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Day 154 – The Handmaid’s Tale Should Not Remind People of Your Administration, Mr. President.

Day 154 – The Handmaid’s Tale Should Not Remind People of Your Administration, Mr. President.

Photograph by Tom Blunt of cover of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Dear Mr. President,

One Friday night nearly twenty years ago, my college roommates went out and I just wasn’t up for it. Hardly was I up for studying either, so I looked over our bookshelf in hopes something would spark my interest. I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale. I put it down only after reading the final page.

This novel struck me as no other ever had. These were my formative years as an activist, a feminist, a believer in equality; Margaret Atwood’s words helped solidify the importance of paying attention to the government and its true impact on its people.

I have often told this story when asked to choose my favorite book (and as a high school English teacher, it happens a lot). Yet what I cite as most disturbing about the novel is not the militaristic government, the destruction of individuality or families, or even (as horrifying as it is) the legalized – and required – rape of young fertile women by their “Commander.”

What scares me most about this novel is just how fast Gilead, the dystopian society of the novel, was created. The adults remembered what life had been. They did not believe every aspect of life could change before they realized every aspect of their life had changed.

As you may know, Hulu just finished its first television season of The Handmaid’s Tale. I was a bit leery when I first heard about this, but upon learning that Atwood was involved and read interviews with the cast, I had complete faith in the adaptation. The show blew me away. I know reading isn’t your thing, but I hope you are at least willing to watch it.

The writers and directors so beautifully integrated the flashbacks of life previous to the regime change. Again, this is what scared me most. Life looked familiar, completely relatable. Little by little the government started intervening; little by little rights started disappearing, namely because the human race was dwindling. Society had destroyed itself nearly to sterility. This is where I truly see the eventual parallel to Gilead: your steadfast push to poison our environment.

Already you have called climate change a hoax despite all true scientists showing the opposite. But it’s not solely your words. Your actions are taking us closer to the contaminated world of Gilead.

Your support of the Dakota Access Pipeline shows your ignorance as to how our actions impact the Earth. How many other places in our country will you be willing to destroy for profit? Land is poisoned.

You propose to cut the funding of the Great Lakes, funding that would benefit those in Flint, Michigan. These citizens – these children – suffer from horrendous amounts of lead. The damage from this lifelong impact is still developing, but children have been showing developmental issues. Water is poisoned.

Then there is your highly disliked choice to exit the Paris agreement. This is not about “massive redistribution of United States’ wealth to other countries.” You just don’t feel the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  You refuse to listen, to work together. Air is poisoned.

Without land, water, and air, we have nothing, Mr. President. Nothing.

I will continue to do as I can to sustain our earth, allowing her to work for all of us, but she needs your help too.

Mother Nature, I’m sorry this is happening, yet I also know you’re strong. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 153 – Philando Castile, Mr. President.

Day 153 – Philando Castile, Mr. President.

Photograph from the Star Tribune

Dear Mr. President,

Skim a number of online dictionaries to see how they define “upstanding citizen.” You will see certain trends: Follows rules. Obeys laws. Helpful. Honest. Strong morals. Upright. Straightforward. Honorable.

Imagine an upstanding citizen’s day. He goes to work. He works hard while there. He is friendly and helpful. He is an exemplar for his co-workers. Imagine that he works in a school: he knows the kids’ names; he helps the kids; the kids know him and love him.

The upstanding citizen leaves work. He runs some errands and eats dinner with his sister. At some point, he’ll go to his loved ones, of course. Imagine that he is driving with them. Imagine, in this case, they are his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter, whom he treats as his own because he is an upstanding citizen.

While driving, the upstanding citizen gets stopped by the police. The police say the upstanding citizen resembled a robbery suspect. The police officer says when the upstanding citizen drove by, his nose looked like the one reportedly on the robber’s face.

Imagine an upstanding citizen getting stopped by the police because as he drove by, the officers thought they got a good enough look at his nose. Imagine various officers doing this 52 times since you got your driver’s license.

The upstanding citizen is a supporter of the Second Amendment. When the officer asks for ID, the upstanding citizens tells him he has a firearm and a license to carry it. The upstanding citizen follows all of the officer’s directions.

