What Are Integrity And Civility Under Donald Trump?

The day after Donald Trump was elected President, I remember the fear I felt suffocating the air around anyone who was in any way a minority.

People were afraid.

Afraid for their safety, afraid for the possible loss of their rights and freedoms, afraid for their lives. It may seem dramatic to anyone who has never been discriminated against for their race, gender, sexuality or religion, but if you are on the side that has been, then I’m sure you felt that same fear too.

I’m not old enough to vote, but when I sat on the living room floor that night of November 8th, 2016, when I saw the results of the election, everything inside of me stopped. I may just be a teenager with still a lot to learn, but even I could recognize the way our country would begin to change, and it terrified me.

I am sixteen years old, and for the first time in my life, I feared for my future not because I was unsure of what college I would attend, or what degree I would strive towards, but because an unfriendly world awaited me, a world I had never anticipated having to live in.

And of course, there has always been evil and inequality in the world since the beginning of time, but for once, that hate and discrimination were far too close to home. I am a woman, I am a Mexican-American, and I am afraid in a way that I haven’t been before.

That day, after Donald Trump was elected to be the leader of our country, I felt as if I was living in some sort of alternate reality, a nightmare I had no time frame for. I kept expecting to look outside and see the flames of Hell, people screaming, dying, a scene straight out of the Purge. But everything was just normal, and that was even worse.

Has our society really come to the point where hate and inequality are disregarded with nothing more than a shrug and a phrase I hate so much: Well, what can we do? Well, I can tell you what we shouldn’t do, and maybe even a little bit of what we should do, too.

To start with, we cannot continue to repeat the failures of our history. Blood has not been spilled, families have not been torn apart, children have not been murdered, and humans have not been denied their basic rights for us future generations to just sit back and let it happen again.

We must fight back, and we must make it abundantly clear that as a community, as a society, as a nation, we will not continue to allow this hate and inequality to rule the world.

Love should rule the world. Acceptance should rule the world. Being kind should rule the world. Why doesn’t it? Both integrity and civility are crucial to demonstrate in today’s society but only under the correct circumstances, meaning that if you need to use other means to fight for what is right, then integrity and civility can be disregarded.

Throughout daily life and interactions, integrity is extremely important to possess. However, opinions on when it is beneficial to have integrity vary greatly.

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles or moral uprightness. As a child, the idea of integrity was taught to me as “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” The general opinion on integrity seems to be that you should exercise it all the time, no matter what.

Despite this, I feel that many aspects of life’s different situations are ignored when this mentality is adopted. For example, should you show the utmost respect and sincerity to someone who more or less spits on your entire existence? Some may say yes, delving into the issue of why fighting fire with fire is wrong, but my personal opinion is that you don’t have to. You shouldn’t have to.

Take an instance where Person A is being rude to Person B, even though Person B has never done anything wrong to Person A. You, Person C, have two options. The first option is to sit back and do nothing because it really isn’t any of your business, and getting into an argument with Person A doesn’t seem like something a person with integrity would do. The second option is to protect and stand up for Person B, even at the risk of starting an argument with Person A.

This leads me into the idea that it is vital to stand up for those unable to stand up for themselves and to fight for equality. When I hear someone being discriminatory towards others, especially minority groups, I make it my mission to stand up for those people. This could be something as simple and easily forgettable as an interaction I had only a few weeks ago.

I was sitting in class, doing my work, when I overheard some students near me saying awful things about transgender people. As someone who has friends who are transgender, and as someone who advocates for trans-people’s rights in general, hearing this was heart-sinking.

A couple of years ago, I probably wouldn’t have said anything. My thought process would have looked a little something like this: Oh… That’s… awkward. I mean, I could say something. I could. Who cares what they think of me, right? Maybe I’ll just–Yeah… no…

I get it. I get that it’s hard to stand up for people and risk being ostracized, but there comes a point when fear will only lead you to let others get hurt, and to let hate win.

When I heard those students in class a few weeks back, I turned to them and said kindly, but firmly, “You’re being rude, and you wouldn’t like it if someone were saying those things about you. You should take in account how transgender people must feel with all the hate and discrimination and try not to be so ignorant next time.”

Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t, maybe those people even hate me now, but either way, I know that I at least gave an effort to do my part and stand up for people who weren’t there to stand up for themselves. In my opinion, that is the real definition of having integrity because it is not always easy to be on the side of the minority, but it is the right thing to do.

After speaking with my parents, I asked my brother Kyle and his friend Noah, who are both college students, what they thought of when they heard the word “civility.” Kyle said that the idea of human rights came to mind, and for Noah it was the idea of service to others. In my opinion, these two statements perfectly demonstrate what I feel the true meaning of civility is. Standing up for basic rights and freedoms, and giving to others.

After receiving these answers from two eighteen-year-olds halfway through their freshman year of college, I wondered what kind of response I’d get from two adults at a later stage in life, so I decided to ask my parents the very same question I asked Kyle and Noah. What do you think of when you hear the word “civility”? My mom said that she felt civility meant peace and order, and my father explained how he felt civility encompassed the ideals of manners and diplomacy.

The separate, and rather different, sets of answers were exactly what I had expected to receive from both pairs, respectively. I am aware that my personal definition on civility is quite different than that of middle-aged adults, and it also seems to be the case that in general, teenagers and young adults as a whole have views on civility that are quite different than middle-aged adults.

Civility is formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech, which matches up with my parents’ personal definitions of civility much more than it does with my brother and his friend’s definitions. It seems that younger people, including me, see civility in terms of the fight for equality and political justness, while older adults view it in a more conservative way.

That isn’t to say that all older adults share the same views as my parents, or even that all young adults share the same views as Kyle, Noah and I.

However, older people tend to be more supportive of the republican/conservative party, while younger people lean towards the support of the democrat/liberal party. In a 1997 election, only 23% of people just of age to vote in their first election voted for the republican/conservative candidate. In contrast, a much higher 42% of people in the senior citizen age range voted for the same republican/conservative candidate. Although a rough demographic, these percentages do show how younger people tend to be democrats and liberals while older people tend to be republicans and conservatives.

When I asked Kyle and Noah to elaborate on their stances on civility, they went into detail about how if they witnessed someone disregarding someone else’s humans rights or acting how they deemed to be uncivil, they felt that they wouldn’t need to be civil or “blindly kind,” as Noah stated it, for the sake of keeping peace.

We must speak up for people and do the right thing, which ties back into having integrity. While there is a huge political divide now between the two opposing parties, having civility for certain issues is okay as long as both parties are being civil in the dispute of these issues in the first place.

However, if one party begins to make decisions that will harm or be detrimental to a group of individuals, just as it was with Nazis putting Jews in concentration camps, or how it is now with the discrimination against women, LGBTQIA+ folks, black people, illegal immigrants or Muslims, then the idea of “being nice” to those discriminative people suddenly becomes childish and ignorant.

Although integrity and civility can both mean vastly different things at different times, they are both extremely important the majority of the time. Even though Donald Trump is our president right now, even though it feels like hope is out the window and kindness is non-existent, even though it feels like integrity and civility are dying, it doesn’t have to be that way. Integrity and civility don’t have to die.

We just have to fight for it.

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