German School's Newspaper Article: A Bit About Trump
This past winter, my school in Germany asked me to write an article about Trump for their school paper. The article was originally in German, but I just finished translating it and wanted to share it at the same time as the G20 Summit begins in Hamburg, and as the second edition of the school newspaper is about to be released:
Donald John Trump is a US American businessman, politician, and the designated 45th president of the United States. At least, thats how his Wikipedia article starts. As of now (I wrote this article in November, before he took office) people have yet to clearly define who Trump really is. 16 years ago, Trump was actually a Democrat based on his political views. He was for the right to choose to have an abortion, wanted more gun laws, and even said that he was for global health care. But the man who donated money to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation is now long gone. Who, or perhaps better, what now represents the perhaps most important leader in the democratic world is still an enigma. In the next four years, the world willl see what type of person Donald J. Trump really is, or really wants to be.
First, a short introduction about Donald Trump. Wikipedia says, "Donald Trump is the fourth of five kids from the New York Real Estate Agent Frederick Trump Jr. (1905-1999) and the Scottish fisherman's daughter Mary Anne MacLeod (1912-2000) from the village of Tong on the Hebridean Island Lewis and Harris. His father's parents Friedrich Trump and Elisabeth Christ came from Kallstadt in Rheinland-Pfalz (at the time a piece of the Kingdom of Bayern) and later immigrated to the US. Friedrich Trump was a second cousin of the Ketchup Company founder Henry John Heinz (who started his brand in my city, Pittsburgh), and whose grandmother Charlotta Louisa was born as a Trump. In an interview, Trump said he was proud of 'this German blood'. In 1987 he wrote in his autobiographical book, The Art of the Deal that he actually suspected his grandfather came from Karlstad in Sweden, with which he carried on a fictional tale of his father's from the time of the Second World War. There lies an example of the one truth about Trump. He always changes his mind. Another interesting tidbit of history about Trump is that his grandfather, Friedrich Trump originally was called Friedrich Trump. The name Trump sounds very strange in English, and it is suspected that was the reason for the name change. Perhaps if the family name had stayed Trump, he would not have had as much success as he has had.
Now onto Trump and his campaign. This theme was already discussed so many times that some things are no longer worth mentioning, since everyone knows about them. For example, some of the dumb phrases he has said, insults he has made towards women, and his jokes about disabled reporters. However, it's important to think about all points of view. Therefore, I will try to explain the point of view of many people at my old high school, before I share my opinion. A note: for these people, Trump's mistakes are simply something to be ignored. There are, of course, a small percentage of people who vote for Trump who really are white supremacists or Klu Klux Klan members, or sexists, but these are by far the minority (at least in my experience). The majority, simply ignore these parts of his campaign. And therein lies the genius of his campaign. Trump somehow managed to unite very different groups of people, and get them to ignore the parts of his campaign that don't apply to them, i.e. get the extremists to ignore the more moderate parts of his campaign, and the moderates to ignore the more extreme things that he says. For example, the moderates might say ''oh that's just nonsense that he's saying. I'm sure he is only saying those things to get attention and won't really do them''. Additionally, many people never thought that he would win, and voted for him because of that. Even if he had not have won, it's still a vote for different politics. For many people it is also that they simply can't vote for the Democrats because they find a woman's right to choose abortion so terrible or don't accept the facts about climate change or evolution. Thankfully, science doesn't depend on belief to remain true. Sadly, politics is not so lucky.
In the USA, I really get the feeling that people no longer trust politicians and aren't even interested in politics any more. Even I, a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Student, didn't know much about politics before my exchange year in Germany, and couldn't really explain where I stand politically, or hold a reasonable conversation on the topic. In this area, and many others, I think the world has to change perspectives. For many years, countries looked to the USA to lead the western world. Now, we have made mistakes and are behind many countries in other areas of the world, especially Asia and Europe. In Germany for example, students can study at college for free. Aside from this, there are also respectful professions that don't require a university degree. Through this system, education remains a freedom and is not reserved for those of us who can afford to pay for an education. One of my teacher's explained this very well. In the USA, democracy means the right to vote, etc. Whereas in countries similar to Germany, democracy means that everyone has the same opportunities.
In this globalized world, the right to vote remains important. However, for a country such as the United States of America that should be a shining beacon of freedom for the world, it is long time to repair the democratic system within our borders and to consider whether it is still possible to save the American Dream, if such a thing ever existed in the first place. The USA shouldn't strive to become Germany, and the opposite should also not occur. In this world, every country should strive to reach goals through their own methods. And when a country loses its way as much as the US perhaps has, this country has to ask itself, where can I look to find new ideas and adapt them to my own problems to become better.
Different than Europe, the USA does not have a long history, which has both advantages and disadvantages. But the now espoused goal of always trying to grab back the USA of the last century can simply not work successfully. The real way to ''make America great again'' does not lie behind us, but rather in front of us. We have to accept immigrants and absorb their culture into our own, exactly like we already did in the past centuries from many European countries. Even our typical foods were stolen; the phrase ''As American As Apple Pie'' explains everything quite well. Things like apple pie we took from Germanic apple cakes and hot dogs from German sausages to name a few examples. We brought these foods with us from our homes of old and our ancestors integrated them into their new lives in the States and created something unique from these old traditions.
Instead of being afraid of losing our culture, we have to be happy that in the US our culture is still changing thanks to new things from countries such as Mexico. If you know me at all, you will certainly know how much I adore Germany. But Germany and Europe have completely different problems than the USA. In Europe there are traditions that are thousands of years old instead of traditions that are hundreds of years old as in the US. Due to this, there are great foods such as gingerbread and Black Forest Cake. But we in the US don't have such a solidified culture yet, and exactly that way is how it should remain. As this world becomes increasingly more globalized, the USA can only hope to lead the way to a brighter tomorrow when it accepts all cultures, and to use a somewhat overused metaphor, looks forward to being a big salad. With many different ingredients all together in one bowl, without losing the most important parts of the original ingredients.
I hope that Donald Trump and his administration, in addition to many other citizens, will realize this one day as well. Until now, he has not done anything that surprising. With some other things, such as the Climate Change denier he appointed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, he is exactly as expected. How the next four years will go is a mystery to all except Trump himself, although I doubt that he knows much better than anyone else what the future will hold. When someone is so easily influenced from Twitter and the media, you can never be sure what tomorrow will hold. I'm crossing my fingers for the next four years.
*Please keep in mind that I wrote this article before Trump took office
Reflecting back on what has occured since I wrote this article, I think the one theme that I would like to stress more than any other is the importance of finding shared ground. Politics in many areas of the globe is becoming increasingly polarized and radical, both left and right. This is often a dangerous situation for democracy to be in, and I would urge everyone to focus on cooperating with people of different perspectives and working to find compromises that suit as many people as possible.
The photo is of Trump inside a soda bottle, that looks like a cannon, with the caption #menschwachauf which means, man, wake up! in German.