashir has found a deeper appreciation for his religion.

“I have seen that he is more willing to speak out about Muslims about Islam,” Faruqi said. “The other day, a friend asked why he wasn’t eating pork and he said that’s what the Koran said. I was proud of him. At his age he doesn’t want to have a religious conversation. Every word is ‘whatever.’”

A threat to education

For Diane Ravitch, one of the leading advocates of traditional public education, President Trump’s first 100 days in office have been bleak.

“I think the most important thing he has done is appoint a secretary of education who is not a fan of public schools,” Ravitch said, referring to Betsy DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has no teaching experience and never attended public school. “I think she represents a very serious threat to public education.”

Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, said she worried Trump’s plan to let parents choose their child’s school could permanently undermine funding for public schools.

“I think that this could be very serious for the future of public education, pretty ominous.”

But not all the developments are distressing: DeVos’ confirmation hearing “became the fodder for late-night talk shows,” Ravitch said, generating new interest in public schools.

Membership in Ravitch’s Network for Public Education, a public school advocacy group, has surged from 22,000 members in September to 350,000 members today.

“People who never knew there was a secretary of education are now interested in the public education,” she said. “People became very aware because she is a lightning rod.”

In this Chicago home, a break from the news

Sonya Strenge, 36, had prepared what she would say to her 3-year-old daughter when Hillary Clinton won the election. But when she realized Trump would win, she turned off the news.

“I’ve never turned it back on,” she said. “My husband and I have kind of decided to shield her from this.”

Strenge and her husband occasionally watch topical comedians like Samantha Bee and Seth Meyers after their daughter Linnea goes to bed, but have otherwise avoided the news, which used to be a big part of their evening routine.

“Our media consumption has definitely changed,” she said. “We are very selective of what we want her to be consuming and very selective of what we watch in front of her.”

As Linnea gets older, Strenge thinks she’ll introduce more details about policy, activism and voting. But for now, Strenge wants her to focus on being a child.

“She’ll be in elementary school in two years, I am sure they are going to talk about the President,” Strenge said. “I don’t want to blind her and say, ‘We don’t have a President, honey.’”

New worry about police, violence

Like any grandma, Nadida Matin, 50, worries about her grandchildren. As a black, Muslim woman living in St. Louis she’s acutely aware of the threats she and her family can face from the government.

Her step-son, Abdul Kamal, was killed by police in New Jersey in 2013 and Trump’s support for police and lack of interest in reform makes her feel at risk. Kamal was unarmed, and was shot after he refused to take his hands out of his pockets, a New Jersey newspaper reported. Police called the shooting justified.

“Being a Muslim and having (Trump) say he is a law-and-order candidate, and having a step-son murdered by the police makes that even more concerning,” she said.

Matin is raising three of her grandchildren, ages 8, 10 and 11, and has made a point to talk to them about how to interact with the police.

“I tell them not to be fearful, to be engaged and know your own presence and strength; don’t be disrespectful,” she said. “We don’t allow them to go to the park unless we’re present. Stay in safe places. Don’t do things that would have people look at you as something other than your authentic self.”

But Matin, a lifelong activist, has also found that Trump’s presidency has revealed hard truths about race in America.

“Trump, he brought those thing to light that most people don’t want to talk about,” she said. “His being elected just made us have those conversations that we struggle with. He took away our ability to be ignorant to what’s going on. You no longer have the luxury to sit on the side lines.”

Feelings of safety in small-town Indiana

Rachel Kidd, 14, plays tennis and is on the cheerleading squad at her middle school in Bedford, Indiana, a town of 13,000 people. She wants to become a marine biologist or practice art.

But Kidd also worries about what she sees in the news: the threat of terrorism, ISIS and rising extremism. And so far she’s been very pleased with Trump’s aggressive approach to those issues.

“With us being in small town, I know we’re not directly involved in that stuff,” she said, referring to the threats of terrorism often felt in large cities like New York, Paris or London. “But what he’s doing makes us feel safer.”

“One thing that President Trump was really big on was protecting America and America First, and he stayed true for that; he has not let refugees in so far,” she said.

Kidd knows some people are threatened and hurt by Trump’s immigration policies, but she feels those stories are overplayed by the media.

“I hope that he continues to keep our country safe and stops many of the terrorist groups and the terrorist attacks,” she said.

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