Friday, November 11, 2016

An Open Letter to Our President-Elect

Dear President-Elect Trump,

It is finally over, and it has just begun. After months and months of an ugly, beleaguering election race, you have achieved your goal. You are our 45th President. Half of our country's citizens are happy, relieved, euphoric and share in your victory. The other half are shocked, angry, and grieving at the news of your ascent to the White House. So much so that they are rioting, signing petitions, and marching the streets in protest of your election. All of these things I'm sure you know.

Here's what I know: 100% of America - and much of the world - is watching you. Some are scrutinizing you in hopes of catching any slip or flub or flaw. Others are smiling, applauding, and eager for the fulfillment of all the promises you made. But most of us are silent and watching. We are watching to see what kind of leader emerges once the media shuts up, the riots quell, the confetti is cleared away, the Facebook rants die down, and the champagne goes flat. What kind of leader will you be?

As any leader knows, to lead one must know those whom you are leading. Here are some things you should know about us.

Your presidency is inheriting an angry people. The fact that you won the election so soundly is a reflection of a silent, angry multitude in this nation that is done with career politicians, manipulative soundbites, quid pro quo, and the blind eye and deaf ear of Washington. Those who did not vote for you are also angry - angry that they lost, angry that you won, angry at a president-elect they believe to be a threat to their values and their security. However, the root of all of this anger is fear.

Your presidency is inheriting a fearful people. People fear the unknown; more so, they fear what they don't understand. Our country has watched kindergartners being shot in their classrooms, people in a night club and members of a church being murdered. We've listened to terrorist organizations threatening us, wishing to wipe America from the face of the earth. (Many of us, yourself included, witnessed that threat enacted on our own soil on September 11th.) We've watched family members die of cancer and veterans take their own lives. We've dealt with depression and anxiety and mental illness. We've said goodbye to neighbors who have lost their livelihoods and their homes to bankruptcy. We've watched the body of a child - only a baby - laying dead on a beach because it was better for his family to flee to a new land than to stay in their own. Every person in this country has been touched by some kind of tragedy, pricked by the ache of helplessness, paralyzed by ineffable fear. People are asking what do we do? How can we mend a world coming undone?

So far, Washington has been relatively ineffectual, and at times silent, in answering these questions. And it's no surprise; our government is so divided amongst itself with its god-forsaken party lines that the people seem to exist to serve the politician, rather than the the other way around. Do not manipulate our fear and anger for your own ends, Mr. President-Elect. (If you recall, a young man in Germany did just that many decades ago, and it ended in the deaths of millions.) Instead, we ask you to listen. Listen to us. Then when you're tempted to speak or to defend yourself or to argue your point, stop. And listen some more. Listen to those that oppose you. Listen to those that support you. Listen to those that are different than you. Listen to those that do not, as of yet, have a voice. Listen to your country. Listen to understand, not to speak. Understand our anger, our fear.

And there's something else you need to understand.

President-Elect Trump, if all you were inheriting is an angry and a fearful people, then I wouldn't even bother writing this letter to you. But you're not. This is what else you need to understand:

Your presidency is inheriting a strong and courageous people. The formation of the United States was a miracle forged by the grace of God and the bravery of men and women - a small army in the freezing mud - who refused to bow to tyranny. And our relatively short history proves that we don't cower when challenges arise or when bullies come swinging. We are willing to fight for things that matter to us; this country matters to us.

While there are some who will burn the American flag, there are more who will fight to keep that flag flying (which means we also fight to provide the freedom for those protesters to burn that flag). Our flag is a representative of us, just as you are a representative of us. Lead us. Not as a father-figure leading children who require hand-holding, catering, superficial explanations, and the old "because I said so" justification. Lead us as our Commander-In-Chief: a confident, clear-headed, disciplined leader at the head of a strong and courageous people.

Your presidency is inheriting a compassionate people. Despite the fear-mongering media depicting the hatred and violence happening around the country, I know that this hatred is not the rule, but the exception. I have experienced the kind and compassionate interactions of republicans and democrats, of liberals and conservatives, of Christians and Muslims, of heterosexuals and homosexuals, of blacks and whites. These interactions give me effusive hope. We are a nation who is well aware of our differences, and we are continuing to learn what it means to accept differences without judgment or fear. To show kindness regardless of race, creed, orientation, or gender. And this is accomplished when we look each other in the face and see ourselves reflected back to us. Everyone is us. Lead us, Mr. President-Elect, with the understanding that every person matters. Every single one.

With all that said, there's only one other thing you need to understand.

You don't make us; we make us. Just as we make you.

While you may have invested millions of dollars into your campaign, you are our President-Elect because the votes of the people put you there. You are our president. (This is not the great American tragedy as some have recently stated. It is the democratic process in action, which is what makes our country what it is.) And as our president, we ask you to lead us with dignity, with discernment, and with discipline. And while you're listening and leading, meeting and negotiating in Washington, we are going to live our lives. Yes, we are watching, but we are also getting back to work. Because at the end of the day, we make our country what it is.

While you create policy and you appoint justices and you do all-things-presidential, we teach our children to be kind. We educate our students to think bigger and dig deeper. We involve ourselves in respectful civic discourse. We study history so as not to repeat it. We invite our neighbors who are different from us over for dinner. We see someone in need and we help. We look those we pass on the street in the eye and smile. We hold the door for others. We speak up when we see injustice. We say "I'm sorry" when we hurt someone. We laugh at ourselves when we make a mistake. We answer softly when harsh words are spoken. No policy or president can make our country a better, brighter, kinder place. That's up to us, and that's a responsibility we will earnestly undertake.

