Photograph by Anne Ruthmann
Dear Mr. President,
This week representatives returned to their communities to hold town meetings. Many ducked this responsibility afraid of their constituents’ anger. Several of these public servants (including The White House spokesman) marginalized constituents in patronizing tones as “paid organizers” and “outsiders” and delegitimized sincere anxiety.
You sometimes state that you want to unite the country. I hope you can. I’d like to talk with my cousins and relatives again. A friend once mused that the demise of a great organization began when the leaders cared more about “looking good” than “being good.”
You could go a long way toward being good and healing this nation if you tried the following three strategies:
- Adopt the Rotarian Four-Way Test;
- Stop framing the world as “winner” and “losers”; and at least pretend to
- Be kind and empathetic.
In case you aren’t aware, here is a synopsis of The Four-Way Test. Before speaking, or tweeting, or writing, or even in managing your thinking, hold your idea to the following standards:
- Is it true?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
You could place a card with these ideas in your pocket next to the nuclear codes, or tape it to the “red phone.”
You ridicule those who aren’t your cheerleaders as a “losers.” You frame dissent as “sore losers.” You espouse “winner takes all” and vanquish fellow citizens with the phrase “we won.” You seem to interpret that phrase as permission to ignore the interests, ideas, and concerns of everyone except your voters. You use phrases laced with violence and disdain. Then you seem surprised that people don’t like you. Here are some questions to ponder.
When you say “we,” do you mean everyone in the United States, or only those who voted for you? Or do you actually mean only white, rich, “born again” Christian, protestant, heterosexual, men whose values and vision reflect the 1930s?
You can’t expect people to support you when you enjoy calling them names, deny their humanity, insult their race/religion/ethnic group/sexual orientation/gender/religious heritage and birthright, and continuously cast their opinions as lies without merit. When you belittle the free press and attempt to substitute propaganda for news, people care. When you idolize a tyrant and dismiss our nation’s friends, people will show up at public meetings – unpaid and angry – and they will object!
Finally, Americans expect their president to be wise and kind. Not a cruel game master prone to wild accusations and relentless punishment. While empathy and kindness may be difficult to truly acquire at this point in your life – you could pretend.
When you see families beaten down by war and violence and struggling to simply survive, you could greet them with a warm, safe, shelter, instead of slamming the door. They are victims of war – not the perpetrators.
When you strive to make the country feel secure, you could start by providing paths to become citizens for the 11+ million people cowering in terror tonight because of your policies. You could assure people of color that their children can look to the police for safety – and lift up the police to their own ideals to “protect and serve” their communities. You can swiftly, loudly, and vigorously denounce anti-Semitism, racism, and set the tone that bigotry won’t be served in your presidency.
You could embrace the great aspirational values expressed in America’s founding documents. You’ll find them on the walls of many public schools. You could use these values to reframe your presidency…freedom, justice, rule of law, due process, an independent judiciary, freedom from a state religion – to practice religion – or to ignore religion, honoring assembly, and a free press. Living these values…that would make you a great president.
We want to join you and bring this country together. But, until you decide to BE a good president, the dismissed, patronized, majority of voters will show up and we will object.