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Day 12

Day 12

Image by Morris Armstrong

Dear Mr. President,

You receive a lot of criticism for using Twitter. That is unfair. Blaming Twitter is like blaming a pencil and a piece of paper—Twitter is just a mode of communication. It can be used for just about any sort of discourse. I’ve seen a novelist write a short story one sentence at a time on Twitter, and I’ve also seen base attempts at “conversations” that are really just bullying. You are welcome to use Twitter, Mr. Trump—it could even prove an innovative way for a president to maintain contact with the American people—but I have a serious suggestion for how you use it.

Most people would assume I will, at this point, criticize your own tweets. Rest assured, I, like most Americans, would love to see more reasoned and reasonable commentary from you, but that is not my concern in this letter.

On November 30, 2016, journalist Robert Mackey posted a list on Twitter wherein he recreated your timeline. That is to say, he replicated what you see when you log onto Twitter. It represents a troubling lack of balance or even factual reporting. It is rife with propaganda from the likes of the Drudge Report, and on the days I have checked it, the majority of the tweets are from your own camp (Official Team Trump and Transition 2017 especially).

Given that you do tweet often and have demonstrated that you spend a decent chunk of time on Twitter, this means you’re being subjected to an echo chamber of extreme proportions. Reading and writing are thinking made visible, Mr. Trump, and if you are only reading words from one severely constricted point of view, you are not going to develop the means to assess the world objectively. This is not a personal attack on you–none of us could understand what’s happening at any given moment if we only read hot takes from one slanted point of view. I suppose it goes without saying, but an ability to see matters objectively is an essential element for any leader, whether that’s president of the sixth-grade or president of the USA.

You have stated explicitly in interviews that you’re “too busy to read,” but we know you’re on Twitter. This means it is entirely possible that the only news you receive on a regular basis is from the propaganda machine that is your Twitter timeline.

Mr. Trump, I mean this sincerely: If you were merely a friend or relative, I would implore you to curate a more balanced Twitter timeline. (Heck, I’d suggest ditching all of the “news” sources and just following stand-up comedians before encouraging you to keep your follow list as it is now.) You are not a friend or relative, though. You are the sitting president of the United States of America. You have unparalleled power and reach. Obviously, you must add a balanced range of sources to your Twitter feed, but I also ask that you subscribe to a range of newspapers. Spend even ten minutes per morning skimming the headlines. That alone will give you better coverage than your Twitter timeline.

Also, watching Fox News on television is not broadening the range of news sources. At least four of the forty-one accounts you follow on Twitter are directly from Fox News. You recently tweeted about Chicago and gun violence, but your tweets were almost verbatim from Bill O’Reilly’s show that broadcast an hour before you clicked tweet on your statements. Thirty seconds of independent research would have disproved your tweet. Chicago doesn’t even crack the top ten most violent cities in America, Mr. Trump. If you had a wider range of news sources, you might have seen or read that. I did.

Yes, you are a busy man, but you must be informed. We all are busy, and we all must be informed. If you refuse to spend time reading in depth, at least gather a wider range of headlines to skim. This is, quite literally, the least we can ask of you regarding your relationship with the news. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 11

Day 11

Photograph by Keithpr

Dear Mr. President,

You may not be familiar with Fred Korematsu, who challenged the legality of the Japanese Internment Order. Today, January 30, happens to be the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.  While this commemoration is not yet observed nationwide, it is recognized by several states.  In the wake of your recent executive order regarding immigrants and refugees, now is an especially good time for our country to reflect on our shameful history of using ethnicity as a pretext for demonizing an entire group of people.  The Supreme Court decision to uphold internment of Japanese Americans in Mr. Korematsu’s case is widely acknowledged as unconstitutional and immoral. Your recent executive order, which temporarily closes our borders against refugees and against citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, is likewise viewed as a stain on our democracy and is already being challenged, in the courts and in the public opinion.

