President Donald Trump might not be making America great again, but he sure as hell is making a lot of Americans sick again.
In the last two years, several studies have documented the physical toll his presidency, built on racism, misogyny and xenophobia, has taken on its victims, including women, persons of colour and LGBTQI.
For women who were sexual assault survivors, hearing Trump speak about women retraumatised them, exacerbating their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental health providers reported that they were overwhelmed by clients who were pushed over the edge by Trump’s misogyny. I was one of them.
Running for president, Trump ran a vile anti-woman campaign during which he called women dogs, pigs, ugly, horseface, fat among other offensive appellations. He mocked a female Fox News presenter who, in an interview, asked him about these demeaning monikers for women by asserting, in the crude vernacular, that she must have been menstruating.
But the worst was yet to come. Right before the election, an audio tape of a conversation between him and Billy Bush, a former TV host, surfaced in which he boasted of sexually assaulting women and pursuing extra-marital affairs with women.
Trump can be heard saying in reference to an unnamed woman “I did try to *uck her. She was married… I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married.” Speaking of another woman, he bragged that he should use some breath fresheners in the event of him kissing her, without her consent. He explained to Bush “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” While some believed the tape would sink his chances of becoming president, I knew otherwise. This tape would seal his presidency. Trump had tapped into the darkest characters of what secretary of state Hillary Clinton has correctly described as a “basket of deplorables”.
The adamancy with which Trump, the President, pushed through Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the supreme court despite credible allegations of assaulting Christine Blasey Ford and visible contempt for female Senators questioning him re-ignited yet another round of illness for sexual assault survivors. This was only outdone by Trump himself using his podium of the most powerful person on earth to slut shame a survivor of sexual assault.
In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, healthcare providers again were overwhelmed. Survivors noted that it was not only the confirmation of a predator that triggered women but also the rank disregard for Ford’s experiences, including Trump himself who doubled down on Kavanaugh and even argued it was a terrible time to be a man because any woman could tank his career with a fake allegation.
Women are not the only Americans who have been made ill by the toxic masculinity of this president. Muslims generally, but Muslim women in particularly have felt vulnerable in Trump’s America. A study of millennials found that, on average, one in four reported symptoms of PTSD because of the 2016 elections themselves. However, the authors of the study reported that “students who self-identified as a minority, as female, as a Democrat, or as a non-Christian reported the most significant stress levels”.
At the same time, the Trump regime has eviscerated an already weak public infrastructure to manage the evident mental health crisis in America, as well as our notoriously appalling lack of affordable healthcare coverage.
As the 2020 “genital selection” is in full gear, the legacy of the 2016 race is apparent. Female and minority candidates who have far more experience and gravitas –and fewer liabilities—are polling well behind the white male front-runners.
Pete Buttigieg, a gay but white, male mayor from a Podunk town in Indiana, is considered more electable than high-profile female candidates such as Senator Elizabeth Warren or Senator Kamala Harris. The media covering the candidates routinely trot out the misogynist trope that the varied female candidates are not “likeable”, a critique never levelled at men.
For women, people of colour and religious minorities, the last two and half years have felt like a decade. At every turn, the Trump regime has undertaken initiatives to roll back hard-fought civil rights gains. The 2020 election is not merely a contest for who shall lead the world’s most powerful country, it is a contest for America’s very soul. Will America continue its embrace of white, cis-male, Christian supremacy or will the majority of Americans—who are not white, cis-male Christians—turn out to reclaim America for all Americans?
C Christine Fair has authored the books Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and In Their Own Words: Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba
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