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Day 414 – Isolationist and Xenophobic, Mr. President. Probably What You Hoped For Our Country When You Said Make America Great Again. But It’s Not What We, as a Nation, Are Meant To Be.

Day 414 – Isolationist and Xenophobic, Mr. President. Probably What You Hoped For Our Country When You Said Make America Great Again. But It’s Not What We, as a Nation, Are Meant To Be.

Image from Tim Messick’s Blog

Mr. President,

In the last few days, you’ve begun a trade war that will hurt more Americans than it will help (your own party’s leadership admits as much) and which treats our allies and trading partners as economic enemies. Simultaneously, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was ratified (including, among others, the huge economies of Canada and Japan), establishing stronger ties between those nations and leaving us on the outside looking in.

I’m not really writing today to debate the merits of these moves as much I would like to point out that moving forward, there will be two types of countries on this planet: those that isolate themselves and choose to look inwardly, and those that recognize that the world is growing smaller and smaller, and that reaching outward rather than trying to wall ourselves off from the globe will be essential in so many more ways than economically.

Your stupid, wasteful, pointless border wall is the perfect symbol, Mr. President, for who you are and for the version of America you are dangerously working to advance. You claim the wall will protect us, though in reality it cannot (even assuming, as I do not, that there is good reason for it in the first place). It makes us look foolish to the world, and it insults people of other cultures who label us as xenophobes. It redirects precious funds that could be used for good. It distracts us from the real issues we should be debating – including your sanity and competence as a leader. And it is all about limiting our participation in the larger world, settling for base tribalism over searching for commonalities and, yes, for love among us all.

I learned in school that America’s unique strength was that we were made up out of so many cultures and peoples. While I am not naïve enough to think that this has always been celebrated, I have believed that it was our aspiration. You have destroyed that belief in me. America is no longer welcoming. We no longer look outside our borders to invite people searching for freedom and democracy. We are no longer the envy of the world in how we manage to co-exist as many cultures that form one people. E Pluribus Unum – “out of many, one” – is no longer a motto the country, under your leadership, stands for.

All this is to say that we have much work to do. We, the people. Working to reestablish the foundational beliefs that for so long defined the kind of nation we have wanted to be. To improve the union we have struggled so long to perfect. Please, leave. Abdicate your throne so that we can again have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that we can take our place in the global community again, not shrinking inside ourselves, closing our eyes and our hearts, and thinking we are “great again” only because we are unwilling to look outside ourselves to imagine anything more than what we have already been.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 337 – Letter to the President and His Evangelical Base: Jerusalem is Not Within Your Jurisdiction.

Day 337 – Letter to the President and His Evangelical Base: Jerusalem is Not Within Your Jurisdiction.

Image from Jordan Times

Mr. President and members of his Evangelical Christian base,

Given that I am perplexed by so many of your decisions, your most recent declaration regarding Jerusalem didn’t stun me. It really just made me shake my head, sigh, and mourn a little more. This letter is also for the base of Evangelical Christians (or any Christians for that matter) that still support you, because if you are not bothered by this unraveling of events, I may have to question whether or not your loyalty is to Christ or to your own self-inflated ideas of what you think of as being “right.”

Declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel does not make it so. In case you need reminding, you are the president of only one country (and it’s not Israel). You and your followers throw around the utterances, “America First!” and “Make America Great Again!”, but apparently those phrases are only applicable where they suit your agenda (as with so much of your rhetoric). As of yesterday, the world also spoke out against your assertion through the United Nations, where countries overwhelmingly voted to disregard your statement regarding Jerusalem. Nevertheless, damage has already been done. Protests and riots, injuries, and deaths have occurred in this already fragile area of the world.

Why in the world would making a statement about Jerusalem be so important to you? I haven’t seen anything to indicate that you are a devout Christian, and question whether you have a relationship with God at all (although that can only really be answered between you and Him). Even if you were a devout Christian (here is where we get into the fodder for your Evangelical supporters), why would you make a statement that you must have known would cause issues in such an unstable area of the world…an area which is deemed holy by three of the world’s major religions…and an area that is in the midst of celebrating holidays for all three of these religions? This is obviously a rhetorical question, but is that really what you think Christ would do?

