President Donald Trump’s executive ban on visas from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen was recently suspended by a federal judge, which is in effect nationwide — though it is currently being appealed. As the ban comes to a standstill, uncertainty about the treatment of immigrants, Muslims and green-card holders by the United States still hangs in the air.
Though many Americans find the Trump administration’s actions shocking, they are only a consequence of inaction. It is the failure of people to act sooner and to care for the injustices that previous administrations have done to these countries, as well as to its own citizens, that has gotten America to where it is today. Under the Obama administration, the seven countries that were put on this list previously had restricted visa rights, and five of these seven countries were bombed during his administration. His administration was also responsible for deporting more people than any previous president. Trump’s actions are not occurring in isolation, but only a continuation of policies that Americans did not openly oppose that have caused them to become the norms of society. The apathy toward the United States’ bombing of these countries as well as the normalization of profiling Muslims has created the foundations on which Trump’s actions are built upon. They are not unfounded, but instead only a continuation of previous policies put in place in the name of the war on terror — though this time, on a much larger scale. These policies only further the fear of others, as they did post 9/11, and the rate of hate crimes has only risen since.
The rhetoric behind Trump’s ban is for the safety of the country, but the countries where such terrorists have come from in the past — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar — are not on this list. Though many of those who voted for Trump thought that he would not be influenced by special interests, these countries are still allies to the current administration. And yet, even as people hold on to the idealism that the Clinton administration would have been bliss, the truth is that its foreign policy was still largely influenced by special interests, as the Clinton Foundation accepted tens of millions of dollars from these same countries. For the citizens of the six countries with a history of violent intervention on behalf of the United States, which administration destroys their homes has little relevance to them. The executive ban only brought the issue closer to the home and directly affected people in a more overt way. The ban was based on the fundamental misunderstanding that the citizens of these countries are to blame for the turmoil in their countries and equates the oppressed with their oppressors.
It is crucial that all people who seek to create real change ask themselves what it is that they seek to achieve and whether their activism is true or only self-fulfilling. In the age of social media activism, people often sit behind their computer monitors and try to write the cleverest anti-Trump rhetoric or pro-humanity slogan in 140 characters, without action to follow. Likewise, people may attend a protest and forget about the issue the next week because it is no longer in the news. Though social media activism and protesting can be powerful, it is crucial to be consistent and to show continued solidarity for there to be sustainable change.
Even if the ban is truly suspended, there are more issues in this country that have long been buried far below the attention of the public eye. The effects of social media activism and other forms of self-fulfilling activism are evident in the way issues are so easily forgotten, like the Flint Water Crisis, which is now rarely talked about in the public sphere, but it is nowhere near resolved. The House Oversight Committee recently closed the investigation of how much officials knew about the lead levels in Flint’s water, leaving Flint’s residents without answers for the causes of their suffering.
Likewise, though people have been rising to protest against the Trump administration’s decisions, there is still a lack of fair media attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is often the issues of those from lower socioeconomic status, people of color and victims of dehumanizing foreign policy that go overlooked and forgotten. Not only should people be concerned with the issues that are easily visible, but also those that go forgotten easily and that have been prevalent for years.
It is up to us to not forget them, not just when the issue affects us personally, but whenever we see acts of injustice, whether it be on Americans or on those affected by United States policy around the world. It is only with consistent reminders and tangible actions that these issues can be reversed, and long-standing systemic problems can be overturned. The world is at a crossroads in history, and which direction America will take is unknown.
And yet, in the short time that Donald Trump has been president of the United States, there has been a strong public solidarity among people in support of immigrants and Muslims that has never been seen previously on such a large scale. This should be used as an opportunity for people to unite and question policies that are created on the basis of fear, which stems from misunderstanding foreign countries. It also stems from a lack of public consciousness on the United States’ influences in these countries and the systematic racism that is so prevalent in the education, occupation and health systems. If these issues are truly eradicated, the changes will last far past Trump’s administration.