Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Michael Abrahams | President Trump Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Published:Monday | February 6, 2017 | 2:04 AMMichael Abrahams

I have a very uneasy feeling about Donald Trump’s presidency, and the possible consequences of his actions have already begun to concern me.

Trump’s mantra is ‘America First’, but he shows blatant disregard for certain groups of Americans who are legitimately contributing to the society. For example, shortly after being inaugurated, all pages dedicated to women’s and LGBT rights were deleted from the White House website. He also signed an executive order reinstating a federal ban on funding for international non-governmental organisations that provide abortions, making it more difficult for women to get access to health care worldwide. Interestingly, while signing it, he was surrounded by men.

All references to ‘climate change’ have also been deleted from the White House website. Climate change is a real phenomenon. However, in 2012, Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” This attitude places the people he governs at risk, as measures to protect them from the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, will likely be ignored by his administration.

At his inauguration, Trump took the oath of office and swore that he would to the best of his ability “preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States”. One week later, he signed an executive order on immigration that was unconstitutional. The order imposes a 90-day travel ban, with some exceptions, on the citizens of seven predominately Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also suspends the US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days and indefinitely prohibits Syrian refugees from entering the US.

The first sentence of his order states that it is to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States”.

However, evidence suggests that the countries proscribed do not present serious terrorism risks in the US.

A report produced last year by the Cato Institute found that the annual chance of being murdered was 252.9 times as great as dying in an attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist on US soil. The executive order cites the 9/11 attacks three times, but none of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from any of the seven countries named in the order. According to the CIA, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and the other from Lebanon. Aprproximately 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 massacre. On the other hand, not a single American was killed on US soil by citizens from any of the countries listed in the executive order between 1975 and 2015, the 40 years examined in the study.

Not surprisingly, Trump has business ties with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Trump also holds extensive business interests three other Muslim-majority nations excluded from his list: Indonesia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. These countries have documented ties to Islamic terrorism, with the US State Department even issuing a travel alert advising US citizens not to travel to Turkey because of “increased threats from terrorist groups”.

Many legal experts have challenged Trump’s order, declaring it to be unconstitutional. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates defied the White House and ordered the Justice Department not to defend it. Trump fired her immediately. US District Judge James Robart also questioned the constitutionality of Trump's order, and lifted the travel ban. Taking to Twitter, as usual, Trump referred to Robart as a "so-called judge” and vowed to overturn his decision.

Then there is the infamous wall that Trump plans to build at the border with Mexico, and his outlandish demand that his southern neighbour pick up the US$12-billion to US$15-billion tab. Trump’s stubborn insistence caused Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a scheduled visit to Washington. Nieto tweeted, “This morning we have informed the White House that I will not attend the meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the @POTUS.”

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox was more direct, tweeting to the White House press secretary, “Sean Spicer, I've said this to @realDonaldTrump and now I'll tell you: Mexico is not going to pay for that f**king wall. #F**kingWall.” Fox has also made this statement on at least two television interviews.

Also, worrisome are Trump’s strategies to control the press. Breaking with tradition, he restricted access to the two official inaugural balls to pool press coverage only. The US Environmental Protection Agency, the agency responsible for passing and upholding regulations on issues such as clean air and water and the carbon emissions responsible for global warming, was told to stop communicating with the press or the public “effective immediately”, and the Department of Health and Human Services and the Interior Department have also received directives limiting how they communicate. Scientists at the research division of the US Department of Agriculture have also been barred from communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded research, including investigations on how to cut down methane, a greenhouse gas that is a major cause of climate change.

By burning bridges and planning to build a wall, American President Donald Trump risks isolating not just himself, but the American populace, the people he is charged with protecting. His irrational and autocratic style, disregard for the constitution and established facts, and desire to muzzle the press, are indicative of an emerging dictatorship, stressing many, not just in his country, but worldwide.

We should all be concerned.

- Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.