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know that Christ was hated by so many, yet he turned the other cheek. He suffered so that we might live through His promises and His light. He did not discriminate between Gentiles and Jews, and had a heart for the poor and for the low. If we really are going through the historical time as Christians where we celebrate Jesus’s birth, is this the way we should go about it? Do we make a political example of the holy city where Christ died, all in order to be able to place an embassy there?

As with many of your ploys, the only reasoning I can truly see is that you are attempting to pander to your Evangelical enthusiasts. Instead of living the teachings of the lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb, these followers are lambs being led to the slaughter at your hand. I don’t buy the explanation that all your followers are “bad people,” as I believe we are all sinners. I wish they would examine the morality of their Savior a little more critically and celebrate him by living as kind and loving human beings.

I wish you would do the same.

Jerusalem is not within your jurisdiction. The decisions that impact the city, Israel, and Palestine should be made by the political and religious leaders of those regions, with cautious assistance as needed. The majority of the global community agrees. So as we move through the celebration of our holiday season, I would pray that you would think as if you were a neighbor of the countries of the world; not free to run their households, but to extend a hand when needed.

Additionally, I pray for all (especially my Evangelical Christian neighbors) to consider themselves in compassionate and reciprocal relationships to their immediate neighbors (in towns, cities, and states), as well as those abroad. As you rejoice in the birth of Christ, remember what he lived and died for. Remember his humility. Remember his acceptance. Remember his love. And when that celebration is done, I pray you think about how your leader has represented the one who began the end of his life in Jerusalem.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 289 – Your Trip to Asia, the DMZ as Wildlife Refuge, and the Red-Crowned Crane. How Could You Resist Reading This Letter, Mr. President?

Day 289 – Your Trip to Asia, the DMZ as Wildlife Refuge, and the Red-Crowned Crane. How Could You Resist Reading This Letter, Mr. President?

Photograph by llee_wu

Mr. President,

Given your trip to Asia, it seems relevant to talk about Korea.  Alan Weisman (author of The World Without Us), in his introduction to Thich Nat Hanh’s book, The World We Have, tells the reader of an event he experienced while doing research for his book:

One bright, cold afternoon in November 2003, I stood with five admirably engaged and dedicated fellow humans at the edge of a deep valley.  We were north of Ch’orwon in South Korea’s Kangwon-do Province, staring at one of the most beautiful and terrifying places on Earth.  Below us was the Demilitarized Zone: a buffer four kilometers wide that bisects the entire Korean peninsula.  For fifty years it had kept two of the world’s largest and most hostile armies from murdering each other.

Even so, each could still clearly see the other’s hillside bunkers, bristling with weapons that neither would hesitate to fire if provoked.  Compounding this tragedy was the sad irony that these mortal enemies shared the same history, language, and blood.

But they also shared a miracle.  After a half-century, the abandoned no-man’s-land between them had reverted from rice paddies and villages to wilderness.  Inadvertently, it had become one of the most important nature refuges in Asia.  Among the imperiled species that depend on it was one revered throughout the Orient:  the red-crowned crane.  The second-rarest crane on Earth after the whooping crane, it is repeatedly depicted in paintings and silks as a symbol of longevity, and as a manifestation of the noble virtues of Confucian scholars and Buddhist monks.  Many, if not most, of these fabulous birds now winter in the DMZ.

My hosts were scientists and staff from the Korean Federation of Environmental Movement.  Together, we watched as eleven red-crowned cranes – cherry caps, black extremities, but otherwise as pure and white as innocence itself – silently glided between the seething North and South Korean forces.  Placidly, they settled in the bulrushes to feed.