It has just begun. We are for you, Mr. President-Elect, because your success is our success. And we look forward to working with you in the days ahead.

With hope and expectation,

Anna

19 comments:

  1. I love your letter Anna. Thanks for putting in to words what so many of us are feeling, seeing, experiencing, expecting. Blessings!

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  2. Very well written Anna!! I enjoyed immensely and respectfully.

    Just one comment- I know it was not well documented over the last year, but I had to smile when you talked about his need to listen.
    That is all he has been doing. And that is what caught the eye of the forgotten man and woman of the United States of America.
    So I believe he is off to a great start. 😊

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    1. Thank you, JeanneMarie. Indeed, it is not well documented, but I've been encouraged by his speech on election night and in his comments after meeting with President Obama at the White House that this listening is, in fact, happening.

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  3. If only some on the other side would read this, they truly seem to believe that all of us are radical bullies.

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    1. Hi, Bonnie. Indeed there is always danger in stereo-typing folks based on political parties. (I miss the days when who you voted for was a private affair.) From here forward, I think it would serve us all well to forget the stereo-types, forget the "us" and them", and start moving forward as "we." We're all in this together. Blessings to you, Bonnie.

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  4. Well said, Anna. Only exception I have with your exposition is the statement about Trump voters (notice, I didn't say Trump supporters), "Half of our country's citizens are happy, relieved, euphoric and share in your victory." In my circle of conservative friends, family, and colleagues, there's no talk of who we voted for. While it's assumed most voted for GOP ideals, no one is jubilant. My personal mandate: to continue to fill my days with words and deeds of affirmation and acceptance. Yes, it is we the people who make our country it is. ~Bev Kirkland

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    1. Hello, Bev. Indeed, may we all fill our days with words and deeds of affirmation and acceptance. Thank you!

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  5. It makes me feel better knowing that 73% of the American people did not vote for him...he was elected by a mere 27% so I think that maybe half of American is not jubilant.

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  6. Well said, Anna. May God give Mr Trump wisdom because he's going to need it.
    I'm so happy you had something to say today. It was worth hearing. God bless :)

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    1. What a delight to see you again, my friend. Blessings to you and your family.

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  7. I hope and pray this letter is not only read by our President-elect, but by as many Americans as possible. Beautifully written, Anna.

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  8. Anna - You are extremely insightful! You have managed to put into words what many cannot manage. I am one whom served for over 20 years. Freedom isn't Free! Voting is a privilege, not a Right. A vote is best given careful thought. Very well written and a beautiful model for ALL! Everyone should have this as a *MUST* read! Bob - SFC USA Ret.

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    1. Thank you for your kind and wise words, Bob. And thank you for your service to our country! Blessings to you.

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  9. Anna, thank you for your thoughts and your articulation of your hopes and expectations. But s**t is getting real. While I appreciate him saying on 60 minutes that he is saddened to hear his supporters harassing Latinos and Muslims, Trump's pick of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist (same role occupied by Karl Rove for W., John Podesta for Obama) signals to all of us compassionate, caring people who pledge to show kindness regardless of race, creed, religion, or orientation that his words and actions are in direct contradiction with each other. His pick of Bannon signals that he is fine with installing someone who has been editor of an alt right site that peddles false conspiracy theories divorced from truth, fact, or reality, and explicitly embraces ethnic nationalism. The same ethnic-nationalism that the same Bannon used to fuel Trump's campaign and which gave amplification and validation to the explicit racists, anti-semites, anti-muslims and anti-gay voices that made up a portion of Trump's electorate. Stephen Bannon is someone who said, after Dylan Roof walked into an historically black church and murdered churchgoers who shared bible study with him, "hoist it high and proud: the confederate flat proclaims a glorious heritage." This is someone whose ex-wife has accused of domestic violence and anti-semitic remarks. This is someone whom Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator and former editor at Brietbart (colleague of Bannon) has called "a legitimately sinister figure." Evan McMullin, the independent presidential candidate and former republican, has said "will any national level elected GOP leaders condemn Donald Trump's appointment of anti-semite Steve Bannon to senior White House role." THIS is what those of us who voted against Trump voted against. THIS is what those of us who fear and dread a Trump presidency dread. Rhetorical demands to listen is all well and good, but ultimately, US listening without acting is complicity. I am calling my republican governor to voice my dissent and to pressure him to stand up against this appointment. I urge you to call the offices of your highest ranking republican representative and do the same. Silence is assent. I will not assent to the appointment of an alt-right racist, misogynist anti-semitic homophobe in the white house. We must not ask Trump to listen to us. We must demand he do so.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/11/14/trump-faces-backlash-over-appointing-bannon-as-a-top-aide-a-choice-critics-say-will-empower-white-nationalists/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_lede-desktop-only%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

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    1. Thank you, Liza. As always your words and wisdom are spot-on. I agree that the "rhetorical demands to listen" may not be enough. Which is why my final call of "we make us" was for us as Americans to get to work. I am disgusted and angry at the most recent appointment of Bannon (appointed after this post was written) - especially since Trump's "victory" speech on the night/morning of the election stated that he desires unity. This recent appointment seems to directly contradict his words. This is part of our work now. And the same democratic process that got Trump elected is the exact process we must continue to engage in. The election doesn't mean it's over. As I stated in the post "it has just begun." I am praying that clear-headed thinking and rational rhetoric prevails and that purposeful and productive action is taken to continue to affect positive change in both our government and amongst our citizens. I believe in our country. I believe in the democratic process. And I believe we have reason to hope - simply because you and I, as different as we are, can have this conversation and can refuse to be silent and can get to work together. Blessings and hugs to you, my friend.

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