Dear Mr. Trump,
It has been nearly a week since you defied pundits and prognosticators and became the President-elect of the United States.
I should probably mention that I am one of the more than 61 million people who voted for your Democratic rival. This is probably not particularly surprising. After all, I am a millienial priest in a progressive mainline denomination who lives in the suburb of an east coast city. My support for Clinton, however, was about more than mere demographics. Like many people, I was attracted by her experience, intelligence, and toughness. I appreciated that she campaigned as a realist and had a sense of how profoundly difficult governing can be. Also, after 228 years, I thought it was high time we elected a woman to the highest office in the land.
If I’m honest, though, I was also voting against you. Frankly, you made me very nervous during your campaign. It wasn’t just your erratic behavior, your limited acquaintance with our Constitutional system, your casual relationship with the truth, or your lack of scruples that gave me pause. It was what you awakened in my fellow Americans. You played to our basest instincts and encouraged us to vote out of fear, resentment, and despair.
Nevertheless, I would like to give you a chance. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am rooting for you. This has very little to do with you or the policies you have proposed, many of which I believe to be fundamentally inconsistent with this country’s ideals. It also has little to do with the people you are appointing to your administration. It has everything to do with the people who voted for you. I have lived in blue states, red states, and swing states. I have known, loved, and served with people who voted for you, people who voted for Clinton, people who voted for third party candidates, and people who stayed as far away from their polling places as possible on Election Day. I know that not one of these people is fundamentally evil. All of them love their mothers, want the best for the children, and, for the most part, are just trying to make sense of the daily struggles of this life. I hope that the people who supported you, people I know and love, did not do so in vain. I also hope that the people who did not support you, people I know and love, will not be marginalized by you or your administration. I stand with them, just as I stand with my brothers and sisters who pulled the lever for you.
In my post-election grief, I listened to the Broadway musical Hamilton a lot (I know, I’m a liberal cliche, but please bear with me). Feeling both bitter and a little snide, I assumed the song that would resonate with me most was the one that King George sings to the newly independent United States after the Battle of Yorktown:
What comes next? You’ve been freed. Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own. Awesome! Wow! Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise. Empires fall. It’s much harder when it’s all your call
All alone, across the sea. When your people say they hate you, don’t come crawling back to me.
I’ll admit that the cheekier part of me continues to find solace in the king’s biting sarcasm. In the wake of your election, however, the song I have found most meaningful is the one George Washington sings to Alexander Hamilton before he leads troops into battle:
History has its eyes on you.
History doesn’t care much about reality television stars. No one is going to be writing magisterial biographies of the Kardashians in a hundred years. History is also not terribly interested in whose names were on Manhattan skyscrapers. Even unsuccessful presidential candidates rarely merit more than a footnote in the history books (though, in fairness, yours would have been longer than most). History does, however, remember presidents. Moreover, history is pretty unsparing about them: presidents are either remembered as flawed statesmen of consequence, or their administrations are lamented as regrettable mistakes and cautionary tales.
You were noticeably more disciplined in the final weeks of the campaign. By the standards you established over the last eighteen months, your victory speech was astonishingly gracious. Moreover, in every interview you’ve given since your election, you have looked overwhelmed, even terrified. Perhaps you were just afraid you would lose. Perhaps you’ve realized how difficult this job will be. Or perhaps you’ve begun to comprehend that your presidency will be subject to the judgment of history. The presidency is a sacred trust. Though you managed to earn the trust of those who voted for you, you now have the trust of many, many more people. You must prove to the American people that you understand this and that you are worthy of our trust.
I want to congratulate you on your victory and wish you the best of luck. I will support you when I can and oppose you when I must. All the while, I will remain thoroughly committed to the glorious, frustrating American experiment in self-government. In the meantime, I will be praying for you, your family, your administration, and our country. More than anything else, I pray that you remember that history has its eyes on you.
7 thoughts on “A Letter to Donald Trump”
Ah, David. As always, your eloquence is exquisite and completely on point. Thank you, my friend. Blessings on you and your sweet family.
… and then we watched him appoint a KKK approved white nationalist to be his chief strategist and tell the media that one of his first plans is to get a Supreme Court Justice who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade… while it would be nice to see him be different then he actually is, we have to remember that people show you who they are and that we have to fight for what’s right first and not sit and watch and hope that the wolf isn’t the wolf…
Well-stated, David. But this Bannon appointment … 😦 As EcoFeminist stated here and Hillary said all along, when people tell you who they are, believe them.
We must pray. And concentrate on making our communities places of kindness and compassion. I am delighted to be in the Pacific Northwest, where people care about each other and the Earth we share but complacency is never an option. Acceptance, goodness, and living thoughtfully is always a choice.
Who needs to update her handle!
This is excellent & it made my day! Love you
Sent from my iPhone
Here’s me trying not to panic, trying to admit that God is large and in charge. VP-elect Pence terrifies me, and every gay person that I know, which is many. The ultra conservative old white men that he is suggesting as advisors have long histories that should be of concern to everyone unlike them. He is suggesting a judge with a history of vocal anti-LGBT positions, who once posed for gay pornography. Not speculation, it’s readily searchable on Google. I don’t understand where these people want to take our country. I’ve already lived through the 60’s and would just as soon not have to refight civil rights issues. I’m not rooting for failure, but I am watching very carefully. My song to turn to is “I Will Not Go Quietly.”
Father David. Thank you for this well articulated peace. I live in Houston now, but was a member of heavenly rest in Abilene. Loved you then. Loved you know. Keep writing! Teresia
I just read your letter to Donald Trump. It has helped my spirit and given me back my voice and hope.Thank you very much.