Embarrassment is a common theme in Trump’s presidency. This article is also just another person just adding their opinion to the miasma of writing on this subject. After the crazy State of the Union (SOTU) address last night on February 4, 2020, I felt compelled to write a response. There are many things that were awry and crazy about this particular SOTU address, but there is just one thing I really want to point out here because I feel that this should have been a slight to people everywhere was the gifting of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh last night.
Now when I saw Rush receiving this award, there were a lot of emotions and thoughts that went through my head; Mainly anger. I had to ask myself why so much anger though? It’s not as if this wasn’t necessarily an unpredictable move by Trump; It wasn’t as though I was shocked necessarily. After a few minutes of thinking, I realized that the standard of conduct to achieve this prestigious award had just dropped significantly. I just realized that a complete racist and bigot had just received the highest civilian award that can be given by the president and for what?
I had to take a few minutes to look up Rush and look for anything actually redemptive about him which came up pretty short. I will give credit in the one regard that he has been pretty charitable in the past, but that’s about where that path of redemption ends. Rush had helped to spread and then keep alive the racist and harmful ‘Birther conspiracy’ theory during Obama’s presidency, has been recorded multiple times proposing racist arguments, and honestly just being a racist. That doesn’t even begin to include all the hatred he has brought about to the LGTBQ+ community. I mean, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award that was given to people like Rosa Parks, people who were outstanding in their respective fields or “ for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”. Rush doesn’t fit anywhere in this criteria unless you want to include contributing to the culture of hatred.
While lowering the standard for this prestigious award was a reason for anger and embarrassment, this wasn’t the only reason for my anger. As someone who would’ve loved to achieve that award someday for some great reason, I felt this cheapened the award. I am a former AmeriCorps member who served two terms of service and who was granted a Presidential Volunteer Service Award. I have been working in the nonprofit world for years as I have been going through school and gap year. Eventually I want to continue into public service in either USAID or the State Department and continue to serve my country and bring a positive change to this earth. I’m also not going to lie about the idea of being part of the pantheon of people who have earned that award is pretty appealing. I’m sure that this is something people who work in many fields want to achieve through their hard work. However, now that Rush Limbaugh has been awarded the medal, the presidential medal of Freedom feels cheapened. In a way I thought, “I guess I just need to be a racist asshole to gain national recognition”. I cannot emphasize enough how much this lowered the standard for the award.
What happened last night though with Rush winning that award, was stunning in the regard that now the idea of having to work very hard to create a better future or a better present isn’t a requirement for the award. You can be a racist, bigoted, jerk and you can still win the award. All for just saying good things about an egotistical president. This was the most infuriating part about Trump’s actions last night. His decision to give Rush that award was demeaning to every nonprofit worker, every career government worker trying to serve their country, every scientist out there advancing the United States, every single person out there working their ass off to make this world better. The idea of this award ever going to another person has lost it sheen and has been stained by giving the award to this racist.
As any reader can tell this was a frustration for me as it should be for you as well. I want to remind everyone here that your vote does matter in 2020. I want you to remember that as a country we can come together and make sure the embarrassment of giving the highest civilian honor isn’t given to a racist, that the embarrassment of abandoning our allies because “they didn’t help us in WWII”, the embarrassment of having our leader call other countries “shit countries” doesn’t occur again.