Playground Politics for the Trump Era

We should’ve seen it coming.

The moment Senate Republicans refused to hear Judge Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination—screaming “La La La” with their fingers jammed inside their ears, no doubt—our democracy transformed into the middle-aged, predominantly male version of Mean Girls.

“You can’t sit with us!”

Republicans were determined to attain ‘Queen Bee’ status no matter who got burned in their wake. Most didn’t seem to care how such actions might undermine democratic tradition, as they were merely out for revenge against President Obama. Garland’s credentials were hardly relevant—his bid floundered before it even had the chance to flourish.

But now, as Senate Republicans once again work to subvert our country’s founding principles by stealing health care from 22 million of Americas most vulnerable citizens behind closed doors, it’s clear to see that these behaviors weren’t the exception, but instead, the new rule.

Melodramatic as it may sound, Donald J. Trump’s fledgling presidency, and the contentious campaign on which it was built, exacerbates this trend toward infantile impulsivity. After all, those drafting the latest version of the health care bill essentially established an offshoot of the boys’ club we all know D.C. to be. At this point, it’s not even far fetched to imagine these 13 men congregating in some makeshift treehouse with a “No Girls Allowed” sign tacked to the door.

For modern Republicans, party “trumps” people, so to speak. Despite the fact that these elected officials were chosen to represent their constituents long before Trump moved into the neighborhood, they seem desperate to remain in the good graces of the curmudgeon-in-chief. Few have had the backbone thus far to speak out against Trump’s polarizing policies, not because they agree with his views necessarily, but because they don’t want to lose their seat at the lunch table.

Most Republicans are so unprepared to defend their actions, in fact, that they’ve actually tried (and failed) to curtail press freedoms within the halls of Congress. Let’s just say, these so-called leaders never would’ve survived my eighth grade history class. Our teacher, Mr. Finn, warned us that, if we crossed paths in the hallway outside our designated class time, we might still be subject to an on-site pop quiz. No one enjoys being caught off guard, but when your grade’s on the line, you’ve got to use any opportunity you can to excel.

Of course, we are talking about the party that used the national debate stage to argue about the implications of male hand size, so perhaps shining in the spotlight isn’t their strong suit.

But at the end of the day, the bell tolls for those who’ve compromised their dignity to appease the man who, judging by the true results of the 2016 election, wasn’t actually the most popular candidate in America. Delaying the vote on a bill that’s more reminiscent of a death sentence cannot and will not absolve this group of the guilt associated with their methods, either. Their colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—must hold them accountable for its content and its creation.

Trump himself deemed the bill “mean” in a private meeting with Senate Republicans—and he’s the Regina George of this entire mess, so that speaks volumes. Yet, even if the bill still isn’t as “kind” as he’d prefer, there’s no doubt that he’d sign it into law if it manages to pass. Like the rest of his cohorts, he’s determined to destroy Obama’s legacy by any means possible.

From climate change to Cuban relations, Trump will scribble his name on any executive order or piece of legislation that undoes Obama’s landmark achievements, even if it means compromising America’s future in the process. He’s all about spectacle, not substance. “Getting things done” means nothing if, in the end, everything’s come undone.

Maybe, if we promise to stick a gold star at the top of each document that crosses his desk, Trump will finally sign something that benefits the greater good.

 

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Idolizing the American (Athletic) Hero

Early Monday afternoon, Diana Nyad touched land in Key West, FL after her 110-mile swim from the coast of Cuba. Though the 53-hour journey was successful, this accomplishment was truly 36 years in the making, for 64-year-old Nyad began her record-breaking adventure at age 28. From less than ideal weather conditions to unbearable jellyfish stings, Nyad endured nature’s wrath repeatedly, failing four times on her path to an excruciating, yet triumphant, fifth try. With determination driving her every move, Nyad overcame age—an assumed barrier in the athletic world—to achieve her lifelong dream of being the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

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Nyad said she would “find a way” and, with her team by her side, the seasoned swimmer overcame the obstacles that once threatened her journey’s completion. “I got three messages,” Nyad told reporters after her return to dry land. “One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Often times, when it comes to sports, we glorify and praise players for their athletic prowess, for we admire their youth from the sidelines. Talented as they may be, we pay professional athletes exorbitant amounts of money to entertain us while partaking in an activity they truly enjoy (and would presumably play for free if money were no longer an issue). Though most attribute their obsessions to their love for the game, the fascination with sporting events and athletic achievements often stems from the onlooker’s wish to exude such physical superiority. (We do exist within a culture that values the young and locks away the old, after all.) We long for the speed, agility, and build of those who excel at our favorite pastimes.

But this week, Nyad traded her spot in the AARP registry for a place in the record books. She defied all odds to prove age need not define your being, for that number has no bearing on one’s dreams. She spent the last four years fighting to achieve something she once believed fell through her fingers as a young woman. Most would’ve allowed that initial failure to pass them by—many might’ve even let the struggle define their remaining years. Nyad, however, saw her mother’s death as the trigger for reevaluation. Nyad chose not to live with regret and defied our ageist notions to succeed where all others, including herself, had failed.

Now, not only does she hold an incredible record, but she stands as a symbol for courage and hope. She represents perseverance and determination, becoming an idol for both young and old. Her success spans generations, for her goals and accomplishments prove that giving up need not be an option no matter how long it takes to achieve your dreams. And, in a society that often depicts women as worthless once they’ve passed their physical prime, Nyad proves that health, wellness, and success go far beyond the pretty, young faces scattered about Hollywood. Her daring, dangerous adventure shatters both age and gender barriers, allowing her to embody a living metaphor that will inspire generations to keeping swimming toward their dreams, no matter how elusive the shores may appear.

(Image courtesy of cbsnews.com.)