Can American Core Values & Diversity Thrive in a Trump Presidency?

The country has sworn in a new president; President Trump is barely two weeks into his term, yet it already seems that a different United States of America is evolving before the eyes of the world. Is this the start of a new era in American history, where long-cherished, core American values, such as freedom, equality, democracy, solidarity, and diversity, are endangered? Or will these values continue to thrive in a Trump presidency?

Questions such as these have been raised as a result of numerous executive orders that Trump has signed, which has caused much alarm and concern – both here and overseas – about the eroding of these basic American values. Where is America heading into the future with President Donald J. Trump at the helm?

The Impact of Trump’s Executive Orders

On his very first day of office, a few hours after his inauguration, President Trump lost no time in fulfilling one of his strong campaign promises: the repeal of Obamacare. Many believe this will negatively impact poor Americans and other marginalized sectors. A repeal could lead to increases in the number of newly-uninsured Americans, the number of people facing difficulties from pre-existing conditions, the size of the federal deficit, and how much money people will have to pay for their health care. 

Other executive orders of the president, which so far are causing fear, confusion, and uproar include:  

  • Authorizing the construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border 
  • Reinstatement of the American policy called the “Mexico City Policy,” which blocks US federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion, or expand abortion services. (Wikipedia)  
  • Banning refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. 

The immigration ban was ordered suspended by a NY federal court. The court’s decision, which will affect people who have been detained in airports, came after the ACLU and other activist groups filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqis who were held at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as a result of the order. But confusion had taken over other airports in the country. Protesters, lawyers, and lawmakers rushed to major U.S. airports on Saturday as word spread that refugees, legal permanent residents, and other travelers were being blocked from entering the United States due to a new executive order from President Donald Trump.

The tech industry – among other sectors – struck back, too. Caught by surprise by the immigration ban, tech industry executives began publishing notices criticizing the new regulation and warning employees of its potential broad and dramatic impacts. From Apple, Google, and Facebook to Microsoft, Airbnb, and Box, the message was pretty much the same: Limiting immigration hurts employees and innovation. Tech company leaders say that the president’s travel ban will impact their employees and that it violates personal and company principles, the WSJ reported. 

Indeed, lack of diversity still characterizes many tech workplaces, yet many are striving to overcome discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, and religion. In the wake of these executive orders, a move for California to secede from the USA has been set into motion. Backers of the movement have submitted their proposal to the Secretary of State and can already begin collecting signatures. This was announced by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, as the group pushing the proposal, Yes California Independence Campaign, has been cleared to start collecting about 600,000 voter signatures – the number needed to place the plan on the ballot. 

According to the group’s website, “In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment, and to the detriment of our children.” Although there have been previous attempts to push for the secession of California from the rest of the nation, which have failed, the current “Calexit” proposal is reported to be supported by 1 in 3 Californians, according to a recent poll.

Core American Values

Among the basic core values that define who Americans are as a people is equality of opportunity for all, including Americans of foreign descent and foreigners who come to America seeking greener pastures. Several laws have been enacted to promote this and to protect anyone from discrimination, such as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and other laws enforced by the EEOC.

It is ironic that a nation that arose from the union of the different colonies of early European settlers – most of whom were just simple folks in search of better opportunities in a new frontier where they hoped to live with faith and freedom – stands today on the brink of disunity and isolation.

America was, until today, a land of immigrants. To the world, America symbolizes great opportunities, a welcoming nation. Therefore, immigrants from different parts of the world continue to come here and seek a better life – not only for themselves but for their families as well. 

The U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 42.4 million, or 13.3 percent, of the total U.S. population of 318.9 million in 2014, according to ACS [American Community Survey] data. Between 2013 and 2014, the foreign-born population increased by 1 million, or 2.5 percent, according to statistics. Thus, the immigration ban and the order to build a wall along the borders strike a painful chord in the hearts of many and go against another deeply-ingrained American core value, that of championing the rights of the oppressed.

Among the voices of dissent is Chuck Schumer, Democratic leader in the Senate, who was quoted as saying:

“Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded, has been stomped upon. Taking in immigrants and refugees is not only humanitarian but has also boosted our economy and created jobs decade after decade. This is one of the most backward and nasty executive orders that the president has issued.”

In other words, the diversity that makes up the American nation drives it toward progress.

But diversity, as it is, still faces a lot of challenges – especially in relation to its twin value of inclusion. Hence, the building of walls, or the repeal of affordable healthcare access for the poor and marginalized, and most of all, refusing entry to immigrants and refugees – will most likely pose greater challenges.

Other sectors, aside from the tech industry, will also be adversely impacted by the travel restrictions: healthcare, education, professional services, tourism, and the science & research community – just to name a few. And families as well. Many employees of diversity companies, job seekers, students, non-US citizens, and green holders alike, will be affected by this ban.

With that said, it would help to look at the controversial orders of President Trump, as well as all the protest actions and criticism, through the prism of hope and to focus on the positive aspects. For example, here’s an excerpt from President Trump’s immigration ban:

“In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” Trump states in the opening section of the executive order, “The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred…or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

It will be good to give room for the newly-installed president to grow into his new role with dignity, respect and statesmanship, as suggested by in a previous article, Trump Win: Victory or Defeat for Diversity. And Americans can help him achieve that by giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Our social lives are abundant with these kind of self-fulfilling beliefs – both positive and negative. This is why giving people the benefit of the doubt is an effective way to reverse the self-perpetuating cycle of cynicism. (See more here) Considering the president’s political inexperience and privileged background, he may still be bungling his way around. So it is upon the citizenry to show him the way and to appeal to his good side.

There are, of course, valid reasons for all the concerns regarding the President’s orders. It is also the moral responsibility of the people to stand up against any injustice. People need to be vigilant. But the times call for rising above partisanship, disagreements over his policies, and negative perception, difficult though it may be. And the best way could be giving the new president some leeway, giving him the benefit of the doubt. This approach might work or not, but at the very least, the American people can help ensure that their basic, cherished values remain intact. 

The people can signal that message to the president through their openness, understanding, and positive persuasion. The ongoing protests actions, marches in support of refugees, and chorus of condemnation are signs that Americans will never ever allow their core values and principles to be tramped. Solidarity. Support. These are American values that shine through amid all these crises.

Just look at how the immigration lawyers rushed to airports to offer their legal help pro bono to affected travelers. Yes, in these troubled times, compassion is most needed. Love trumps hate. Diversity will live on.

Something to ponder: “Never underestimate the amazing power of love to change hearts and mindsets. Love can even give fresh inspiration to tackle what seems to be impossible.” – Maria Fontaine