“The divide in the United States has always been there, but is has become increasingly fierce. I think that social media is a big part of that. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook give more and more people direct channels to voice their opinions. At the same time, social media has helped to create information bubbles which most people fail to break out of.
Most of my friends in the U.S. tell me they don’t know a single person who voted for Trump. Similarly, I have high school friends from a rural part of California where I grew up who don’t know anyone who voted for Clinton. News media more often than not reinforces this singular understanding of the world. Polarization in a time of fake news and alternative facts is a pretty dangerous thing.
Polarization in a time of fake news and alternative facts is a pretty dangerous thing
I have to admit that I generally stick to sources in my own bubble as well. I flip channels whenever Trump is on, I don’t watch Fox News and my Facebook contacts’ views aren’t radically different from mine. It’s natural to spend the limited free time you have absorbing information that fits your interests and opinions. In the past, I didn’t spend as much time on political news. That changed after Trump’s election. I’ve even started reading up on the voting records of some of his nominees for cabinet positions.
Repeal under investigation
What triggered me was the recent repeal of the ‘Streams Protection Rule’ that restricts coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways. The repeal is part of a campaign by Republicans to roll back pieces of Obama’s environmental agenda. The environment is a subject that’s close to my heart and I decided to investigate whether the repeal eliminates previous versions of the rule or just the recent version that Obama enacted into law.
I discovered that Obama’s Stream Protection Rule was a much-needed update of 33 year-old regulations. Even though the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement had been working on this update since 2009, it was only approved in December, of 2016 at the end of Obama’s administration. Unfortunately, The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to undo rules finalized at the end of a previous administration. Clearly, the Obama administration is aware of the Congressional Review Act. Why, then, did they wait so long to pass the Stream Protection Rule, knowing it could be overturned?
“Fear of the other”
Human rights and environmental rights are closely connected. People who are most vulnerable — the poor, the uneducated — suffer most from negative effects of, for instance, pollution and climate change. It deeply frustrates me when I see how callously this administration treats environmental protection rules and regulations, even though the health-related risks and negative impact to our natural resources affect all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.
It deeply frustrates me when I see how callously this administration treats environmental protection rules and regulations
I am also worried about the “fear of the other” that results in increased racism and intolerance, and worry about how freedom of speech, women’s rights and so many other things I used to take for granted may be stripped away if things continue as they have in the first few weeks of Trump America.
This really goes to the heart of our cultural identity as Americans. I feel threatened and I think that’s also true for the thousands of protesters, including friends of mine, who have taken to the streets in recent weeks. It’s sad to see that the U.S. is increasingly turning into two countries in one. It is unclear to me how we can cross this divide.”