…only 1,500 of these creatures remain … Privileged as we were to witness this, it was impossible to forget – and even harder to reconcile – that this auspicious setting owed its existence to an unresolved war.  If peace were ever restored, developers of suburbs to the south and industrial parks to the north had plans for this place that didn’t include wildlife.  The reunification of Korea could mean a habitat loss that might shrink the red-crowned cranes’ gene pool critically enough to doom the entire species.

 Unless, that is, Korean leaders realized that amid the sorrow of this divided land lay a great opportunity.  A growing alliance of world scientists … have proposed that the DMZ be declared an international peace park.  It would be a gift of life to our Earth, protecting this haven for scores of precious creatures.  By preserving the common ground between them, the two Koreas would not only save many irreplaceable species, but also earn immense international good will.

Mr. Weisman ends his introduction with:  “The environment unites every human, of every nation and creed.  If we fail to save it, we all perish.  If we rise to meet the need, we and all to which ecology binds us other humans, other species, other everything survive together.  And that will be peace.”

There are many obvious lessons in this brief letter.  I urge you to think about this event, Mr. President, while you consider the rhetoric you use toward other world leaders and the policies you encourage to develop this country’s national parks and wildlife refuges.  I urge you to think beyond yourself, and consider the wellbeing of all life on this planet in your words, behavior, and policy proposals.  I urge you to “rise to meet the need” of all life on this planet.  You could save us all.  Will you?

Sincerely,

Letter2Trump

A Primer For You, Mr. President, on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and the Consequences of Showing Iran and the World that We Cannot Be Trusted.

A Primer For You, Mr. President, on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and the Consequences of Showing Iran and the World that We Cannot Be Trusted.

Photograph from ABCNews

Dear Mr. President,

I have read with concern your recent comments about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s supposed perfidy in its implementation. Your formal remarks and tweets strongly suggest that you don’t have a clear understanding of what the deal covered, and don’t appreciate its full implications. Permit me to help.

The Iran nuclear deal concerned Islamic Republic’s production of plutonium and enriched uranium. It limited the construction of centrifuges, which are used for enrichment. It reduced the amount of uranium that Iran is allowed to possess by 98%, with the remainder being shipped to other countries, as per the agreement. It forced Iran to modify the design of its Arak nuclear reactor in such a way that it couldn’t be used to produce plutonium for bomb purposes, and further insisted that Iran must ship the reactor’s heavy water (deuterium oxide) to the USA. Activities related to nuclear research and development are limited for the next eight years. Finally, the treaty authorized intrusive inspections, including round-the-clock monitoring equipment and the right to visit any facility involved in Iranian nuclear activity. In exchange, nuclear-activity-related sanctions on Iran were lifted, and Iranian funds, which belonged to Iran in the first place, that had been frozen in offshore accounts, were returned to their owners. That’s the full deal.

The agreement isn’t perfect, because the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have to give advance notice on inspections. That means that activities could be hidden, but our other surveillance techniques would undoubtedly catch such duplicity. All in all, though, the comprehensive deal is far, far better than what was happening before, when Iran’s activities were subject to no constraints. We had already implemented harsh, biting sanctions on Iran, but that wasn’t stopping them from pursuing nuclear activities. Now, their activities have been almost entirely halted, thanks to this plan.

Nothing in this deal addresses Iran’s ballistic missile program or funding of extremist groups. Those are separate issues, with separate sanctions attached to them that remain in place. This deal was only meant to stop Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb, and nothing else. It has done that, by freezing in time Iran’s ability to develop a bomb for the next decade, at which point we can always negotiate anew. One can say that Iran remains in violation on these other matters, but linking them to the nuclear deal is a deliberate lie; the agreement does not address them.

Mr. Trump, the United States has always made deals with people we dislike. We negotiated the Washington Naval Treaty with world powers, friend and foe alike, in 1921 to limit warship construction, and it worked for more than a decade; it saved us an enormous amount of money, and prevented an arms race in the 1920s and most of the 1930s. We negotiated treaty after treaty with the Soviet Union to limit nuclear arsenals: the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the ABM Treaty, SALT I, SALT II, the INF Treaty, and START I. Signing them didn’t mean that we liked the USSR. Negotiating with the Soviets on these issues didn’t stop us from vigorously opposing communism around the world. It just meant that we took steps to limit the threat of nuclear weapons, because that was in our national interest.

