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Day 539 – Letter to America: When Your Grandchildren Ask What Side You Were On, What Will You Tell Them?

Day 539 – Letter to America: When Your Grandchildren Ask What Side You Were On, What Will You Tell Them?

Dear America,

539 days ago, on the first day of his presidency, I wrote a letter to Mr. Trump. In it, I wondered what sort of leader he imagined himself to be and what sort of example he planned to set for the citizens of this country. What, I asked, would he encourage us to hold sacred? What would he teach our children to love about themselves and each other and their world? Would he lead us toward empathy and equality or toward judgment and division?

I’ll be honest: I suspected that we already knew the answers to those questions, and the last eighteen months have borne that suspicion out.  So, as Mr. Trump gets ready to put a second justice on the Supreme Court (thanks to Mitch McConnell for the act of public betrayal he committed in refusing to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland), and as he insults our allies in Western Europe and reasserts his bonafides as a “very stable genius,and as he makes misleading statements about trade deficits and NATO spending, and as he mangles sense and sensibility at increasingly desperate “rallies,” I’m no longer wondering what our country’s leader will do.

I’m wondering what we’re going to do.

True, the majority of American voters actually voted against the election of Donald Trump. But that choice was almost two years ago.

What are we going to do now?

What choices are we going to make for our future, for our country’s future, and for our planet’s future?

Despite the evidence of Trump’s presidency, I still believe in the power of government to be a force for good in people’s lives: to foster opportunity and possibility, to educate honestly and equally, and to promote community and to teach hope. I still believe that government can and should shelter those who are homeless, feed those who are hungry, and heal those who are ill — not because people have “earned it” somehow, but simply because they are human.

Likewise, I still believe that we can choose love over fear, inclusion over division, mercy over vengeance, curiosity over ignorance, and grace over the blind worship of wealth and power.

It’s not easy.

It’s never easy.

We’re bombarded daily by propaganda, some of it from Russian trollfarms, much of it by giant corporate interests looking to secure their rule for generations. We’re told by our president that people from “shithole countries” don’t deserve opportunity in America. We’re subjected to public statements from our president claiming that immigrants want to “infest our country.” We’re left staring at massive future debts as a result of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and wondering why our country should relax the environmental standards that had helped ensure relatively clean water and clear air for the past several generations.

In the face of this, it’s easy to assume that it’s too late, that the fight is lost, that there’s little to nothing that the hard-working individuals who make up the vast majority of the country can do to right the ship before it sinks.

In the same way, it’s easy to have somebody else make decisions for you, to dole out little bits of entertainment and opportunity, limiting significant freedoms while affording you symbolic ones.

It’s easy to view others as your competition rather than your community, your enemies rather than your brothers and sisters, your burden rather than your responsibility.

It’s easy to want to pull up the ladder behind you once you’ve reached a place of relative security and to credit your success purely to your own hard work rather than a combination of luck, opportunity, talent, effort, and help from others.

It’s easy to choose to simply believe the lies that a xenophobic, corrupt, hypocritical demagogue tells on an almost hourly basis and much more difficult to ask yourself, honestly and critically, what his election (and, perhaps, your vote) might mean both about and for our country.

It might very well be easier to allow America to continue its slide toward fascism and one-party rule than to recognize that slide for what it is and dare to resist it.

It’s always easier to allow what is to continue rather than to fight for what could be.

But when your grandchildren ask you what happened, when they look up at you and wonder what you did to help in these dark hours, what will you tell them?

When they ask which side you were on, what will you tell them?

When they look at photos from 2018, 2019, 2020, where will they find you? Will they find you screaming hate and violence from behind a tiki torch? Will they find you chanting “build that wall” at a mid-western rally? Will they find you glued to a screen, your eyes reflecting Facebook, or Netflix, or Hulu, absorbing much but doing little?

We lionize those who joined the fight against fascism and the deadly racist ideology of the Axis powers during World War II, and we’re proud of those who marched for civil rights across this country, putting their bodies on the line for the belief that America should honor in practice the pledge it made in words in its Declaration of Independence.

