For the United States, 2020 has been a year filled with conflict, isolation, death, and corruption. This year alone, America has faced many challenges including potential war with Iran, the death of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, the Coronavirus pandemic, Murder Hornets, the death of George Floyd, and finally Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality.
As the United States faces these obstacles, it calls into question how the government, and in particular President Trump, are dealing with these crises in this time of necessary leadership. We have seen President Trump engage in a systematic pattern of bullying behavior. Whether it’s a presumed Democratic opponent (“Sleepy Joe”), his former Republican challengers (“Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted”), a female senator, (“Pocahontas”) or even his own former Defense Secretary James Mattis, if anyone criticizes or disagrees with him, POTUS responds with name calling and other derogatory behaviors. It’s clear that President Trump has had a history of bullying and belittling others to show his abuse of power through aggression.
During the last several months since the Covid-19 pandemic began, President Trump has responded with even more verbally abusive behaviors against his opponents and the American people. President Trump has responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic which has killed more than 123,000 United States citizens in a little over 100 days a “hoax.”
Furthermore, he has called his own people and protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement “thugs” and disturbingly said that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” More recently, a 75-year-old peaceful protester was shoved to the ground by two Buffalo police officers and as he laid in the hospital in critical condition, President Trump taunted the innocent man by falsely calling him an “ANTIFA provocateur” and his fall a “set up.”
President Trump’s actions are not ones of a role model, but instead that of a bully, where he is continuously setting a poor example for the younger generation.
Does the President’s behavior have a negative effect on the growth and development of students and the younger generation? We spoke to psychologists and experts on bullying to see if Trump’s “bullying” actions have a negative impact on children.
According to licensed clinical counselor, journalist, and author Phyllis Fagell, “Children are studying the adults in their lives and they absorb what they see in the popular media, in politics, and the news.” She explains, “When kids see leaders getting ahead through power and aggression, by belittling people, it sends a message, and changes the culture that seeps down to even children.” Fagell notes how it’s common in schools to see an “abuse of power and or using power in aggression that’s harming people, and it doesn’t take much to destroy a culture.”
Similarly, Donna Clark Love, a bullying educator, speaker, author, and expert, explains how bullying in adulthood is when someone targets another who “speaks out against injustice, the caring ones, the ones that are highly skilled because they feel threatened.” For example, on May 26, Trump responded to the Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis by threatening to send the National Guard to the city to “get the job done right.” These actions support the idea of President Trump being a bully because he threatens his own people, sending military force and might to intimidate the mostly peaceful protesters.
Even young children have identified Trump as a bully. When Love was training middle schoolers about how to deal with bullies, she asked them to draw a picture of a typical bully at their school. Unsurprisingly, she notes, “One student who was a very good artist, drew a picture of Donald Trump.” The student told her, “This is a true bully.”
Of great concern are the students seeing President Trump’s actions via the media and following in his footsteps. According to Tracy Vaillancourt, a Professor in aggression and bullying at the University of Ottawa, “President Trump’s behavior has a negative impact on stability and discourse.” Vaillancourt explains that when “society regularly witnesses sanctioned bullying, like the kind of behavior [Trump] engages in, they’re exposed to examples of aggression working effectively. This behavior is “so problematic because people, in particular, children, are more likely to imitate people who are powerful, people who are rewarded for their behavior.” Moreover, Vaillancourt explains how “our normative beliefs about aggression impact our behavior” and “change when we constantly see Donald Trump acting like he does.”
Donna Clark Love notes that kids are adopting President Trump’s name-calling and abusive behavior. “Kids follow his lead on Twitter,” she notes. They echo Trump’s hurtful phrases (“Kung Flu”) and taunt others with by repeating Trumpian sayings such as “Fake News,” “Build the Wall,” and “MAGA.”
President Trump’s unabashed racism is directly causing children of color to be targeted by their fellow students. Famously, President Trump kicked off his 2016 campaign by asserting that Mexicans are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” According to the news outlet, The Independent, in June 2019 a 13-year-old boy whose family supported the President told his Mexican American classmate that “all Mexicans should go back behind the wall.”
President Trump’s inappropriate and often violent rhetoric is negatively affecting the collective psyche of our youth. Students are seeing what’s going on in the media and are “being desensitized,” according to Vaillancourt. They are getting “used to this instability and cruelty that transforms [students] into being even more aggressive.”
It’s almost unimaginable how our next generation will continue to be affected if this Bully-in-Chief is elected for four more years.
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