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Day 436 – Letter to the Senate: Jackson Lacks the Experience To Lead the VA and Care for Our Veterans.

Day 436 – Letter to the Senate: Jackson Lacks the Experience To Lead the VA and Care for Our Veterans.

Image from the LA Times

Dear Senators,

The president did it again: he fired an official via Twitter and in his place hired a “puppet,” and it’s up to each and every one of you to NOT APPROVE this new appointment. Just 2 weeks ago, Rex Tillerson was fired via tweet. As you are aware, this past Wednesday, Trump again used Twitter to fire an official, this time the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), David Shulkin, and in his place Trump hired Ronny Jackson, the president’s own White House physician. You might remember Mr. Jackson. He’s the doctor who recently testified publicly to the president’s excellent health. While this new appointee is, in fact, a practicing medical doctor, he is just that, a doctor. Mr. Jackson has no administrative experience, little clinical experience and while he is familiar with the ins and outs of military medicine, military medicine is drastically different than what’s required in VA medicine. In VA medicine there are much more complex conditions than one would experience in combat, often ones that require a more integrative type of approach. Plus, the Veterans Health Administration serves 9 million veterans and runs more than 1,200 health care facilities; this new responsibility is no match with and bears no resemblance to Mr. Jackson’s current or past responsibilities.

Although this more recent firing stemmed from the scandal around several ethics violations, Mr. Shulkin strongly claims he’s really been fired because he was trying to strengthen the VA and most importantly, was openly opposed to ongoing privatization attempts of the VA. As all of you might also know, for the past few years now there has been a strong push to privatize the VA, led by the organization called Concerned Veterans for America, funded by none other than (drum roll) the Koch Brothers.

Senators, there is no way a privatized VA system could provide better care for our veterans. Not only would dissolving the VA add veterans to the already struggling private medical sector but the VA, while in need of fixing, does offer affordable and equal or better healthcare than the private sector. Veterans cannot afford to lose the integrative care centers now run by the VA, such as the great rehabilitation centers or their top notch spinal cord centers, which provide our severely injured veterans with specialists to treat their very complex issues. Veterans fought hard for us and now it’s up to each of you to speak up, stand up and fight for them by strongly opposing this new appointment. Demand that the VA be fixed instead of dissolved. Demand that an experienced leader be placed at its helm and make decisions with our veterans in mind. In essence, do your job.


Miriam Cutelis

And Letters2Trump


Day 286 – Thanks to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, You Got a Nice Reminder of Our System of Checks and Balances, Mr. President. And Transgender Service Members Get to Keep Serving.

Day 286 – Thanks to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, You Got a Nice Reminder of Our System of Checks and Balances, Mr. President. And Transgender Service Members Get to Keep Serving.

Image from YouTube

Mr. President,

Once again, you should be learning that you are the president of the United States, a democratic country. We have a system of checks and balances, which means your power is not absolute. You are not a dictator or a king, nor are we your subjects. There are rules to follow, and these are laid out quite plainly in The Constitution. If you want to make your own rules, you have to follow the steps.

For example, if you just wake up one morning and decide to fire a whole bunch of soldiers, you might want to stop and think about it for a few minutes or an hour. Think about the people who put themselves out there every day to protect you and me. Think about their training, their talents, the dangers they encounter, the families who love them. The military is made up of all kinds of people, and you, as Commander in Chief, should know who your troops are. Even with your great powers, you should know that you cannot deprive people of their right to equal protection under the law, under the Constitution, even if they work for you. You cannot just dismiss a whole group of people from serving in the military. These transgender soldiers have been serving with honor and courage. There is nothing, no evidence, no facts that show they are harming this country by serving openly. (And if you need any more evidence, check out the militaries of our allies and neighbors, like Canada, Great Britain, and Israel).

Luckily, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has ruled that the current military policy governing transgender troops should remain in place.  “There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all,” she stated, rather emphatically. At least for the time being, our transgender troops can continue to serve this country. But think about what you did to the morale of these soldiers by trying to ban them.  In America, we just don’t lump a bunch of people together and say, “You’re fired.” Well, at least not in the real world where most of us live.

I am pleased for our transgender troops and for the ruling by Judge Kollar-Kotelly, and for the strength of The Constitution.

Please consider the impact on real people of your words and actions before shouting out with your Twitter fingers.





Day 277 – Sharing the Burden of Someone’s Sorrow Should Be Done Privately, Mr. President. And With Compassion.

