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Open-mindedness is key to activism

By Julian Aguilar

On Jan. 24, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will advance approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline despite its denial on behalf of the Obama administration. This comes weeks after exhausting protest and its subsequent celebration by the people of the Standing Rock reservation for its short-lived victory.

These executive orders were not unaccompanied, however. In the first nine days of his presidency, Trump had already taken action in rolling back Obamacare, commencing the construction of a wall on the Mexican border, restricting US funding for NGOs that provide abortions, and severely restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries.

Already, he has exercised his executive power in reversing the previous administration while fulfilling his own campaign promises.

But what exactly are the implications of an executive order? Obviously, it is designed to carry the force of law and its power is vested within the executive branch, but what does this mean for our democracy? Perhaps it is an overstepping of presidential power in our American governmental system. Perhaps it is an outlet for the president to navigate the unnavigable maze that is our political process. Regardless of one’s interpretation, the act itself matters not so much as the agenda it carries forward, which has a major influence on the nation’s domestic and foreign outlook.

Trump’s executive order regarding the DAPL and the construction of pipelines in America alone is a clear representation of the conflict in his interests. While he aims to “put America first” by creating more jobs that will reside within the country, he gives little regard to the global environment.  

A vast majority of Republicans find issues relevant to global warming and the environment low on their list of impending issues, choosing to focus more on the military and the economy. Trump appeals to this ideology and, given his background as a staunch businessman, this does not come as a surprise.

In a sense, Trump’s signing of these executive orders within the first week of his presidency is a reflection of the very reason he was voted into the Oval Office in the first place. Much of the nation during this year’s election season refused to acknowledge the rise of those angered and frustrated by the establishment of the last eight years. And on Nov. 8, these neglected Americans finally had their voices heard. They wanted change.

Trump’s executive orders are just the tip of the iceberg in his answer to this call for change. His message, “Make America Great Again,” carried him all the way to the presidency. Now, it is a mandate that he owes to the American people, whether they voted for him or not.    

So what do executive orders, such as these, tell us about a Trump presidency? In all fairness, it is much too soon to tell, but one can only hope that these actions do not set a precedent for the next four years and beyond. Trump’s early assertion of some of his most controversial campaign promises do not bode well for his future plans and it is important to remember that the will of the American people cannot be ignored.

Compromise is key.

At the same time, although we, as Americans, tend to insulate ourselves within ideological echo chambers and political bubbles, we need to acknowledge and respect the diverse ideals that our democracy supposedly fosters.

In our small yet tightly-knit community of Alameda, and even in the Bay Area, it is relatively easy to regurgitate the same political and social ideals and constantly nod our heads in agreement with each other in our day-to-day discussions. This, although creating closer relationships among Alamedans, produces dangerously uninformed American citizens. We begin to form such a disillusioned perspective of our nation that our politics become stagnant and polar, dirtied by the abrasive rhetoric that ensues when one expresses views contrary to our own.

Communities, states, and segments of the nation become political islands and all hopes for healthy discussion and debate are dashed by the ideological walls that we build ourselves. Trump is not the only one building walls here.

But in our country, right here and right now, rather than marginalize Trump and his supporters, we need to begin shifting towards support of the reality of his presidency, acknowledging and appreciating what he is doing right while verbalizing our informed concerns to keep him in check.

Apathy is our worst enemy.

AHS Journalism
The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.