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Don’t back down

| Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In 1969, Hillary Clinton (then Hillary Rodham) gave the first student-offered commencement address at Wellesley College. Before she spoke, Sen. Edward Brooke talked about how unnecessary protests were at the time, a complete counter to Rodham’s speech about a youth dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. Hillary spoke, and responded truthfully and gracefully to the senator’s remarks. She said that “we feel that for too long our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.” Hillary didn’t back down in the face of someone who disagreed with a core belief, rather she stood up to them. Another Clinton memory gives us this same lesson. Her mother made her face her bullies rather than hide from them. When you face a bully and are in a position of strength, you don’t back down.

Donald Trump is our bully. He has bragged about sexual assault, praised authoritarian leaders (looking at you, Putin), grouped a whole religion as terrorists, called Mexicans rapists, made fun of a disabled reporter. Need I go on? He is the antithesis of what this University stands for. He wants power for his own gain; he has exploited time and time again his contractors, the very people he claims to support. He is a man who will say and do anything with no real beliefs. This man, in a little over a month, will be the president of the most powerful country on earth. He will be our president, whether we like it or not.

In the face of such an existential threat, we can either pretend to be above the base arguments he is presenting, or we can fight him at every place possible. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” We are allowed to fight without enjoying it, and more importantly, we must fight to protect what we love, or risk losing everything we have. We no longer have the luxury of moral high ground. Donald Trump has destroyed what was considered acceptable in American politics, and we must work to correct that.

Notre Dame, as it has done so often before, must play a part in this. Academia doesn’t have to be a place where all sides are right: There is no moral ambivalence in truth. It does, however, need to be a place where all sides have the chance to be heard and, more importantly, challenged. Let Trump come to commencement and hope he will begin to heal the wounds he has poured salt in. As former Sen. Harry Reid said, “If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump.”

In the spirit of Hillary Clinton, let the valedictorian and University President Fr. John Jenkins follow Trump’s speech, and if necessary, go off script. Challenge him. Call him out, but we have no chance to silence him with our disgust: That didn’t work in the election, and it won’t work in the next four years. Coupled with action (like the University protecting our undocumented students), our words will have power. Donald Trump is more dangerous than we ever imagined he could be, and now more than ever, we need to challenge him on every front possible.

Tyrel London


Dec. 12

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Punta Venyage

    ” He has bragged about sexual assault, praised authoritarian leaders (looking at you, Putin), grouped a whole religion as terrorists, called Mexicans rapists, made fun of a disabled reporter

    Questions for critical thinking:

    • Was the content of Trump’s leak about unwanted advances on random women or about how he had groupies who want to be sexually advanced on? Was this a public declaration with the intention of being interpreted literally or was it a private joke meant for the audience of one?

    • Did Trump “praise” Putin for authoritarian qualities or for other features (outsmarting and negotiating)? Is there a problem in making a statement with positive connotations regarding a foreign adversary? Is your idea of diplomacy with non-allies to say “F you, we will never work together”? How do you view Obama’s interactions with Castro, Ayatollah Khamenei, and other “authoritarian” leaders?

    • What does it mean to “group” a whole religion as terrorists? I assume you mean saying something equivalent to “Everyone who is X is a terrorist”. Has Trump made such a pronouncement, in your view?

    • Was Trump referring to all Mexicans or a subset of a subset of a subset, namely, certain people from Mexico who have immigrated (1) illegally (2) and have committed crimes (3)?

    • Did Trump “make fun” of a reporter who happened to be disabled because of his disability or because of his groveling when he was caught lying? Should having a disability make you immune to any criticism or attack and give you permission to behave in any way you feel?

    • Is the reason you bring these pseudo-examples up because you organically cared and found them yourself or are they a result of you being propagandized and being fed the information through an indirect channel from someone with intentions of riling you up and manipulating the presentation?

    • warmupthediesel

      Punta, you’re the best!

    • ForHumors

      Here we go…. further questions for a dialogue:

      1) Was the content of his comments acceptable in any context regardless of who the intended audience was? As a male who is currently in a graduate professional education program, I have never made such remarks, would not make such remarks, and I hold my friends to similar standards. I have heard similar “locker room talk” in the past (back in high school, from teenagers…) and you can bet I did not have the same respect for them after hearing their true thoughts about women. Easy litmus test: how would you feel about Obama or Bill Clinton making the same remarks?

      2) How do you feel about Trump characterizing Putin as a “strong” leader given Putin’s track record of controlling the Russian media and making dissenters “disappear”? Given Trump’s track record of making grandiose policy statements that have violent rhetoric, it seems strange that he criticizes everyone under the sun except for Putin, doesn’t it? And when did you ever hear Obama characterize Castro, Ayatollah Khamenei, and other authoritarian leaders (Rodrigo Duerte comes to mind) as being “strong”? Hmm seems like Obama was pursuing reasonable policy goals and understanding how to compromise, doesn’t it?

      3) “With the terrorists, you have to take out their families.” Hmmm… interesting. Seems like he’s assuming all family members of terrorists are similarly terrorists. Do you disagree? Do you see how, combined with a proposed “Muslim ban” this could be sending out big red flags that he is predisposed to consider Muslims to be terrorists?

      4) “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” What a nice great way of appealing to racists while also having plausible deniability of being racist yourself. Regardless, this statement itself is false given that illegal immigrants are less likely to commit violent crime. Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mythical-connection-between-immigrants-and-crime-1436916798 (You still trust the WSJ don’t you? Or are you so fringe that you think the WSJ is part of the “libtard” media controlling you too?)

