‘The coun­try’s di­vided’

Amid Trump’s shake up, many won­der­ing ‘what’s com­ing next’

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Days into an ad­min­is­tra­tion that promised to gov­ern by up­heaval, Don­ald Trump’s White House has been the tar­get of mas­sive protests, de­fied re­porters who ques­tioned fact-chal­lenged state­ments and is­sued a blur of light­ning-rod ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions. The speed and depth of it all have left many Amer­i­cans ap­pre­hen­sive: Even some who longed for a shake-up are unset­tled by a sense of chaos it has un­leashed.

“We’re in a very frag­ile state right now,” said Mar­garet John­son of Ger­man­town, Mary­land, who runs a small trans­la­tion busi­ness. “We don’t know what’s com­ing next. The coun­try’s di­vided. There’s a lot of fear. And I think we’re kind of at that point where things can go any kind of way, and it’s re­ally hard to say which way they’re go­ing to go.”

That uncer­tainty finds an echo in Pas­tor Mike Bergman’s church in Adrian, Mis­souri, 40 miles south of Kansas City, where many con­gre­gants count them­selves as con­ser­va­tives and em­brace the new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s order cut­ting off fund­ing to in­ter­na­tional groups that pro­vide abor­tions. But as church mem­bers con­sider an­other order — re­strict­ing refugees and paus­ing en­try to the U.S. from sev­eral Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries — wor­ries about se­cu­rity are tem­pered by con­cern about the needs of refugees and whether Trump’s rhetoric is widen­ing the gulf be­tween Amer­i­cans, Bergman said.

“There is worry about how deep the di­vide is go­ing to run. There is worry about some of the po­lit­i­cal rhetoric ... about how all that is go­ing to cause the di­vide in the com­mu­nity to deepen and more bit­ter­ness to spring up be­tween the peo­ple of our coun­try. I wouldn’t say we’re re­ally op­ti­mistic right now,” he said.

Trump is hardly the first pres­i­dent to take of­fice promis­ing whole­sale change in the face of sub­stan­tial skep­ti­cism. But Kevin Boyle, a pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can his­tory at North­west­ern Univer­sity, said the new ad­min­is­tra­tion has put it­self at the cen­tre of an ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal mo­ment.

Boyle hears echoes of the Ron­ald Rea­gan era in Trump’s at­tempts to al­ter the role of gov­ern­ment; this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s will­ing­ness to play on di­vi­sion rather than serve as a calm­ing in­flu­ence is rem­i­nis­cent of Richard Nixon. The mass protests since in­au­gu­ra­tion day are rem­i­nis­cent of some of the up­heaval of the 1960s. Still, Boyle said, the ten­sions swirling around Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion are unique.

“I can­not in my adult life think of a mo­ment that com­pares to this,” he said. “The level of ten­sion be­tween these two com­pet­ing vi­sions of the coun­try needs to be re­solved in some way or an­other.”

Trump’s ac­tions have unset­tled Suzanne Kawamleh, 24, a grad­u­ate stu­dent born in Chicago to par­ents who em­i­grated from Syria. On Satur­day night, Kawamleh said, she joined pro­test­ers out­side the ter­mi­nal at O’Hare In­ter­na­tional Air­port to protest the ex­ec­u­tive order stop­ping Syr­ian refugees from en­ter­ing the coun­try. The next day, she told a crowd gath­ered at the county court­house in Bloom­ing­ton, In­di­ana, about how her rel­a­tives had fled Syria by boat and ended up in a refugee camp be­fore find­ing refuge in Ger­many.

Last year, Kawamleh said, she and her fa­ther were taken off a flight for ques­tion­ing when they re­turned from Le­banon to do relief work in a refugee camp. But that scru­tiny, she said, pales with Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive order, which forced a fam­ily friend from Syria who had flown to the U.S. to visit a sick rel­a­tive to re­turn to the Mid­dle East on Satur­day.

“Im­me­di­ately af­ter the order, ev­ery­thing changed. There wasn’t a chance to plead your case,” she said. “It seems like ev­ery­thing is very in flux. Peo­ple don’t know what’s go­ing on.”

AP PHOTO

In this Jan. 29 photo, a pro­tester waves a U.S. flag as an­other holds a sign that reads “Let Them In” during a march and rally to op­pose Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive order bar­ring peo­ple from cer­tain Mus­lim na­tions from en­ter­ing the United States, in down­town Seat­tle.

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