Dear Donald, Hillary, Bernie, and whoever else may come along,
I hope it is okay that I address you all by your first names. Truth is, you’ve all got such awful nicknames, and have been called such terrible things by both the press and all over the social medias, that I feel like your first names are at least acknowledging you as human beings and not the caricatures of you all that we’ve created.
Back in January, when the landscape of this election looked a bit different, I wrote this. I stand by what I wrote–even though January seems a lifetime ago–and I’ve been pretty silent (publicly) since then about this election season. My silence is largely because if I speak, I’ll likely yell, and yelling doesn’t get us anywhere. Also, I don’t want to contribute to the awful tone of it all–the cruel sarcasm, the finger-pointing, the arrogance and the posting/tweeting/instagramming of every little sound byte and image, as if any of that really captures the whole story.
But I have some things I want you to know, and I desperately want you to listen. Not because I have all the answers (I sure as hell don’t) but because not a single one of you actually appears to be listening to the people you claim you want to serve…so maybe if you could just start small, with little old me, it would help you close your mouths and open your ears.
It is no secret that I am a registered Democrat. But don’t go grinning smugly Hillary or Bernie, because that doesn’t make me an avid supporter of either of you. I’m not impressed with the way you’ve both sunk upon occasion to the lowest common denominator of this election, nor am I impressed with how you go after each other. And Donald, honestly, I have no idea what to do with you, because I feel like somewhere in your life, you were completely broken by someone or some thing or some experience, and it made you cold and angry. And a bully.
I know and care very much about people who will vote for each of you. This is what it means to live and breathe in a pluralistic and complicated world. And, given that, the truth is one of you will in all likelihood, be POTUS by this time next year. And so as one who is raising her daughter in this country, who is an active member of the work force, pays taxes, always votes, and pays attention to the news and world events every day of my life, I want you to know these things:
- I respect the Office of President, no matter who is in it. I’m not sure, always, that any of you do–it feels like you just want the power, like you just want to be right, like you just want to win. And that is no way to lead.
- As I wrote in January, I care deeply about public education, about healthcare, about how we care for those who need help, about a completely dysfunctional government assistance system, and about the epidemic of violence (of any kind) in this country. I care that the United States contributes mightily to the business of human trafficking. I care that our kids are being judged by tests and not encouraged to channel their creativity and abilities into greatness. I care deeply about the sort of nation my daughter will rise to adulthood in. And I want someone in the Oval Office who will pay attention, at a very real and human level, to these things. I want someone who isn’t out to be the best himself/herself, but who is out to help us all be the best we can be. I want someone who understands the truth that we are stronger together, and that united we stand and divided we fall. Hard.
- I love God and I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus. But I want my Hindu neighbors to feel there is a place for them in this nation, too. And my Jewish friends. And the Muslim girl in my daughter’s class at school. And certainly those who claim no faith at all but who are living good and decent and selfless lives. I want room for all of us. And I’m tired of the hate and suspicion and fear that gets propagated, often by each of you, even if subtly.
- I believe, desperately, that all human beings have been created equal. And these days, that seems to be an unpopular opinion when it comes to the LGBT community. But y’all, if you are the president, you will serve us ALL–so get over whatever hangups you might have (I realize not all of you do) and realize that for as long as there have been human beings there have been gay, lesbian and transgender men and women. Let it go.
- I need you to all understand that being POTUS is a privilege, honor and service. It is not a prize to be won. It is not a monarchy or dictatorship. And you are accountable to the people you serve–every single one of them, not just the ones who have gotten you this far in this damn election (because yes, “this damn election” is how I always say it in my head, such a circus it has become).
I could go on. And on. But what I want to say, in closing, is this–this country has fought hard and long to be where we are. We have some ugly history. And some beautiful, hopeful history, too. I fear for us now, and not necessarily because of any one of you in particular, but because of how this whole thing has played out. We’ve made a mockery, a game, of the presidential race.
And this breaks my heart. Because we are the nation of Abraham Lincoln. We are the nation of Republican John Boehner and Democrat Gabby Giffords greeting each other with a warm hug. We are the nation of Ruby Bridges. Of Harvey Milk. Of FDR. Of JFK. Of President George W. Bush passing legislation to help those suffering from AIDS in Africa. We are a nation of men and women who have given their lives to democracy. We are a nation of miraculous medical and scientific innovation. We are a nation that has been, since our birth at our best, and our worst, at almost every significant moment in history.
And we are so much better than we are currently behaving. We are so capable of always being our best.
If you cannot honor where we have been, if you cannot see what is at stake, if you cannot find a way to value actual people over their actual beliefs, if you cannot recognize how humble you must be if you are going to lead this country out of our current quagmire and into something more whole and true, then, in the end, you will have done so much more harm than good to this country you claim to love.
Please, for all of us, stop with the incessant blame. The name-calling. The degrading and the accusing and the arrogant posturing. Enough already. The truth is that you are all what we’ve let ourselves get stuck with. And so the only way forward, as I see it, is to play the hand we’ve dealt ourselves, and to do so with as little hostility and selfishness as is possible in such an environment.
I have to trust that somewhere in all this there is good to be found. That there is hope. And I see that in my fellow Americans every day–good people doing good things. And, I want very much for you all to find a way to lift up that hope. Instead of squashing it like a stink bug emerging in a Kentucky spring with your own ambition and thirst for power.
Get over yourselves, y’all. Show us a better way. Help us be what we’re capable of being. This was never, at all, about you.