Imagine being in that situation. Imagine following every rule. Imagine obeying the laws. Imagine being helpful, honorable, and honest. Imagine being so straightforward as to help the officer by making him aware of your firearm. Imagine following all of the rules. Imagine doing exactly as you’re told by the police officer.

Now imagine getting shot four times by that officer after you told him you have a firearm and he asked you to raise your hands and you were raising your hands as you were asked to do.

Now imagine that millions and millions of people watched this happen on a live video. You might imagine that the police officer and his entire department would be investigated.

And now imagine you’re Black.

Rather, imagine you were Black because now you’re just a soul because those four shots? They ended your life. Imagine people using euphemisms like “ended your life” instead of speaking blunt truths like, “You were murdered.”

Now imagine how it would feel to see the newly elected president appoint Jeff Sessions to Attorney General. Imagine how it would feel to know that in February of 2017, that Attorney General said he would stop federal monitoring of troubled police departments.

Imagine how it feels to have your execution viewed millions of times. Imagine how it feels to see the police officer walk away without any charges pressed against him. Imagine how it would feel to know that his department won’t have any questions asked of it by the federal government now.

Imagine what kind of country would allow officers of the state to shoot an upstanding citizen and have no recourse against them. Now imagine that this happens often enough to not only be a trend but an expectation. Imagine walking out your door to go to work every morning as an upstanding citizen.

Mr. President, today I ask you to imagine.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

 

Day 152 – DACA Flip-Flop? More of the Same? Utter Confusion? Yes?

Day 152 – DACA Flip-Flop? More of the Same? Utter Confusion? Yes?

Photograph by Joe Frazier Photo

Dear Mr. President,

Most of us may not like it, but living in the United States means living in your world now.  Of course, this is great for you.  You love being in charge. The people you govern, however, have had to acclimate to constantly shifting ground.  We now live in a tumultuous world where norms and standards we once took for granted are now uncertain.

Moreover, your own statements about what you yourself think or believe at any given time are notoriously unreliable, as highlighted in The Atlantic’s recent (but already out-of-date) “All the President’s Flip-Flops.”  Your temperamental nature is legendary and no one can be sure who or what will be the target of your next tantrum.

So I was pleasantly surprised when one of your U-turns actually favored at least one policy I support.  The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced the continuation of limited protections for certain undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Unlike my response to the vast majority of news related to your presidency, I wanted to celebrate this particular about-face.

But it’s so hard to trust you.  Even the people who stand to benefit are wary.  According to one DACA recipient in the New York Times, “My initial reaction was, ‘Well, what’s the catch?’”

Sure enough, you soon curtailed the impact of the initial news release, explaining that the statement merely meant DACA enrollees “would not immediately be affected by a separate action officially ending a similar program.”  Rather than clarity, your administration offered more uncertainty.  Dreamers remain in limbo.  But a DHS spokesperson noted “the president has stressed [the DACA program] needs to be handled with compassion and with heart.”

Good.  I’d like you to take a moment to consider what it’s like for Dreamers. Now, I’m guessing you don’t have a lot of practice using your imagination.  I say this because your children, young and grown, were not primarily raised by you, and those of us who don’t spend much time with young kids can struggle with our imaginations.  It’s okay; I know it’s hard to find the time.  You were and are an important man with a lot on your plate.  Imagination is key to empathy, though.  But don’t panic; I’ll walk you through it in terms that even you can understand.

Sit back, close your eyes and picture yourself somewhere you feel at home. A round of golf at the club perhaps. Since you’ve had a limo driver for at least 17 years, we’ll assume your chauffeur was at the wheel and you didn’t have to trouble yourself with weighing the merits of the various routes. You simply emerge from the backseat of the car, having been shielded from any decisions by the partition separating you from your driver, into the comfort of the golf course and go about your business (or leisure, as the case may be).  Suddenly, the long arm of the law converges on your peaceful little world.  For the first time, you discover that your trusted chauffeur ran into a roadblock on the way.  Because he wanted to get you there as soon as possible to give you the pick of the best caddies, he took some illegal shortcuts around the roadblock.  You had no idea, you weren’t even driving, but the car is in your name and now the police are searching the course to hold you responsible.