Will our grandchildren be as proud of us as we are of our grandparents? Will they tell stories of our bravery? Of our refusal to capitulate to corporate greed, isolationism, and the strange worship of dictators in other countries? Of our insistence that America is great not because of its wealth or its power but because of its commitment to equality and justice?

That’s our choice to make.

It’s not going to be easy. The right thing rarely is.

Let’s honor those who fought before us and those who will follow behind us, the idealistic foundation of our past and the promising opportunity of the future.

We’re better than Trump. We always have been.

This, after all, is the country that acted as the Arsenal of Democracy. This is the country that broke the Soviet Union and inspired people around the world to demand their own democratic rights. This is the country that invented jazz, that produced Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and John Wesley Powell. This is the country that gave us Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, John Muir and Gary Snyder, Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keefe, Moby-Dick and A Love Supreme. This is the country that hopes eternal for all that the Rebel Alliance stands for as it beats back the tyranny of the Empire.

This is a country worthy of our love, and it’s also a country worthy of a fight.

Many of us are out there fighting for it already. Let’s join them, with all of our strength, our resolve, and our love. Let’s show our children, our grandchildren, and each other who we are and who we want to be.

Our country deserves nothing less.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 537 – One Letter to Go, and Then All Energy Turned Toward November and Ushering In the End of Your Administration. Woot I Say!

Day 537 – One Letter to Go, and Then All Energy Turned Toward November and Ushering In the End of Your Administration. Woot I Say!

Dear DJT,

This will be my last letter to you.  I’ve written before: I’ve implored you to listen to those of us that took to the streets after your inauguration (you do know now that we far exceeded the crowd at your party, yes?), I asked you to actually read and consider the Boy Scout motto, I explained to you the fears I had raising black children in this country, I admonished you not to brag about your intellect in the face of evidence contrary to your claims, I wrote a little holiday poem outlining what the general populace wanted for Christmas; basically, sir, I laid it all out for you. And because my epistles were peppered with fifty cent words, had no pictures to help with reading comprehension, and were not exactly filled with praise and accolades, I know you didn’t read them.

Oh, I know these aren’t the only reasons you haven’t read them; you’re a busy man, what with all the golfing, the various feuds you’ve waged with terminally ill senators, journalists, actors, late night talk show hosts, dictators that you are now besties with, your, and I cannot stress this enough, FORMER political opponent, lawyers, judges, members of your own administration, heads of state of allied nations, various legislators, me as the opposition, football players, basketball players, clergy, La Leche—whew, I know I’m forgetting people here, but you get the point, where was I, oh, yes, your schedule: watching FOX news, talking to comedians, old friends, new friends, and Sean Hannity on your unsecured cell phone, pardoning white nationalists of all stripes, signing executive orders, tweeting, and, I have to assume, maintaining that Cheeto-like hue, all of this, I imagine, is time consuming.  And, sir, I have no illusions that you will read this one, or any of the more than 536 letters that this group of your constituents has been writing since the day you took your oath of office (in front of a tiny crowd).

Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that someone in your service, maybe Jared, or the people in charge of taping together the official documents you are so fond of ripping up and tossing on the floor, are keeping track of them.  Maybe Kellyanne is printing them out between bouts of angry CNN appearances, bundling them up and burying them in the Rose Garden. I know our fearless editor once did take the time to print out the first several months of letters and sent them to you as you settled into your new digs, and she’s been tweeting them at you; we know how you love Twitter and seeing your name, so there’s a chance that you may have come across one or two. But in the end, I rather doubt it.

I have concluded, by your actions, based on accounts of your tender age years, after hearing some of your speeches, upon reading interviews conducted by reputable and not so reputable news outlets, that you don’t really read, listen, or think. You react, you incite, you watch, you gesture, you spout, but nothing resonates with you, nothing alters you, you learn nothing. The only mental device you seem to use is contrivance; you twist everything that you hear or see to fit your narrative.

