Dear President-Elect Trump:
It has been exactly one week since our country declared you the winner of the presidential election. While others took to social media to express their immense elation or deepest sorrow, I waited. I reflected. I prayed. I did so in order to truly understand what I was feeling and what it meant to live in Donald Trump’s America. After careful consideration and time to process through the results of last week, I am finally ready to express my thoughts. I know that you may never read this open letter, but that’s ok. This letter isn’t just for you, it’s also for me and everyone else. Whether you voted for Trump or Hillary, identify as a conservative or liberal, are politically active or apathetic, I want you to know that we’re all Americans in Donald Trump’s America. But even more than that, we’re all members of the human race and children of God. We have to be in service for something greater than ourselves. We have to be neighbors again.
That’s what was wrong with this election and the state of American political discourse. We’ve lost our sense of compassion and empathy, which has led us to vote for the empowerment of ourselves--not the empowerment of society. “It’s ok if my president is bigoted, so long as I can get my job back.” “It’s ok if healthcare isn’t actually affordable, so long as a woman is president.” “It’s ok if he committed sexual assault, so long as he deports illegal immigrants.” “It’s ok if manufacturing/coal jobs leave America, so long as we reduce our carbon footprint per capita.”
This is why our nation is divided. Not because of our candidates and their polarizing platforms, but because of the current American zeitgeist. We have failed in our calling to love our neighbor how we’d want to be loved. Social media has become a place where it’s more important to be right than it is to be empathic. The American Dream rests on the idea that as long as I have my spouse, white picket fence, dog, cat, and 2.5 children, I can turn a blind eye to whatever the hell is happening in Charlotte, Baltimore, and Ferguson. This is wrong. This is un-American. We can blame Hillary and Donald all that we want, but the fact remains that we’ve brought this upon ourselves. We, the American people, are the problem.
And more than anything, that’s why I feel sad. Not because the person who I wanted to be president lost, but because after much reflection, I have come to the disappointing conclusion that I have blame in this. I rode on my high horse, lived in my bubble, called people names, and didn’t take the concerns of my neighbor seriously. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Now as I look on social media, people are crying for “togetherness” and for the country to stand united, and all that I can say is “Are you kidding me?” We don’t get to be absolutely horrible to each other for a year and half and now that we’ve seen the end, we can just shake hands and move on. That’s not how this works. We need to heal from our wounds before we can repair our relationship with each other. We need to establish the ground rules that will empower us all to believe that it’s not just about being right, but more so about how we can all happily and safely live together.
That’s where you come in, Donald. You didn’t earn my vote, but now that you’re my president (yes...my president), I have high hopes for you. You’ve inherited a country that is in serious need of healing, so before you build your wall or send my family members back to their home country, please hear me out. I may not like you, but I choose to love you. I may hate the things that you’ve said, but I choose to forgive you. I may disagree with you, but I choose to support you. Not because you deserve it or because I’m somehow a good person for making this choice. I know that this is what it takes for me (and possibly my fellow Americans) to heal. I know that while a part of me wants you to fail so that we can replace you in four years, a bigger part of me wants you to be successful because that is what’s best for the country. I am making the choice to put my personal agenda aside and be a team player who is in service to all people regardless of what they believe. And here’s the thing--I need you and the rest of the country to do the same.
You are the President of all of us now, not just your supporters. I understand that you may not be a champion for immigrants, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other marginalized groups. But Donald, they need you. I need you. While we don’t expect you to pass any legislation on our behalf, we implore you to not pass any legislation against us. You may not ever believe our worldview, but I hope that you challenge yourself to try to walk a mile in our shoes. You may have a seriously concerning past, but I can look beyond that if you make efforts toward having a better future. A future where everyone can be proud to call you their president. I believe that you have the capacity to be a great man and a great leader. And I have faith that you will do right by your country and convince your followers to do the same. For the first time in years, I don’t want to be right. I want so badly to be wrong about you.
As for me (and those who choose to follow), I promise that I will do the same for you. I promise to step outside of my political bubble to understand and advocate for the needs of your followers. I promise to take you seriously (for better and for worse). I promise to pray for you. I promise to celebrate your successes and show compassion for your failures. I promise to respect your opinion, despite our disagreements. I promise to treat you the way that I’d want to be treated. I do this because you and your followers are my neighbors and this is what it takes for our country to heal. And when we heal, then we can make the necessary steps to bring our country back together. This is what it takes for us to put the United back in the United States of America.
So, Donald. I hate to sound like Mr. Rogers in my final sentence, but...will you be my neighbor?
Let me know,
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Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.