This is an admittedly simplistic analogy.  But maybe it can help you imagine the situation that these undocumented immigrants find themselves in.  Dreamers were brought to this country as small children, by people trying to give them the best opportunity they could.  The United States is the only home they have ever known.  Sheltered by the screen of childhood, they had no role in the decision to move here and many do not even realize they are undocumented.

Show the Dreamers that you can empathize and give them the stability of preserving DACA.

Sincerely,

Letter2Trump

Day 151 – You Cannot Undo His Legacy or What He Stands For, Mr. President.

Day 151 – You Cannot Undo His Legacy or What He Stands For, Mr. President.

Photograph by Airman Magazine

Dear Mr. President,

I have always thought I’d be a good therapist. But seeing as I am a teacher and not a therapist, I still find it a good use of my skills offering unsolicited advice to friends whom I think need it.  Just kidding! I do often come up with the advice (in my head), but do not dare share it, unless asked, of course. In your case though, I feel I could offer some advice and maybe, just maybe you will one day read my words.

I have followed your presidency so far and I have often felt that you have a very intense dislike, to put it mildly, of your predecessor, President Obama. I know I am right about this for you have used your first few months to, as they say in the news, “chip away at his legacy.” You have used both your time and energy to dismantle all that he’s done, starting with Obamacare, then the environment and now Cuba (to name a few); 151 days into your presidency, he even remains a recurring topic of your most recent Tweets, like this one from June 18, 2017: The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating. That’s higher than O’s #’s!”

It’s time you began thinking about your own legacy, Mr. President, not in relation to Obama, but in relation to what you want for this country. There is a quote by Judy Garland that says, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” For someone as proud as yourself, who seeks to define himself as an independent thinker, your reactionary policies do not make you an independent; they make you dependent, dependent on Obama. And you certainly don’t want that. Reactionary policies act like a pendulum that go from one extreme to the other but neither extreme is ever right for the American people you claim to want to protect and serve. Only in separating yourself and your policies do you become truly free of President Obama’s shadow. Isn’t that what you ultimately want? To be your own man?

A glaring example of how reactionary politics does not help people is clearly demonstrated in your decision to again freeze relations with Cuba. Although this was done in the name of lessening human rights violations in Cuba, Ben Rhodes, who assisted in creating diplomacy with the Castro regime in the past states that, though Cuba “represses dissent and discourages public criticism, but restoring restrictions on travel and commerce are unlikely to lead to improvement.”

So my advice to you is to focus on your own message Mr. President, your legacy; don’t simply choose a side because it’s the opposite of your enemy’s. As my favorite guru Chogyam Trungpa says, “Ultimately, the definition of bravery is not being afraid of yourself.” It’s time to begin to follow your own path and not simply react in opposition to all Obama was and continues to be.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 150 – Keeping Nailing Them In, Mr. President. Good Job.

Day 150 – Keeping Nailing Them In, Mr. President. Good Job.

Photograph by Adam Rosenberg

Dear Mr. President,

I dread this time of the month. No, not the time where blood comes out of my “wherever.” The time when I committed to writing you this letter, and I have to face reality and dig through the news stories I spend most of my time avoiding. I know I should pay close attention, but I just can’t. It’s too overwhelmingly depressing. So when I was slogging through the piles of digital dung your administration trails across the internet, I found a glimmer of hope in what feels like your endless term in office. Time Magazine online quoted Representative Ted Lieu of California as saying, “All Americans, regardless of party, agree on the fundamental principle that no one is above the law, and if President Trump were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and then got special counsel Mueller fired, I believe Congress would begin impeachment proceedings.” This comes after you tweeted about being persecuted in a “witch hunt.”

Impeachment proceedings! Don’t toy with my emotions, Mr. Lieu. I’ve been waiting to hear these words ever since you drew “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” according to Sean Spicer. As a part of this letter writing campaign, we are to give you actionable advice. But I think you’ve made it crystal clear through your actions that you don’t take anyone’s advice.

So I will ask that you continue spiraling out of control and if you’re feeling sassy, which you generally are, go ahead and fire Rosenstein and Mueller. Please, put the final nail in the impeachment coffin for the good of the world. Because your actions in office affect people far beyond our borders, and I think globally it’s pretty unanimous. We are all pretty sick of this covfefe.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

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