The fourth estate becomes an enemy of the people until the day a man who sees journalists as you’ve relentlessly described them and kills five innocent people as they work. Then they become heroes, until another journalist dares to continue to do his or her job. “Fake news!” you scream, the tragedy of just 48 hours erased from your conscience.

The FBI, the CIA, even the DOJ are on a “witch hunt,” treating you and your confidants “very unfairly,” until they execute an edict of yours that makes the very act of seeking refuge illegal (it’s not, by the way, ask Jeff when the two of you are alone sometime), and rips babies out of parents arms and into dog runs and office parks and tents in the desert thousands of miles away. Then they are enforcing the law, until another subpoena is issued. Then the very idea of justice is suspect.

You want to “drain the swamp,” and create sound and fury against the “deep state,” the previous administration, your political adversaries, claiming to rid Washington of the corruption that you say has been the bane of every white male’s American citizen existence before you came to town, until your cabinet members spend obscene  amounts of money on things like dining room sets for their offices, huge 24/7 security details, five course dinners for said detail in Rome, and a soundproof booth (what was that anyway?). Then once the sweetheart leasing arrangements, the charter flights of planes and helicopters, and European honeymoons facilitated by military planes, make the news cycle, you express disappointment, until another round robin of conference table praise by these swamp creatures sends you back to your happy place.

If I am completely honest, I’ll admit that I held out a little hope that something that I or my fellow letter writers wrote would reach you, would give you pause, a brief moment to consider our issues, our worries, our outrage, our fear, or even acknowledgement of our disgust. I don’t hold that hope anymore. Each day that you occupy that once revered office adds to my distress as you dismantle and destroy the work my grandparents, parents, my brothers and sisters, and my sons and daughters have done to move America to greatness.  So I will no longer keep my tempest in this teapot. Instead, you will see me among the throngs that resist your racism, your corruption, your move toward tyranny. I’ll be marching. I’ll be shouting. I’ll be supporting the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, The Southern Poverty Law Center, RAICES, and the myriad of candidates poised to win the next two sets of elections. I will call for your resignation. You won’t hear me, but Jared, Kellyanne, do yourselves a favor and get out now while the gettin’s not completely debilitating…

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 536 – I Guess Asking You to Just Stop Being You Isn’t an Option? No? Sigh.

Day 536 – I Guess Asking You to Just Stop Being You Isn’t an Option? No? Sigh.

Image from Twitter by Mark Bryant

Mr. President,

As I prepared to write my last letter to you, I thought back to your election and why I was so leery of you in the first place. It all comes back to your character. Before we even saw you as our president, we saw who you were as a person. You chalk it up to wanting to cut out the “political correctness” of our culture; I just look at it as moral bankruptcy.

Most recently, you took a sideways dig at our recently deceased former president (whose funeral you didn’t even bother to attend), and then you continued to bash an ailing senator. These actions alone are appalling, but that’s just the top of the list in terms of the totally inappropriate things you’ve said.

I watched a documentary the other evening (Icarus), which was about the performance enhancing drug scandal that plagued Russia. The documentary had some detailed evidence of the Russian state’s involvement in the scandal. Yet, Putin continues to deny his knowledge of any such program. It struck me why you seem to like Putin and want to be in cohort with him: you both put winning and appearances over all else.

I hate to tell you that there is no trophy for being a good President (not that you would be in line for one at this point anyway), nor is there a trophy for being a “1st place” country. I don’t know how you think you can win anything, except the hearts of the people who are so desperate to put themselves and America “first” that they listen to your fear-based attacks.

I can accept a lot from our leaders. Leaders are human beings who make mistakes, but get back up and keep at it. They are not liars, blamers, or easily flustered. At a minimum, they try their best to serve the people they lead. After a year and a half with you as our president, I see you serve only a handful of our citizens. Mostly, I see you serve yourself and your whims. If you have any aspirations to get the mess of a revolving-door White House in order, I suggest you get your own moral compass straightened out first.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 535 – Melting Pot, But Only of All White People, Mr. President?