The same is true here. It is in our national interest to prevent an Iranian bomb; that much is beyond dispute. If we don’t limit Iran’s nuclear program through a treaty, then there are no limits preventing Iran from developing a bomb, unless we resort to armed conflict. A war, Mr. Trump, must be a last resort, because the consequences would be unimaginably complicated and devastating. A U.S. war with Iran would invite more state-backed terrorism against us, and destabilize governments throughout the Middle East, while complicating our efforts to defeat ISIS.

The treaty has other benefits, too. Allowing Iran some measure of participation in the world will doubtless bring benefits to the Iranian economy. That will strengthen the country, true, but it especially strengthens the hand of President Rouhani and his allies, who just won re-election. Supreme Leader Khamanei still holds most of the power in the Islamic Republic, and he opposes Rouhani’s reformist views. However, the presidency remains a powerful force, and Rouhani’s is the loudest moderate voice in Iran. Our best hope of changing Iran’s behavior lies through cooperation with him. The more we encourage good behavior by Iran, and reward them for cooperation, the stronger he becomes as Iran fares better. That’s a good outcome. If Rouhani can claim credit for an improvement in Iran’s position, then he proves that engagement with the West is a good thing for Iran, and that changing Iran’s behavior leads to a better world. That is our best hope for reducing Iranian support for extremists, and encouraging positive Iranian engagement on a host of other regional issues.

If we end this deal, when the Iranians are in compliance with its parameters, then the United States will have proven to Iran – and to the world – that it cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. More to the point, we will strengthen the hand of Iranian hard-line conservatives who oppose any deal with America. We will undercut the reformist faction, with whom we can negotiate, and advance the cause of the reactionaries who are our real enemies. The result will be a more belligerent Iran, more determined than ever to get a bomb in order to strengthen itself, and then our only recourse will be a ruinous war that will harm American interests and cause even more misery in the Middle East, while exposing us to a greater terrorist threat.

Our choice should be clear.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 246 – What Does Backing Out of the Nuclear Deal With Iran Say to North Korea, Mr. President? Short Answer: Skip Right Over Any Diplomatic Solution Because the U.S. Cannot Be Trusted.

Day 246 – What Does Backing Out of the Nuclear Deal With Iran Say to North Korea, Mr. President? Short Answer: Skip Right Over Any Diplomatic Solution Because the U.S. Cannot Be Trusted.

Photograph from the Daily Express U.K.

Dear Mr. President,

I would think that a businessman such as yourself would have an understanding of the importance of credibility. Maybe you’re too used to relying on contracts that can be bent to serve your interests and so you haven’t given the matter much thought. It’s worth considering the importance of having people believe you will do what you say you will.

I’m mainly talking about the nation as a whole here, as it seems you aren’t concerned with trying to maintain credibility with your base (though those reactions to the DACA overtures should probably concern you). President Obama, for instance, was criticized for failing to follow through on his “red line” declaration against Syria. Conservatives bemoaned the loss of U.S. credibility in foreign affairs. Given your affection for strongmen dictators, you would probably agree. When the U.S. says it will do something and then does not, it risks having people dismiss its declarations.

We don’t just lose credibility when we fail to follow through on our threats, however. We also lose credibility when we fail to live up to our promises, including those made by previous administrations. The Dreamers registered under DACA in good faith, providing their information to the government while trusting its promise not to use that against them. You have trampled on that promise and broken faith. Perhaps you are coming around on this point, but I’m not holding my breath.

And now you are trying to “revisit” the Iran nuclear deal. You’ve made no secret of your distaste for it, but the United States signed that agreement, and now we’re bound to live up to our obligations unless Iran doesn’t live up to theirs. This isn’t like those agreements with the contractors who worked on your real estate that you dragged into court to weasel out of. For one, the international court of opinion will not be impressed by fancy lawyers. For another, any country that’s ever been labeled a “rogue state” is going to be watching this and taking notes.

