An Open Letter to President-elect Donald Trump

Dear President-elect Trump,

I didn’t vote for you. But here’s some things you need to know to earn my respect and possibly become the most popular president we’ve ever had:

  1. The United States is a melting pot. People of all shades and colors are a strength of the United States, not a weakness. To keep and defend the vision of our Founding Fathers, we need to overcome barriers of race and understand that first and foremost we are all Americans. You need to go to bat for all Americans regardless of their color. You are our representative in the world and at home here in the States, no matter what color we are. You should publicly apologize to people who are brown for calling them rapists and thieves, and you should apologize to the Native peoples for not paying attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. You should do a tour of poor black neighborhoods and tell people what you plan to do to help them.
  2. Did you know that Presidents can do class-action pardons? As a show of excellent faith, you can support declassifying marijuana as a schedule 1 substance. You could let all those misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses out of jail in one fell swoop. Let those kids and young people go home to their mothers. This would be in the President’s control. The precedent was set when Johnson & Grant pardoned confederate soldiers & leaders as a class in the 1800s. When rapists get out of court in 30 days, when pedophiles get 13 months on a long leash in luxurious accommodations, but people who have a little pot on their person get jailed for years, you know our penal system is broken. All we’re doing is turning potheads into career criminals. That’s ridiculous.
  3. Trickle-down economics is a myth. You can’t take away social supports (Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, SNAP/food stamps, etc.) at the same time that you cut taxes for the rich and expect that there will be a middle class remaining. Please make sure that you help correct this myth, it has caused great harm to our economic structure in the past, and threatens to do so in the future as well. Taking money from the bottom of the economy and giving it to the top of the economy doesn’t create jobs, it doesn’t create small businesses, it doesn’t employ people. You will have seen the effect of this in your dealings as a landlord in New York City as people were no longer able to afford your apartments. Find ways to strengthen the middle class, it’s the wellspring of the economy.
  4. People do not choose whether to be gay any more than people choose whether to be straight. If it were really a choice, most humans are lazy and would choose the easy way out. It’s no more a choice than choosing whether to be white or black. Hence, our laws should reflect the same idea. In order for a person who is gay (including lesbians, bisexuals, etc.) to be equal to someone who is straight, they have to be afforded the ability to procure ALL the legal & financial protections of marriage with their chosen partner regardless of gender/sex. Down to the self-same word “marriage” because by any other name it leads to confusion regarding the legal & financial protections it affords couples. Gay marriage is a right, and should be protected. I understand that if this matter comes up to the Supreme Court it is going to be out of your hands. However, should any legislation come across your desk to be signed into law, make sure that the law is protecting the rights of gays to be able to get married and gain all the legal & financial protections that are afforded to straight married couples.
  5. Furthermore, as an Interfaith minister, it’s important to me even on the religious front to be free to marry gay couples. If you want to get rid of gay marriage on grounds of “religious freedom” then you are infringing on the religious beliefs of others who have their Faith and have heard the message of Love from their Divine Protector that gays should be able to marry, because Love is Love, and Love is Divine. To axe gay marriage is infringing on my religious freedom. It’s saying your religious teachings are more important than mine. That is not religious freedom.
  6. Did you know there was a tax on women’s menstrual hygiene products in New York? It’s finally been repealed which means it has finally been recognized that women have no control over the physiological process of menstruation, and related products are finally tax-exempt as medically necessary products. Quite often, even though they try, women have little control over getting pregnant as well. Women’s birth control is not 100% effective, and men’s use of birth control is even worse. The fact is there are women who don’t intend to become pregnant, but become pregnant. Abortion is currently a protected right in this country, and it should remain a protected right. The alternative is children born into homes where they are not wanted, and children being given up for adoption in a world with too many kids who need to be adopted, and where adopted children are stigmatized. That’s a lot of unwanted children, which makes the next generation a very unhappy generation, which leads to other social systems issues such as domestic violence, mental health issues, etc. I urge you to strongly consider reasonable terms for abortion. It’s already difficult enough for a woman or couple to decide whether to have an abortion. Don’t make it even more difficult by forcing women to get an illegal abortion.
