We’ve entered the era of President Donald J. Trump, and after many summer months with Middlebury students — and others — arguing that a seemingly-impossible Trump administration would usher in a new wave of neo fascism, reality is proving disturbingly close to what was once deemed mere hyperbolic humor. Within days of taking office, amidst a series of other disturbing policies, President Trump has presented an executive order banning individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. Additionally, the ban bans all refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely. The national embarrassment of German chancellor Angela Merkel feeling the need to call President Trump and “explain” the Geneva Convention — as reported by Sam Jones and Philip Oltermann of The Guardian — pales in comparison to the horrific human rights violations this blatantly racist, xenophobic ban has caused and will continue to cause.
Our nation’s president has turned his back on Syrian refugees fleeing the worst humanitarian crisis since the Holocaust and effectively criminalized Islam. This is not a casual, inevitable swing of a mysterious, political pendulum “back” to the proverbial right; this is, as aptly put by New York Times Opinions contributor Charles M. Blow, “about democracy and fascism, war and peace, life and death. I wish I could write those words without the callous commercialism with which some will no doubt read them, as overheated rhetoric simply designed to stir agitation … But alas, they are not.”
If you weren’t able to escape the Middlebury bubble to participate in some of the nationwide protests that have taken place since President Trump’s inauguration, you may feel disconnected, helpless. What can we do in our little corner of the world, so far from the bustling metropolises garnering media attention? Hopefully, a lot.
On Feb. 2, Middlebury MSA held it’s own student-organized rally against President Trump’s executive order. The rally featured a number of student, staff and faculty speakers, including President of Middlebury Laurie L. Patton. We at the Campus would like to commend President Patton for her commentary on the ban thus far; we are grateful for her deliberate words of solidarity and support. But we also don’t want President Patton’s words to overshadow those of the heartfelt student speakers who shared their voices at the event, and who were not captured on film by local news stations — only President Patton was. We also encourage everyone involved with the Middlebury administration to stay vigilant, and to ensure that the College’s policies and initiatives during this moment of upheaval are remembered kindly by history. Now is not a time for trepidation or circuitous responses steeped in lofty rhetoric; indeed, the ability to engage in such behavior is a privilege not afforded to those whose day-to-day wellbeing is being directly and immediately challenged. Now is a time to fight, not just talk.
But how do we best fight? We at the Campus assert that one of the first steps we, as Middlebury students, can take is to listen to our peers who feel most strongly affected by Trump’s recent policies. On a campus complicated by overwhelming privilege and whiteness, we would do well to listen to those whose identities inhabit marginalized intersections — be them race, class and/or gender. We would do well not to assume we know how best to be allies, but by asking those who feel especially vulnerable right now what they need. In the long run, there is a fraught political argument to be won, a turbulent fight for an America that celebrates a multiplicity of perspectives but is unilaterally free from racism, sexism, xenophobia and debilitating inequality. In the short run, we can be each others’ trustworthy and supportive friends.