On Aug. 4, 2019, I woke up and began scanning the top headlines on my phone like I do on any other day. But something instantly caught my attention. The headline read, “Shooting in Dayton, Ohio, kills at least 9 people and injures 27.”
All mass shootings are tragic, but this news struck hard. Less than one day earlier, I had been watching the coverage of another shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Within 13 hours, more than 30 Americans had died. If one shooting couldn’t force U.S. President Donald Trump and members of Congress to at least initiate talks over gun reform, I thought two in one day would surely do the trick.
And if they still weren’t convinced, I was sure the media and the public wouldn’t watch idly as lawmakers let this one slide by. This national debate would be on the front page for weeks, if not an entire month, I thought. Real change would finally be at our nation’s doorstep.
Instead, less than 20 days later, the first stories on my news briefings were about President Trump’s suggestion he might purchase Greenland. When it comes to distracting Americans from what is most important, no one does a better job than Donald Trump.
In this era, the public must be careful not to let his outrageous acts overshadow the issues at hand, which are often a matter of life and death.
Following the massive outcry for stricter gun laws following these two mass shootings, President Trump claimed he was seriously considering reforms. But he was so vague and misleading that it would have made more sense had he not said anything at all.
Trump even posed for a smile and thumbs-up with the orphan of a couple who had been murdered in one of the shootings. However heartless the gesture may have appeared, the President successfully altered national discourse by shifting the conversation to his insensitive pose instead of the shooting itself.
He had distracted an entire nation.
Whether it is in the context of gun reform, immigration or healthcare, President Trump has mastered the art of manipulating the public. He promised to have Mexico pay for a wall along the southern border, yet has gone to court to have federal funds redirected toward the construction of the barrier which may never even exist.
As many continue to struggle with medical bills, Trump criticized John McCain, who prevented the repeal of the Affordable Care Act before his passing in 2018.
While President Trump may be the most distracting figure in politics, he is by no means the only one who uses this tactic. An equally important problem is the reluctance of his fellow elected officials to call out distraction techniques when they are being employed.
If our representatives are too scared to stand up for what is right, they must be voted out. It is up to us, as citizens, to demand the utmost transparency from our government. If we shy away from this responsibility, we are chipping away at the foundation of truth that defines our democracy.