Yet, as disheartened as I have been by your actions thus far in the infancy of your presidency, I have also been encouraged by the outpouring of support for refugees and immigrants.  On this day commemorating a person who spoke truth to power, I am, like former President Obama, heartened to see all the people who flocked to airports and other locations across the country to exercise their civil rights and express their disagreement with your new policy.

As has already been noted, you are now “the power” and you must be prepared to hear truth spoken to you.  I’ve read with growing concern the numerous accounts, especially since you took the oath of office, of your efforts and that of your administration to silence the many voices raised in opposition to your policies. Only a little over a week into your presidency, you and your administration have already taken measures to muffle scientists and other government workers, suppress and intimidate the media, and even prioritized your chief political strategist over longtime public servants with professional expertise on the National Security Council.  In short, it seems you are most interested in surrounding yourself with deference to you and your office.

In light of your recent proclamation declaring your own inauguration day the “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,” which claimed that a “new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart. . . . [w]e are one people, united by a common destiny and a shared purpose” and in the spirit of learning from our past, maybe you would like to hear what some of our most revered presidents have had to say on the subject of patriotism and debate.  As Theodore Roosevelt once noted, “Patriotism means to stand by the country.  It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official.”  More to the point, “[t]o announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”  Likewise, John F. Kennedy stated, “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed and no republic can survive.”

Mr. President, you would do well to heed the words of these predecessors.  Because, on this day honoring a person who took a stand for civil liberties, you must already be able to see that the people will not be silenced.  They have taken to the streets and the airports in support of the Constitution and the highest ideals upon which this country was founded; they have even created rogue Twitter and Facebook accounts to ensure that access to factual information is available to the public.

And you should take history to heart. We can all use a history lesson now and then because, as they say, if you can’t remember the past, you are destined to repeat it.   Shortly before he passed away in 2005, Mr. Korematsu himself condemned the use of the Japanese internment as a precedent for profiling against Muslims in the name of national security: “Fears and prejudices directed against minority communities are too easy to evoke and exaggerate, often to serve the political agendas of those who promote those fears.  I know what it is like to be at the other end of such scapegoating and how difficult it is to clear one’s name after unjustified suspicions are endorsed as fact by the government. . . . If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.”

Indeed, they are.  And if you continue to silence the voices surrounding you, then we, the people, will continue to raise ours. It’s our patriotic duty.

For more information about Fred Korematsu, please see the Fred T. Korematsu Institute at www.korematsuinstitute.org.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 10

Day 10

Photograph by Chany Crystal

Dear Mr. President,

One of the hallmarks of a great leader is the ability to self-analyze and then to make course corrections as necessary. Great leaders place more value in doing the right thing than in being right and they make quick action of correcting an error.

Today, and every day of your presidency, I hope you will take that to heart. I’m writing you today because I’m very concerned that a course correction is necessary on many fronts, but most urgently on your recent executive order to ban refugees and other immigrants from targeted Muslim countries.

You see, while civic nationalism can unite our country around similar American values, your continued rhetoric of making America great by preventing Muslim immigrants and refugees to enter our country leans toward ethnic nationalism and that presents us with a worldwide problem. (Take a moment and read The Economist’s article, Trump’s New World: The New Nationalism for even more information).

We, Americans and the world, need you to understand the danger you’re placing us in with your ethnic nationalistic orders. Let me explain the danger through the eyes of Martin Niemoller. He was a Christian man who loved his country. He served in the German Navy and eventually became a pastor. His nationalist beliefs were so strong, he inserted them into his sermons. He was concerned his beloved Germany was weak and he was ready to get behind a leader who would make it strong again. In the beginning, he felt that Hitler could be that leader.

Hitler said he was a Christian and wanted to bring those values back to the country. Martin was on board with that. Even when Hitler began to mock the Jews and distinguish them as “less than” German to the Christian Germans, Niemoller admittedly had some prejudices of his own and let that slide.

