Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s recent trip to India sparked debate over the past few weeks. The usually beloved Trudeau is under fire for his ignorant and overzealous approach to Indian culture in hopes of forming a bond with the country. A Sikh extremist convicted of attempting to murder an Indian politician was invited to eat with Trudeau which also raised speculation. This backlash is new to Trudeau, who is adored on social media for his flashy socks and good looks, instead of his controversial decisions to export weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Trudeau is among the world leaders who, by displaying their personalities and charm front and center, are able to distract the public from their questionable actions.
With a constant media buzz and an array of news outlets, it is more important than ever to take a closer look at our politicians and leaders beyond what they choose to show us. Idolizing leaders based on niceties such as personality and charm is dangerous because it overshadows and masks the serious acts these leaders partake in.
Former President Barack Obama’s atrocious crimes, yet favorable image in some media, is an example of how charming politicians are able to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. Obama is favored among young people for his witty tweets and appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” he is able to maintain a ‘fun’ and ‘relatable’ image.
During his presidency, Obama ordered more than 500 drone strikes against targets in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates around 300 to 800 civilians were killed in these countries between 2009 and 2015. What’s most sickening is the Obama administration was able to normalize this practice. There was no public outcry because the White House provided limited information and often false figures. In the first year of his presidency, Obama ordered more drone strikes than Bush did during his entire presidency. According to Gallup, by the end of 2009, President Obama’s job approval rating by Democrats was at 85 percent.
This is why it is so vital to examine our leaders based on their actions instead of what they say. Perhaps the skepticism and doubt that is applied to unorthodox leaders such as President Donald Trump is one we need to apply to all leaders.
Ronald Reagan, Hollywood actor turned president, was an example of this as well. Reagan is held in high regard in the rankings of U.S. presidents. So beloved, his supporters call themselves “Reaganites,” however when the AIDS/HIV epidemic hit America, Reagan used his power and charm in leading the country towards ignoring the crises and enabling homophobia towards victims. When he left office in 1989, he had a remarkable approval rating of 63 percent.
Character and personality are traits we should examine in our leaders, but they should not be the only factors. It is our duty as citizens to be aware of the actions of our leaders and then hold them accountable, regardless of how we view them personally.
Amna Kayani, Contributing Columnist