      5) Did Trump come up with that post-hoc to explain why he was, almost precisely, imitating the movements associated with the reporter’s disorder? Was he using it as a distractor to forget that the reporter was, in fact, in the right for saying that his article never supported Trump’s ridiculous claim that “thousands” celebrated 9/11? From the original WP article: “In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”(The original article from 2001: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/09/18/northern-new-jersey-draws-probers-eyes/40f82ea4-e015-4d6e-a87e-93aa433fafdc/) Do you understand how much of an exaggeration it is to go from “a number of people” to “thousands.” Like come on, when has “a number” in our common vernacular ever meant “thousands”? Serge Kovaleski was in the right all along for saying that Trump was making up ridiculous claims.

      6) Are you coming up with these rhetorical questions because you have been raised on Fox News and have now switched to Brietbart, both of which made a business off of telling their consumers that, “ALL the rest of the media is biased and wrong!” Do you understand that is a way to make sure that they have consumers who have bought into their line and do not consider alternate explanations for these occurrences? Do you have a sense of pride in feeling like you’re “woke,” that you know what’s really going on? And here comes across a flashy businessman who tells you that everything you’ve been drip-fed from alternative sources is correct, so you feel vindicated in feeling that way? Do you get dazzled by the crass displays of wealth and think “man, this guy really knows how to do it right, clearly he’s got so much money?” I’m sorry to say but you’ve been hoodwinked, my friend. Confirmation bias is rough.

      • Punta Venyage

        1) In the context of a private conversation, and a rare frequency
        (i.e. an occasional joke is different than constant vulgarity), why
        wouldn’t it be? If this was a candidacy for becoming the next Pope, it
        would be a different story but let’s be HONEST here.

        What planet or
        culture do you live in where you pretend like you are never exposed to
        any vulgarity? Are we living in the puritanical or Victorian era in your
        view? Just turn on the radio and hear a song like Arianna Grande’s
        “Side to Side” where she is talking about having had a long night with
        another man leading to a morning where she is walking funny because of
        it. Throw in Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, any rapper, you name it.
        Do you consume shows like Game of Thrones? Do you browse the internet for NSFW material?

        please tell me how +100 millions of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey get
        sold, where the story is about being a slave for a billionaire (see the
        irony here?). Your false outrage is laughable.

        2) You’re using
        equivocation. Are you saying that when Trump calls Putin “strong” he is
        referring specifically to “controlling Russian media and making
        dissenters disappear”? Or is he referring to other aspects of strength,
        such as pursuing national interests in global negotiations, or other

        3) This is cherry picking and it was not absolute policy
        prescription, namely that “The US must always kill every family member
        of every terrorist”, though this is what you seem to be suggesting.

        strategizing in war is a very challenging and pragmatic kind of
        endeavor, and there are constant decisions about minimizing suffering in
        category A at the expense of some suffering in category B.

        you were bothered by Obama’s record levels of bombings on Middle
        Easterners, given the concern you are trying to portray.

        4) If
        Mexican is a “race” then so is “American” and “Canadian”. As far as
        illegal immigrant statistics on crime, numbers are varied because local,
        state and federal governments generally keep crime related data with
        illegal immigration away from the pubilc eye. Also, I am unable to view
        the WSJ article (which has a pro-corporate interests slant) so I can’t
        really address the claim, but I think it depends on what you mean by
        violent crime. If we’re talking specifically about **murder**, the rate
        is higher among illegal immigrants. Entering illegally and subsequently
        becoming a net user of social benefits (using US government benefits vs
        taxes contributed) is also a distinguishing feature to be mentioned.

        these specific points are moot because you shouldn’t have illegal
        immigration regardless of the characteristics of the individual. It is
        no different than if someone forcibly decides to live in your house, or
        if someone trespasses by hopping on board a ship.

        5) Again, I
        think this issue is so petty that even the fact of us overdiscussing it
        and overanalyzing it is giving it too much spotlight, but I will address
        your points. but first


        Did you get this riled up when Obama said “I bowled a 129. It’s like — it was like Special Olympics, or something.”?
        was a comment that was DIRECTLY making fun diability. If you didn’t
        make a big deal about that, then your outrage at Trump is completely

        But really, I think we should stop being so overly
        sensitive. Even in Obama’s case, I give him the benefit of the doubt of
        just making a joke as opposed to having malicious intent and desiring to
        disparage an ENTIRE class of people.


        The main
        point at the time was that Trump said that there were swarms of
        celebrations during 9/11. The media said “NO THERE WEREN’T”, and then
        later when old videos came up they backtracked and said “No theren’t
        that many”.
        BTW the main clip at the time is here

        Trump exaggerate by saying “thousands”. Sure, he did, you’re right
        about that. But the main point was that there were celebrations of 9/11
        in America.

        6) Is this an attempt to ridicule? The funny thing is,
        you probably got that line of reasoning from a dailybeast / washpo /
        NYT / BuzzFeed publication.

        You do realize that these days we have
        access to DIRECT INFORMATION? We no longer need any media outlets to
        collect and curate information but we can head straight to the RAW
        FOOTAGE. We can also communicate with one another and compare opinions
        directly through the internet, as we are doing here, rather than being
        limited to manufactured opinions being presented on the tv screen or
        article published by a journalist. The fact you think the “other side”
        is Fox News/Breitbart shows you’re completely missing the point of
        what’s going on. You were also likely blindsided by Trump’s victory,
        thinking that it was a 98% chance for Hillary, or something along those
        lines, when it was fairly clear, from an unbiased perspective that these
        probabilities were nowhere near being representative of events.

        you still blindly trust in conventional media for your information, you
        are a fool and not paying attention. The true example of confirmation
        bias is when you deny that the corporate networks have pulled hoaxes on
        us repeatedly, and you refuse to accept this reality and continue to
        think that they are delivering you information with honest and sincere
        intent, focusing on the most important factors and giving you the most
        accurate interpretations of events.