But when Niemoller met Hitler and saw that Hitler’s ethnic nationalism had grown to the point that Nazis had begun barring Jewish leaders from serving in the ministry, he began to wake up to what was happening. At this point, Niemoller led a resistance against this ethnic nationalism, as he realized it was far from the Christian values he held dear.

Martin Niemoller showed great leadership because he reassessed his previous beliefs and actions, determined they were wrong and made a course correction. He then went on to reject and resist Nazi nationalism even though it landed him in a concentration camp for seven years.

Mr. President, please take a step back and look at history and how your current actions are aligning with what Hitler did. You are headed down a destructive path that could cause world war and genocide if you continue. It’s time to course correct before the damage is irreparable.

We, the people (both Americans and citizens of the world) are watching you. We remember this all too familiar path. Please read and truly hear Niemoller’s words:

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I have had to correct the course of my life on occasion and I am doing so now, too. I have never been an activist. I’m an introvert, but I see now that I must stand up for others. I must be a voice for those that cannot be heard because you are trying to ban them from our country because of their religion. I must be a voice and speak up for those in our country who are in the minority and still do not have equal rights.

Mr. President, you’ve already taught me that I must stand up and speak out because I don’t want my America to become a repeat of Nazi ethnic nationalism. Course correct now, sir. Before it’s too late.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 10, Second Letter

Day 10, Second Letter

Photograph by Brian Z

Dear Mr. President,

We’re old enough to be frank.  Coming of age before Roe v. Wade, we both know – making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it.

You remember checks were written so young women could fly to France for “rest.” Checks were sent to sympathetic physicians for a discreet D and C.  Unlike women with fewer means, I doubt the women you knew threw themselves down steps, or drank poison. Their hangers were used for designer dresses, not self-help.

An underground of volunteers drove desperate women to Canada, and later to your State of New York.  Like the slaves on the original Underground Railroad, women found their way north to a medical professional.

Poor women whispered “help” to one another. They shared what they’d learned from their aunts and mothers, along with equipment to perform their own abortions….in their bathrooms, or bedrooms, mother’s house, or the restroom at work during their lunch break.

Then there were the criminals who waited to take advantage of these women.  As an 18 year old at a religious college in the Midwest, one night I woke up to ambulance lights.  An “older girl” of 19 was whisked away. We were terrified. Her roommates cleaned up the towels she hid while she was bleeding to death.  The call for help was in time.  After a hospital stay, antibiotics, and a semester off, she returned. She never was able to have children.

Later I heard the full story.  She was a “deb” from a wealthy family.  The guy involved was a “big man on campus.” They had money and arranged for an illegal abortion.  Her boyfriend and her roommate traveled with her to a seedy motel. Her friends were told to leave.  On the other side of the locked door they heard her screams as she was gang raped before the abortion.  Why not?  She was pregnant, she was terrified, she was alone, totally in their control, and the abortion was illegal. She couldn’t’ call the police.  Instead, she returned to campus and nearly died from complications. You remember.  They were called “botched abortions.” In our day, maternity wards were filled with women dying of complications from illegal or self-induced abortions and the resulting infections – those are not “good old days.” Once there is an unplanned pregnancy, none of the options are easy. No matter their choice, women need help, not judgement or a prison sentence.

I share these memories to underscore the point – making abortion illegal does not stop it.  You know that. We’ve been there. Only birth control, reproductive education, and supporting women’s aspirations will reduce abortions. Laws don’t.