Yes, I’m talking about North Korea now. Unless you actually want to get millions of people killed by starting a war, at some point you are going to need a diplomatic solution. Right now Kim Jong-Un is watching what you’re doing with Iran, and the only conclusion he can possibly come to is that diplomacy with the U.S. is pointless. Any agreement we make with them won’t be worth the paper it’s written on, and everyone can see that. That only increases their incentive to develop nuclear weapons, because that is the thing that will trump all our threats.

If you don’t want countries like Iran and North Korea trying to get nuclear weapons, you have to show them that there’s another way out. Breaking our agreements sends the opposite message: That the U.S. is not trustworthy, and only respects power. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see nuclear war erupt.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 245 – Working To Protect the Interests of Americans Means Working With Other Nations, Mr. President. America First Fails In Isolation.

Day 245 – Working To Protect the Interests of Americans Means Working With Other Nations, Mr. President. America First Fails In Isolation.

Photograph from the United Nations

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to let you know that as I read your speech to the United Nations, I found myself overcome with a bemused befuddlement. It struck me that you must have found yourself in the middle of a maelstrom of cognitive dissonance as you implored the United Nations to respect the sovereignty of values and cultures of independent nations while simultaneously threatening the “big stick” of intervention should things not go the way your vision of America would prefer. It was as though you wanted the sovereignty of America respected and knew that you needed to cast that wish in a universal light for propriety, but simultaneously felt like everyone else could just toss off. “What sort of mindset could feel this way,” I thought, “and who still thinks that we can just independently do whatever we want without affecting a significant number of others?”

We live in a world where our actions can and do have global effects. I mean “we” in a human sense, Mr. President, not just as Americans. The economic decisions made by Chinese officials, for example, affect the United States in more ways than simply providing competing goods. When they pursue economic manufacturing growth to protect their nation, their interests, and their future, their air pollution spreads far enough to affect the west coast of the United States. While you pursue policies to promote coal mining in the United States, the environmental effects caused by those policies play a part in driving disastrous changes to our worldwide climate. Our world is an intricately linked web where the decisions in one location can vastly affect another, regardless of the political lines drawn on maps. To pursue policies of self-interest, of “America First,” in that reality is ludicrous and incredibly selfish.

The selfish nature of your speech is further underlined when you speak of refugees. In your portrayal, the best place for refugees is “as close to their home countries as possible”; in other words, especially with regards to Syrian refugees, as far from the United States as possible. You suggest that accepting refugees “reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform,” as though the promise of a safe life in America stymied the political and economic reforms of Spain, France, England, Germany, China, Japan, and more. If only, your speech implies, the supporters of the White Armies remained in the Soviet Union instead of settling in America. They could have provided “domestic pressure” from the gulags and firing squads to reform the Soviet Union. If only the Muslim Bosnians who fled to the American Midwest had remained in their southeast Europe. They could have provided “domestic pressure” to gain political reforms and, maybe, stop the ethnic cleansing of their people. Do I need to rhetorically ask about Jewish refugees in the 1930s as well? We have accepted refugees from Asian warzones and beyond, all the while understanding that they were often escaping because they had to. To remain even in close proximity of their country was to remain in danger, and our country has, on the whole, been for the better because of those refugees.

You speak a strong game “…to respect the right of [your] own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation,” but what is your solution when the interests of Americans are at odds with the rights of other sovereign nations? You made it clear: “I will always put America first.” Your claims of cooperation and unity fall under the weight of this contradiction. Rather than imploring the leaders of the world to unite under a global cause or ideal which can stretch beyond borders, you offer divisive nationalism as an alternative. Instead of seeing refugees as human beings, you see them as “others,” better helped if they just stay far away from you. As one of the American citizens you profess to represent, I find this to be a bitter, misanthropic alternative. If you would like to work on this attitude, I recommend stretching your empathetic muscles by volunteering with the United Nations, especially in its Refugee agency.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

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