The Photo That Best Depicts The Trump Presidency

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Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt may be the most controversial presidents in our nation’s history, and perhaps the most beloved and most hated. Donald Trump will probably join them.

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How Will History Judge Trump?

He is adored by tens of millions of Americans, while tens of millions utterly despise him. How will history judge him?

Presidential historians have generally rated Lincoln and Roosevelt as two of our nation’s best leaders. But you can already be sure that Trump will likely be ranked as our worst.

You may or may not agree with our presidential historians, so let me offer an alternative way to judge Trump’s presidency. Over time, there will be books of photographs that depict Donald Trump’s America.

You will see him leading his adoring followers in chants of “Lock her up!” and “Send them back!” There will be a photo of Trump standing in front of a church clutching a bible. And of course, there will be one of Trump with his wife, Melania, having just gotten off the escalader in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president.

Trump’s legions of fans as well as all the people who dislike him will look at these snapshots and have diametrically opposed reactions. How we see things is shaped by our preconceived opinions.

A Photo That Symbolizes The Trump Presidency

And yet, there is one iconic photo that I believe best symbolizes the Trump presidency which promised to make America great again largely by building a wall along our Southwestern border to keep out undesirable immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I often think about that photo, which sometimes brings tears to my eyes.

The chances are, you remember it too. It shows the bodies of a man and his two-year-old daughter, lying face down on the banks of the Rio Grande River. The girl was still wrapped in her daddy’s shirt, her arm draped over his shoulder.

They had managed to swim across the river and reach our shore safely. But when the man plunged back into the river to help his wife, the little girl tried to follow him. The current soon dragged them under and they both drowned. His wife survived.

You can easily imagine their story. Living in El Salvador, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his wife, Tania Vanessa Avalos, dreamed of a better life in America for themselves and their daughter, Valeria. It was a dream that tens of millions of immigrants – including our own forebearers – were able to fulfill.

Seeking Asylum

But after a long and arduous journey, when the young family reached an international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico, they were told that they would probably have a long wait before being allowed to cross to Brownsville, Texas, where they would ask for asylum. They decided to risk their lives by swimming across the river, unaware of its deadly currents.

Who knows what might have happened to this family if they had made it safely into the United States?  Perhaps our border patrol would have caught them and sent them back to El Salvador. Or maybe they would have one day become American citizens and led happy lives in their adopted country. But for many of us, they will live on in our memories whenever we think of this haunting photo.

The photo was taken by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.