The logic of abortion foes mystifies –

  1. A belief in limited government and personal freedom, except for women’s reproduction – then no amount of government intrusion is too much.
  1. A belief in personal responsibility such as the mature use of birth control, except some Republicans advocate banning all birth control methods – how nuts is that? Hate abortion but outlaw the most effective means to prevent it?
  1. A belief in the freedom of individuals to make decisions. A freedom that requires education in reproductive biology, respect, and that arms people of child bearing age with knowledge about sexuality, except Republicans object to teaching the facts about “where babies come from,” or about human relationships and how couples make decisions on fertility.
  1. A belief in educated self-sufficiency. The general education of women correlates to reduced child bearing. Educate women and encourage their aspirations and birth rates go down, except Republicans discourage women by supporting pay discrimination, lobbying against a living minimum wage, and defunding a floor of services, such as child care for mothers in low-paying jobs. Those promoting childbearing are the same people who vigorously cut funding for the very services needed to support families – denying women’s aspirations.

The Republican party focuses on reversing Roe v Wade. But, I know that you know that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it.

Is the point to control women, or to decrease the rate of abortions?  If the goal is control then make abortion illegal, and throw your mom’s, daughters, sisters, and co-workers in jail.  If the goal is prevention, then respect a woman’s privacy, provide birth control, educate, support women’s aspirations; and champion policies that ensure women, children and families a floor of necessary services.

You and nine rich white men in suits recently signed away the life and health of untold numbers of women around the world by prohibiting health professionals from even discussing abortion. Did you weigh the consequences of your signature? These women, particularly those living in the poorest nations, will resort to physical punishment, poisoning, long sticks, and criminals in desperate attempts to end their pregnancies.  They will die. Their children will be orphaned.

I’m asking you to act on what you already know, making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it – it only turns distressed moms, sisters, wives, and daughters into criminals, and memories. You can dramatically end abortion. Take a stand that what a woman decides about her body is her business.  Take reproductive issues off the political table. Leave women alone. Make contraception as easily available as Viagra and invest in new pregnancy prevention technologies. Provide basic comprehensive education to our children about how their bodies work. Commit to women’s education around the world. Champion equal pay for women, affordable high quality child care, and services that support families.  Those policies will be effective….making abortion illegal, will not.  We’ve both been there. You know it’s true.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 9, Third Letter

Day 9, Third Letter

Photograph by TuVeuxMaPhoto

Dear Mr. President,

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. On that day, when people all over the world should have been focused on never letting a nightmare of that magnitude unfold again, you gave lip service to it and then moved on to sign executive orders damning men, women and children from other nations to starvation, torture and death.

I am sure that sometime yesterday, you paused to remember all of the people who suffered and died during the Holocaust. The Jews, polish people, the Roma, the disabled, the Slavic and so-called Asiatic peoples of the Soviet Union. I am sure you remembered the images from World War II. The bodies stacked in mass graves. The survivors as camps were liberated, their skeletal frames, naked or covered in filthy rags, open sores, vacant eyes. I am sure you remembered the mantra “Never Again.”

I think I might be too optimistic about your ability to empathize with anyone. You seem to be incapable of it. I don’t think you remembered any of those things. I think you read words off of a piece of paper that you probably had not even seen until a few minutes before your allotted time to speak.

Your lack of empathy is behind the executive orders that you signed yesterday. That and your desire to give scared families in this country a “them” to focus their fear, anger and jealousy on. You have made immigrants and refugees the scapegoats for the people who elected you based on your platform of hatred.

Mr. President, besides finding your actions abhorrent and in complete contradiction to the ideals our country has embraced in its better moments, I find them terrifying because they remind me so very much of Hitler. Of how he came to power. Of how he wielded fear like a mallet, using it to crush the decency and humanity out of his followers.

My grandparents all came to this country from Russia before World War II. They came to escape the brutality and horror of the pogroms. They found refuge in our country. They built lives for themselves. They had families, businesses, friends. They lived full and great lives on our shores.  Anyone from our family who did not leave Europe before World War II died there. During the war. Wiped off the face of this planet, Mr. President. Slaughtered.

These executive orders are not just pieces of paper. You say you are protecting our nation. But what you are really doing with such sweeping broad measures is signing the death warrants of the families who would otherwise have found safety and a future on our shores. Their deaths are on you.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

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