  7. All of your supporters whom I speak to are really looking forward to you fighting for their jobs, fighting to help the middle class, helping to improve the economy, refusing new trade agreements, and focusing on our home turf. Absolutely NONE of your supporters whom I have spoken to are interested in racism, bigotry, misogyny, etc. Note, I’m in New York, your home state, but I talk to people across the US and the world. The difference between a politician and a statesman lies in how you conduct yourself in the eyes of the people. A politician panders to special interests and is only looking as far as their next election. A statesman does what’s right by the people and for the future of their country, and trusts that when they do what’s right the people will obviously vote for them to continue to do so.
  8. Going back to human rights issues is the right to go to the bathroom. Going to the bathroom isn’t about peeping into other stalls, it’s about relieving yourself. You should be able to go into the bathroom, do your duty, wash your hands, and exit, without being targeted. If someone is transitioning from male to female, and they pass in any manner as female, it’s extremely dangerous for them to be required to go into the men’s bathroom to use the facilities. A person who is transitioning and appears female in the men’s room makes them an automatic target for predators. This person is far more likely to get hurt than it is likely that a predator will attempt to pass as a woman to use the women’s room to find a target. We need to protect transgender and transitioning person’s rights to feel comfortable and relieve themselves without being attacked and harassed. Make it a high crime for predators to impersonate the opposite gender to find their victims, and leave transitioning and transgendered people to decide which bathroom they feel safer using. Hate crimes against people who are transitioning or transgendered should not be tolerated, and should not be encouraged.
  9. Gather together a representative sample of climate scientists, both those that have evidence of climate change and those who are opposing that theory, and learn everything you can from both sides. It should be a representative sample. 1:100 or 1:1000 as representatives of each viewpoint. Do not deny climate science, since you are not a scientist. Have them reduce it down to language you can understand, show you statistics, draw maps, and explain to the best of their ability what is going on, what they recommend that we do about it, and whether it’s safe to maintain our current trajectory. This will affect many industries. Short-term profits cannot be put ahead of the survival of all of humanity.
  10. It’s important that the People are allowed to keep a watchful eye over their government. In some cases, when the ethics and morals of this country are infringed upon in secret dealings, behind closed doors, it takes a whistleblower to call a government or corporation to the carpet and expose what’s going wrong. Edward Snowden is one such important whistleblower. Corporate policies require whistleblower protections in the private sector. I’m on the board of directors of a non-profit, and corporate compliance requires a whistleblower policy to protect people who come forward with information that exposes wrongdoing within the company. Why do we not have these protections for government whistleblowers? Why is it that upon exposing the NSA’s secrets, Edward Snowden had to flee the country he loves to save his own life and retain his freedom? Grant clemency to Edward Snowden, call off the hounds, and let the man come home in peace.
  11. Protect our rights to peaceful assembly. Police in riot gear have no place at a protest, in shutting people down, in demanding that we disburse, etc. so long as we have not become violent. Often the police are escalating matters by making demands on those assembled, and by engaging with protesters. I’m not talking about the recent protests of your election to become President. I’m talking about nearly all recent major protests in the last 10 years: Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, etc. Utilizing “crowd control” on peaceful assemblies is escalating the conversation the people need to have with their governance. If they’re getting more restless and violent, it’s because you — the people in power, our representatives — are not listening, and because we’re being told to sit down and shut up. No one wants to sit down and shut up, because then nothing changes. We need our voices heard. We have elected YOU. Even if I didn’t directly vote for you, you are now OUR representative. And you need to keep hearing what we have to say, because otherwise all you’ll hear while you’re in the White House is what they WANT you to hear.

This is just scratching the surface. You have said a lot during your campaign, and I’m certain that I will come up with more to say given some feedback and some time to think this over more. However, I think time is of the essence as well. I won’t back down on protecting our planet, on protecting humanity, on protecting individual rights and freedoms, on ensuring that we have safe places to live and assemble.

Blessings on you and yours, and I hope that all of this turns out wildly better than anyone could imagine,

Rev. Criss Ittermann