Day 277 – Sharing the Burden of Someone’s Sorrow Should Be Done Privately, Mr. President. And With Compassion.

Photograph by Frank Gruber

Mr. President,

I’m not a member of a Gold Star family, so I can only imagine what it is like to lose someone I love in war.  It harrows me simply to ponder what it must feel like.  And it also disturbs me to ponder what it must be like to leaders who send young men and women to their deaths on the battlefield.

I do not envy you in this regard, and I do not wish today to debate the merits of the military engagements our nation finds itself in.

I write today with only one purpose: to urge you to keep what you write and say to these families private. To try your hardest to make it empathetic.  To move beyond yourself to soothe the loss of the traumatized.  And beyond all else, to do your best to keep it all out of the political arena.

I am too tired, and too sad, to take you to task today.  I simply urge you to draw some line between what is and what is not appropriate for public consumption.  To understand that a large part of your role as our leader happens in quiet.  In private.  Apart from what can or should be tweeted, telecast, or commented upon.

Please.  Comfort our losses.  Move beyond yourself.  Appeal to the better angels of our souls.  And of your own.

We are pleading with you.



Day 221 – It Gets Better. Unless You Are Gay and Donald Trump is Your President.

Day 221 – It Gets Better. Unless You Are Gay and Donald Trump is Your President.

Photograph by Emillo Flores

Dear Mr. President,

Do you remember the “It Gets Better” project?

The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them. Grown-ups basically put themselves out there with video so there is a huge collection of wonderful, moving real-stories to help kids feel less alone.

These grown-ups are people who grew up not sure who they were. Wondering if they would go to hell because they are a boy…and love boys. Or were born a girl but always felt like a guy inside. Or maybe just weren’t sure what their label should be, but they simply felt more comfortable in girls’ clothes. These are people who got stuffed into lockers, ridiculed, ostracized for being different. Who thought maybe their parents wouldn’t love them anymore if they told anyone their truth.

Oh. You don’t remember this project? That makes sense… because if you did, or if you ever tried to empathize with anyone – truly – there’s no way you would have signed your directive reinstating a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military.

In the last few years, the world seemed to open up for LGBT kids and grown-ups – thanks to President Obama.

When President Obama was in office, he started out saying he was not sure about gay couples getting married, but that they should have equal rights. In 2011, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed – so that service members could be openly gay without fear of abuse, discrimination, or discharge.  President Obama put in place protections to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all federal employment.

And then – THEN, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a nationwide right. That all individuals have a right to marry the person they love.

I will never forget the rainbow-colored White House. I was so inspired that I even wrote in my journal that I was going to bed full of joy and gratitude. Facebook profile pictures across the world were filtered with gay pride flags. In this often harsh and unfair world, people came together for love.

And now, yet again, you crush the goodness.

You started out considered as a “gay-friendly” Republican candidate. It was one of your saving graces in my mind. Yet you are not only not opening your mind to those different from you. You are casting your mind’s door with iron and slamming it shut.

With your campaign promises, you bring scary, life-altering threats to the LGBTQ community. Opening windows for insurance companies to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation—placing gay or lesbian spouses at risk of losing coverage. Signing the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA)—federal legislation that would bar all federal officials from punishing an individual or entity that acts on their “religious or moral belief” that marriage “is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

And now. How dare you? How dare you insult the brave women and men who are putting their lives on the line for our country? They are brave enough to volunteer to protect us. They are brave enough to know who they are and live their truth.

How brave are you? Flat-footed, were you?

And you have the audacity to act like we don’t need every single service member who volunteers (while at the same time making you “fire and fury” threats). I for one am so very thankful for our service members. I care that they are people. They are Americans. And they love our country enough to dedicate their lives to it, to us. How dare you even try to impart judgement on these brave human beings?

Here’s a timeline on how it’s gotten better for our youth…but I wonder – what will your section of the timeline say? Is it a coincidence that the timeline ends shortly before the election?

The only thing I can hope is that the timeline will one day show that the country stood up for these kids when you wouldn’t.



Day 206 – A Lesson For You, Mr. President, In How To Decide When The U.S. Should Use Military Force.

Day 206 – A Lesson For You, Mr. President, In How To Decide When The U.S. Should Use Military Force.