Day 535 – Melting Pot, But Only of All White People, Mr. President?

Dear Mr. President,

The unspeakable and inhumane cruelty that you are visiting upon families who have followed the normal procedures to seek admittance to the U.S. is horrifying. Our country used to be a beacon of hope, sought by so many immigrants and refugees who started their lives anew here. Like many Americans, I am the descendant of such migration and had taken deep pride in being part of a place that embraced others and felt richer for their presence.

No more.

As you expel immigrant members of the military (for no reason given), tear babies and children from their parents when they presented themselves to authorities at border crossings to ask to be admitted, and look to illegally seize DNA information on minors because you apparently have no other way to reunify families, you do damage to our nation that I fear will take generations to overcome. I, and millions of Americans, beg you to stop, to return to the protocols of ANY former U.S. president from the past 50 years – Republican or Democrat, it hardly matters. For it would be far superior to the horror you are visiting upon so many, directly, and all of your citizens, indirectly, by smearing us with the stench of your inhumanity and utter incompetence.

I feel more strongly than ever before that the end of your presidency cannot come soon enough.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 534 – Letter to Hopeless Americans: Stop Feeling Hopeless. Do Something.

Day 534 – Letter to Hopeless Americans: Stop Feeling Hopeless. Do Something.

Image from The Cut

Dear Hopeless Americans,

The first family reunification deadlines are now approaching. The court in the San Diego, California case issued a ruling that children under 5 years old must be returned by Tuesday, July 10th, and the remaining children by July 26th. As described in the letter for Day 477, the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t exactly have a good reputation for keeping track of the immigrant children in its care. However, it’s become clear that the Trump administration kept pathetically, arguably criminally, inadequate records of the approximately 3,000 children that it removed from the care of their families at the border.  This number is a marked increase from the 2,047 figure the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported only 9 days before this estimate, despite HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s claim that “the government knows the identities and location of all the minors under the department’s care.”  Secretary Azar held conference calls with members of the House and Senate on Friday to discuss the family separation policy.  According to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (a Democrat), the call revealed “more shocking questions raised about whether info and [a] system exists to reunify children with parents.

The court order also required the government to ensure that children were able to call their parents at least twice a week, but coverage by numerous sources, including CNN, NPR and PBS News Hour, indicate that even this task has proven challenging for the administration.  Jennifer Podkul is the policy director for non-profit providing children’s advocacy services in immigration court and has stated, “It is evident … that there is no consistent policy for ensuring communication among separated children and parents.”

A guest on a recent episode of my favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, defined grief as “reckoning with what cannot be undone.”  The PBS News Hour article points to a lot of grief caused by the Trump administration’s spiteful family separation policy.  According to Howard Zucker, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, “[p]rolonged stress (also known as toxic stress) can permanently disrupt the structure and function of a child’s developing brain.”  New York City health care official Mitchell Katz confirmed that “NYC Health + Hospitals have treated several children … separated from their families at the southwestern United States border … for such condition[s] as asthma, strep throat, and suicidal ideation.” The Trump administration has already requested an extension of the family reunification deadlines, which simply means the damage they have done will be further prolonged and harder to reverse, if it’s even possible to do so.

What’s most disturbing to me is that this policy of separating families is a form of retribution for and deterrent from seeking asylum. Punishing people, especially in this way, because they asked for help demonstrates ill will and shows us to be ruthless and hard-hearted. As Americans, we face a grave reckoning with the harm we’ve permitted to be done in our names.  And we should mourn the stain this has made on the moral fabric of our nation.

Based on the definition of grief provided above, I think the difference between grief and hope is the possibility of change. We grieve when something happens that, for whatever reason, is unchangeable. On the other hand, we wallow when we’re indulging in self-pity.  Not all hope is lost. It’s still possible to make amends for the vindictive actions committed on our behalf and change our ways.  Please support the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) or one of the many other organizations working to assist the children forcibly removed from their parents simply because they asked for our help.

Sincerely,

Christine Trinh and Letters2Trump

 

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