President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address began the way many previous State of the Union speeches have: with a tribute to American heroes. Over the last year, Trump said, Americans “have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We have endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul and the steel in America’s spine.”
Each test has forged new American heroes to remind us who we are and show us what we can be. We saw the volunteers of the Cajun Navy racing to the rescue with their fishing boats to save people in the aftermath of a totally devastating hurricane. We saw strangers shielding strangers from a hail of gunfire on the Las Vegas strip.
There’s nothing wrong with honoring the volunteers who rescued people during Hurricane Harvey in August, or those who rushed to help gunshot victims during the Las Vegas shooting in October. It’s just a bit ironic coming from Trump, during a speech intended to tout the accomplishments of his first year in office. Yes, these Americans showed incredible bravery. But the government did nothing to prevent these tragedies from happening in the future.
Hurricane Harvey broke the record for the most rainfall ever from a single storm in the continental United States, and two separate peer-reviewed studies have found that climate change increased the storm’s rainfall by at least 15 percent. The resulting flooding was largely what caused such death and destruction in Houston. And yet, in his first year, Trump has only proposed policies that would make climate change worse. Just last week, he said he doesn’t think the problem exists.
In the face of the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in U.S. history, Trump did nothing about gun violence. He said the real issue was inadequate mental health care, not gun control, but still has done nothing to prevent mentally ill people from accessing guns. Earlier this month, Trump officials “suspended a program that helps thousands of professionals and community groups across the country find effective interventions for preventing and treating mental illness and substance-use disorders,” according to the Washington Post.
“In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life,” Trump said on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, neither faith nor family will save Americans from gun violence and climate change.