The State of the Union, Deconstructed

/NPR

U.S. President Donald Trump gave his first ever State of the Union Address and he said a lot of things, most of which were misleading, and some of which were blatant lies. January 30, nearly one year after he took up his presidency, Trump began by pointing out the “optimism” sweeping the nation and how he planned to “make America great again, for all Americans.” Clearly, he was not off to a great start.

The scripted State of the Union speech is intended for the president to let everyone know what’s going on in the country, and reassure them that their president is doing what’s best for them. Starting it off with a few half truths was maybe not the best way to go. The optimism Trump spoke of does not exist in the amounts he seems to think. According to a poll conducted by Monmouth University, a private University of about 6000 students in West Long Branch, New Jersey, when asked if the country was headed in the right direction only 37 per cent said yes. As for the second point, it depends on how you define American. The best way to achieve that goal is to exclude significant segments of the population, which seems to be the plan.

Trump addressed  those affected by hurricanes this year, saying “To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.”

While the statement seems pleasant enough, even hopeful, I can’t help but think back to the storm itself and its aftermath, in which the U.S. government didn’t want to help Puerto Rico because it’s all the way out in the middle of the ocean. They seemed to have forgotten that the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens and therefore entitled to assistance from their government. The reaction at the time makes Trump’s words feel hollow and forced. Someone wrote this for him to say, so he said it. The whole speech was filled with moments like this.

“But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people, this is really the key, the people we were elected to serve,” said Trump, after discussing the Las Vegas shooting and post hurricane support from civilians and the coast guard. Again, everything he says is correct. It doesn’t feel true though, unless he is attempting to acknowledge his own faults as a president, which seems highly unlikely.

Trump goes on for quite a while, massaging the facts into a truth that works for him and his supporters, one that suggest that everyone in the U.S. is doing better as a result of his work. Trump has made claims of 2.4 million jobs being added to the U.S. economy since he became president. However, according to the Washington Post, the number is actually 1.8 million, making in the slowest job growth in the U.S. since 2010.

“So to every citizen watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time.  If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything,” said Trump. The word citizen should be emphasized. Those who are not citizens could not possibly mean less to this president, regardless if their family members are citizens, if they have lived in the U.S. their entire lives, or if they came to the country as refugees fleeing war and devastation, seeking the American Dream. Instead, immigrants who came into the U.S. for any reason are being attacked, and the president even goes so far as to suggest that those who come in through the Visa lottery or through what he calls “chain migration” might all be terrorists.

The state of the union certainly emphasizes trump’s ‘America first’ mandate. He spoke about all of the companies that are investing in the country as a result of tax cuts and a one-time tax break on large companies returning capital to the U.S. from other countries. Apple is using the plan to return some hundreds of billions of dollars that had been kept overseas to the U.S., though some question how far above their usual expenditures that money will actually amount to.

There is an issue with all of these big promises though, and all the ones there is no room here to discuss. Trump has made them before. During the election, Trump convinced a lot of people that he had their best interests at heart, even when those interests were obviously contradictory. With midterm elections coming up at the end of this year, the rest of the world watches with bated breath and some Americans buy into the hype. The 1984-like double think being pushed on the American people in the form of a surprisingly well crafted speech could tip the scales in favour of the black hats. If things are this bad now, what will a little midterm encouragement do?

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