Address the big, orange elephant in the room


We treat national politics like dark magic — as if uttering a particular president’s name will break us all out in warts. Yet, we are bombarded with information, gossip and opinions regarding this particular president from seemingly every direction except school.

Last week, this particular president was indicted, and then charged, with 34 counts of business fraud. He is involved in numerous other criminal investigations. 

He continues to make history: the first president to be elected without public service experience, the first president to be impeached twice and now the first president to be indicted on criminal charges. 

Yet, we rarely talk about him in school or beyond. We cannot ignore the massive orange balloon that has been hanging over our heads for nearly eight years.

Former President Donald Trump makes headlines and trends on social media every week for something new. Last week, it was the indictment: a callback to a six-year-old scandal. 

The investigation that led to Trump’s indictment began before he became president. The charges are related to a $130,000 payment made by Trump’s then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The payment was made just weeks before the 2016 presidential election with the purpose of silencing Daniels from going public about her affair with Trump.

Despite this historic occurrence, very few classes discussed the event or its significance. We treat Trump with such delicacy — we’ve made him so untouchable — that we can no longer hold him accountable. 

In school, we have gotten nothing but silence. Outside of school, we have been overwhelmed with information coming from all sides in an increasingly polarized climate. Pundits engaged in screaming matches on cable television, politicians and activists duking it out on Twitter, and through it all, continuous news notifications of new and increasingly shocking White House affairs.

During the tumultuous four years of his presidency, the news has gotten faster and angrier. A Trump news cycle looks like this: Trump or his political allies do something horrible. The public is outraged. Trump or his political allies do something worse. The old thing is forgotten, and the public is outraged about the new thing. 

The fast-paced and depressing nature of politics and current events shuts out many young people. However, those who choose to stay informed are left dazed and confused, without a clear way to digest what they see and hear. 

Seemingly, ongoing criminal charges would make a candidate unelectable; meanwhile, Trump’s newest campaign fund has seen an increase in donations. Circumstances we believed would shut down voters are instead fueling them.

After the Jan. 6th insurrection, some worry that Trump’s lies about elections and due process will inspire more violence. 

The hullabaloo surrounding Trump is confusing and scary. Without a space to understand the situation and process our feelings, we are left to marinate in them, letting them eat away at us.

These unsavory feelings have been with us for years. As we’ve grown up during Trump’s presidency, we’ve become numb to inappropriate presidential behavior. Scandal after scandal has been swept under the rug. 

Given the commotion surrounding Trump, it’s hard to remember that it hasn’t always been like this. Trump constantly one-upping himself has raised the bar for what is newsworthy, for what we care about. With this high bar, we let a lot slip under the radar. Wrongdoings do not have repercussions, they simply disappear. 

For our generation, politics seems over-simplified. The Trump administration made a mockery of the government: soap-opera drama paired with action-movie destruction. 

In comparison, the Biden administration is calm, or in Trump’s world, boring. The lack of scandal in the White House, and the abundance of it at Mar-a-Lago, means the media focuses on Trump once again. 

A constant spotlight on Trump’s offenses and the limited consequences he faces creates a sense of despair. We are looking at politics in a much more cynical way: we ask ourselves, “How’s he going to get away with it this time?”

The media has a fine line to walk: Trump (and his campaign) thrives in the limelight, yet he evades accountability if not exposed. It’s a catch-22. How do we raise awareness without giving him attention?

The answer lies in educating the youth. Being able to synthesize current events is a skill — one that we cannot currently realize in school. A safe space in school would allow us to stay informed, process emotions and cut through media fog. Discussing politics among peers and being equipped with the knowledge of both sides of an argument creates responsible citizens. 

Whether we like it or not, politics drive our future. The ability to understand it empowers us to grab the steering wheel and navigate toward normalcy and integrity.

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