On Sunday, Donald Trump took 20 steps into North Korea, and in doing so, he became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot on North Korean soil.
To which I can only say, so what.
It’s not that the president should avoid such steps. They are important ones if we are to negotiate an end to the North Korean nuclear program that endangers the world. However, there are much more important steps the president needs to take, and he should take them right here in America.
To that end, I’d like to suggest some concrete steps the president can take that don’t involve summer strolls with dictators.
The first step Trump should take involves the much-maligned migrant detention facilities that boast notoriously filthy and inhumane conditions. Despite the fact that the law mandates facilities for migrant children be safe and sanitary, reporters found anything but that when they toured a facility in Clint, Texas. They found migrant children who were dirty and hungry. They found children as young as 7 or 8 caring for babies they’d just met. They found youngsters who had no access to showers or soap. That’s a reflection on all of us, and I don’t want anyone mistreated in my name.
Trump should step into America’s prison system where over 2 million people are wasting away. Black and brown people are disproportionately represented in our prisons. So are poor people of every ethnicity and background. Trump has made largely symbolic gestures by working with celebrities like Kim Kardashian to free one prisoner at a time. But if he really wants to have the kind of historic impact he often talks about, he should stop looking for photo ops with reality stars like Kardashian, and start looking at systemic change.
But before I suggest another step, Trump must step far away from his phone. I’m tired of hearing about his Twitter fights with enemies both real and imagined. I’m tired of news stories about the latest questionable character the president has retweeted. I need the president to rise to the dignity of the office, because America needs grownups in charge of national policy, not extras from the set of Mean Girls.
And while Trump is taking steps, I need him to step past the counter at McDonald’s, past the Quarter Pounders and Big Macs, past the McNuggets and fries. I need our fast-food loving president to step into the shoes of low-wage workers and experience what it’s like to work for minimum wage. If the president takes that step, he’ll see why it’s necessary to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage past $7.50 an hour.
If Trump truly wants to make history, I don’t need him stepping into North Korea. I need him stepping into the real world with the rest of us. Not only to show us who he is, but also to show us who he’s not.
If Trump does not embrace racism, he should step to white supremacists and make them stop pushing hate. If he is not a proponent of misogyny, he should step up and apologize to the women he has maligned and hurt. If he’s not a liar, he should step up and admit that at the very least he’s misled us on multiple occasions
If the president wants to take steps, he can take them here in America, because stepping into North Korea is a great photo op for Trump, but it doesn’t change much for the rest of us.
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