Photograph by 2nd Lt. Gerald Ratchford

Dear Mr. President,

By now, I think much of the world has grown accustomed to your inclination for off-the-cuff remarks and saying things that, though you may really mean them in the moment, you’ll never actually follow through with.  Even Kim Jong-un may privately dismiss your recent fire and fury comment as merely Trump being Trump.

Just in case we’re all wrong, though, I want to equip you with a nice set of criteria for the use of military force. Known as the Weinberger Doctrine (later re-dubbed the Powell Doctrine in the media), it was first articulated in 1984 in a speech by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. You can read the entire transcript, but it boils down to this: the United States should employ military force only when…

  1. Vital national interests are at stake
  2. U.S. public opinion and Congress support it
  3. Our objectives are clearly defined and achievable
  4. We will commit with the clear intention of winning
  5. All other options have been exhausted

And once committed…

  1. We continuously reassess our objectives and forces necessary based on the developing situation

At the time, Sec. Weinberger’s critics maintained the doctrine was too restrictive, limiting military response to only the most ideal circumstances and thereby hobbling American diplomatic efforts. This is understandable, but looking at the doctrine less dogmatically, it’s easy to see the intent is to know what we’re doing when we decide in favor of war: Do we have to do this? Will we really get what we want? Is it worth the price? War, as you should know by now even if your base doesn’t, is a terribly uncertain business. These are excellent questions to ask.

Take your recent comment about leaving a military option on the table in dealing with the crisis in Venezuela. Venezuela? Gosh are your sure about that? I know it’s a tragedy what’s happened in that country, but how on earth is a military intervention going to improve things? I’m going to have to insist on some very detailed answers to the criteria outlined above. And you should too.




Day 192 –  A Personal Perspective On Your Trans Ban…and Some Actual Data! Imagine That!

Day 192 – A Personal Perspective On Your Trans Ban…and Some Actual Data! Imagine That!

Photograph from Wikipedia

Dear Mr. President,

It was exactly two years ago this month that my older brother came out to us, his family, and the world as transgender. It’s been a long journey and although our family is still adjusting to the transition, the entire community, from her siblings to her coworkers, from our mom all the way down to her ex-wife, have come out full-force in support of this plight for a truer, more genuine identity.  What rises to the surface from this experience for me has been witnessing my sister’s sheer strength in moving forward despite the many, many difficulties that come with such a path. As you may know, transgender people don’t choose to be transgender, just as gays don’t choose to be gay; it’s who they genuinely are. Coming out is a path only for the courageous. Having witnessed her transition firsthand, I can attest that it takes a mountain of bravery to stand one’s ground and reveal your true nature to the world, despite every force in society telling you otherwise.

Understandably, this week, I was saddened, but not shocked, to read your tweets concerning transgender people, stating “That the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” and you gave two very weak excuses for this, so called “ban.” One, being the tremendous medical costs and two, being the supposed “disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

If your concern were really costs, Mr. President, then instead you would be looking into possibly streamlining our military spending, not banning transgender folks from the military. In 2015, for example, the four branches of the U.S. military spent a total of almost $600 billion on defense. $600 billion! This is so beyond excessive for when compared to the rest of the world, the United States accounted for 37 percent of the total. In other words, our expenditures for defense total the next seven largest military budgets around the world combined. And don’t even get me started on how much it costs to protect you daily. Or how much the Defense Department apparently spends on Viagra. Obviously, money is not the real issue.

Now onto your second reason to exclude transgender individuals from the military. Disruptions you say? Wrong again. Right now, there seems to be a much more pressing “disruption” in the military, that one glaring disruption being rape, rape and the fear of rape. Service members reported 6,172 cases of sexual assault in 2016. Fifty-eight percent of victims expressed a fear of reprisals or retaliation for reporting sexual assault. Would this not be considered a huge disruption to service members and to mission readiness?  Rape and the fear of rape and harassment are not imagined disruptions, like the one you concocted around transgender individuals. If your concern were really disruptions to our active personnel, why isn’t this issue firing-up your tweeting’ fingers at 2 a.m., Mr. President?

Your constituents, like myself,  know a distractionary tactic when we see one, and this is one of those easily divisive grenade topics guaranteed to cause many days’ worth of media distractions away from the real problems that plague this country, such as lack of health care, poverty, discrimination, your awful immigration policies, and police brutality, to name a few. I’m here to tell you that we, your constituents, are not falling for this cheap tactic, Mr. President.  Time to dig deep and focus on real problems. But know this: transgender folks, like my sister, are neither a money pit nor a distraction.




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