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anne mikolay 2012 120It is the season once again for making resolutions and looking ahead to the New Year. At this time, however, it is my practice to review what I have learned during the preceding twelve months before stepping forward. In 2017, thanks to President Donald Trump, I learned quite a lot about human nature, some of it favorable, some of it disturbing.

On the plus side, President Trump has reawakened political and social awareness. It’s a rare individual nowadays who doesn’t have a passionate opinion about our 45th president. Equally rare is the individual capable of articulating their opinion without offending their counterpart on the opposite side of the fence. While Trump has initiated new political discussion, he has opened a detrimental can of worms. President Trump’s rash practice of free speech has unleashed a tendency among his constituents to speak without filter. Thanks to Donald Trump, I have learned that Republicans and Democrats alike freely taunt one another in the pursuit of their personal truth.

Thanks to President Trump, I have learned that truth is shockingly subjective. By definition, a fact is an indisputable truth; however, facts can be manipulated. “Alternative facts” and fake news spread easily. One of the first lessons I learned in 2017 was that two people can interpret the meaning of the same words quite differently. After watching and listening to President Trump’s inaugural speech, I came away with a startlingly different impression than several of my friends, which led to the second lesson learned: you can wave the red flag of division in some people’s faces and they still won’t see it or recognize its danger.

In 2017, through Donald Trump, I learned that hate, prejudice, and disrespect are alive and well. Whether it’s the behavior of an administration intent on erasing the legacy of our country’s first African American President, or a man plowing his car into a crowd at a white nationalist rally in Virginia, or Trump supporters and detractors waging personal wars on facebook, respect is a thing of the past. The credo “live and let live” has been replaced by “I’m right. You’re wrong. Get out of my face.” I have learned that people are stubborn, and this has nothing directly to do with Donald Trump. We as individuals are responsible for our own behavior. The words that come out of our mouths should reflect the best of us, not our worst; in 2017, I learned some people have forgotten how to respectfully treat one another; some people truly don’t care.

Through Donald Trump, I have learned the adage “guilt by association” is absolutely true. Case in point: Melania and Barron Trump. Sadly, Mrs. Trump and her young son are fair game to Trump’s critics. For example, Barron was cruelly criticized for his posture at the inauguration; his psychological health was publicly debated. Additionally, Melania Trump lives under a sharper microscope than any first lady before her. Instead of focusing on the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Trump’s opponents lambasted Mrs. Trump’s stilettos. Without looking at the White House Christmas decorations in their entirety, detractors attacked Mrs. Trump for her “spooky” lit trees in the White House hallway. Common sense, I see, easily yields to cruelty. Barron Trump is a kid; let him behave like one. Of course, Mrs. Trump changed her shoes in the plane enroute to Texas, and her 2017 Christmas theme of “time honored traditions” was beautifully executed, but those without true Christmas spirit were unable to see.

On a more personal note, in 2017, thanks to President Trump, I learned politics is all-encompassing and tolerance, if it ever truly existed, is dead. There are those incapable of accepting or maintaining friendships with people of opposing political opinions. I have learned that friends I thought would be with me forever can morph into something unrecognizable in defense of their political beliefs. In our current political environment, I have witnessed logical, well educated individuals believing and expressing the craziest things. Thanks to President Trump, I realize now that we can never truly know what is in another’s heart. In a world where friends sever ties because I don’t share their politics, and strangers attack me on facebook for the same, I have learned to guard myself well. I am grateful to POTUS for unveiling the antipathy I did not detect in this world on my own and for teaching me the meaning of friendship.

Donald Trump has changed the world. Though he has unleashed negativity and revealed the darker side of humanity, thanks to him, I have learned positive lessons. I appreciate kindness, respect, tolerance, friendship, and positivity far more than ever before. I recognize that true friendship is not expendable, and I value those who stand beside me despite our differences. I realize there are some people for whom compassion and empathy are not important. I have learned to pay more attention to what a politician does, not what he says, and how he/she lives their life. Thanks to Donald Trump, I know the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of world I want to live in, and I can meet 2018 confidently.

Thank you, President Trump.