To My Pro-Trump Family
This is a letter I’ve been trying to write for a long time. Since the stressful evening of November 8th, I’ve wrestled with words to describe exactly how I’m feeling, and exactly what I want to say, and the result has been neither particularly coherent or cohesive — as often happens when words, all the more tumultuous for the emotions behind them, wrestle back.
I think now — and by now I do mean this exact moment in time as I’m writing this, and only now — I am in a state of mind to speak fluently. So before the next scandal, or dangerous executive order, or blatant lying of public officials happens, and before this reverie passes, we’re gonna give it a shot.
My dear, dear family,
I wish I could say I write to you now with nothing but love in my heart. Of course I love you, and I will always love you — that is, after all, what family is for — but not long ago that love was joined by confusion, and frustration, and doubt. One of the drawbacks of this kind of communication is the fact that I don’t know who will read this, and therefore I’m not sure how well we know each other: maybe you think of me as “the drummer.” Maybe “the nerd.” For some, especially in this context, I might be “the liberal niece,” or granddaughter, or cousin. But I ask that, for the next however many minutes, you think of me just as Charlotte, your relative. Just as someone who loves you, and wants to talk to you.
Our new president was elected democratically. He is legitimate, and regardless of just how liberal you may think I am, I don’t question that. But this does not mean he is qualified, nor that he deserves the office. I know that, if you voted for him, we clearly have different views of the world. But if you voted for him, it also means you ignored, excused, or somehow approved of certain things that he has said or done that, I and many believe, should have been inexcusable.
He should have become inexcusable when he mocked a disabled reporter. There is no context under which his actions were kind, or professional, or dignified, or humorous, or becoming of a public leader in any way.
He should have become inexcusable when he implied that supporters of the Second Amendment might be able to “do something” about Hillary Clinton. That which he uttered so nonchalantly, and amounts to an implied physical threat to a political opponent, something we decry in modern times and see work to horrible effect throughout history.
He should have become inexcusable when he bragged about sexually assaulting women — yes, grabbing them by the pussy, those elegant words our current president has made famous — consent be damned. This incredibly offensive, antiquated, repugnant attitude towards 50% of the human population that is indicative of his character, and is a slap in the face to women’s rights, and matters.
He should have become inexcusable when he flouted laws about the president’s finances, when he refused (and continues to refuse) to disclose his tax returns by citing a literally irrelevant excuse (being audited does not mean he cannot disclose his returns). When he entirely disregarded the term “blind trust” and essentially handed his wallet to his kids, a violation of the Constitution. When he decided the emoluments clause was more of a guideline, and again violated the Constitution.
He should have become inexcusable when he was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan. Justification should never be necessary for something of this nature.
He should have become inexcusable when we learned of collusion between his camp and the Russian government, subverting the integrity of our democracy and placing his entire assumption of power into serious question.
He should have become inexcusable when he conned the students of Trump University, or the contractors and laborers on his real estate projects. This dishonesty, and willingness to avoid paying his dues, should’ve showed us that his priorities would never change, that he puts himself first in every case.
And as if these weren’t enough, these few examples, he should have become inexcusable when he decided to run his campaign by reinforcing, legitimizing, and encouraging prejudice and hate. If you don’t believe that’s true, I would challenge you to listen to his actual words, how often he appeals to the idea of an exclusively (that operative word) white, Christian America, and try to imagine what that would feel like if you were a minority. And if you don’t believe this legitimization is really an effect of his presidency, I would again challenge you to look beyond your own community, to places much different than your own where non-white Americans, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, LGBTQ Americans, are already feeling the results. I know people who have been threatened. I’ve seen and heard stories of sexual assault, of vandalism, of physical violence. These are not people crying wolf, they are Americans crying for help. I’m scared myself. And even if you doubt that fear is justified, the response is not to dismiss it, but to attempt to understand it. No one stops being afraid simply by being told.
If enumerating these things makes you uncomfortable, or if it feels unfair of me to laundry list them, I would ask that you consider two things: first, that you are right to feel discomfort, and that perhaps that feeling is indicative of your reaction to the acts themselves and not my recounting of them; and second, that it is entirely fair for me to do this, because this man is our president, and if we don’t hold him to a reasonable standard of human decency then how far have we allowed the bar to fall? How far are we willing to let it fall further?
I don’t make these statements lightly, and I know many of you will probably disagree with me. But so much of my frustration regarding the state of our country has been tied to the willingness to explain away anything that may challenge our own opinions in order to preserve party loyalty, when questioning our own opinions is healthy and prudent and more necessary now than we may be willing to admit. I don’t write to you to condemn or blame or condescend. Again, I know we may not be particularly close, and so maybe it’s difficult to believe me when I say this. But this is my attempt at an olive branch, and at asking questions I feel I need the answers to.
It’s this dichotomy that has made writing this letter a near insurmountable task for me. Because I find it incredibly difficult to fathom how people I love so much, and whom I know love me, could consider this kind of conduct allowable — for anyone, let alone the President of the United States. And I believe it’s worth noting that I don’t present this information based on any “mainstream media” outlets, nothing one might feel is distorted or planted in my head by some omnipotent propagandist: these are facts. Facts, which matter and will continue to matter. In the words of my father, these are our new president’s own words and actions.
As of today, January 25th, Trump has still failed to deserve his office. He has already signed executive orders halting any future EPA contracts and grants, as well as denying government funding to NGOs that provide or promote abortions. (He of course enacted the latter while surrounded by men.) The unqualified cabinet appointee du jour is Betsy DeVos, whose hearing proved she is woefully unprepared to lead the Department of Education. And he’s spent a majority of the past week complaining about accurate reporting of his inauguration turnout. (Never mind that the Women’s Marches across the country indicate just how much he will have to work to unite this country, or that the American people clearly have something of import to communicate to our leaders.) His press secretary spent his first briefing blatantly lying and attacking journalism, and multiple press conferences have been held in which staffers were paid to clap and cheer throughout his speeches, as if he needs constant validation whether it’s artificial or not. How have we let it get this far? And how can we possibly think this is okay?
So that’s what I’ve got, family. I’m sorry if you feel disrespected, or think I’m naive, or have become disillusioned in some way or another by an unconventional family address. This isn’t a subject we usually tackle, and rarely do we tackle it to this degree of intensity. But what’s happening now, this is not business as usual. It’s appalling to me, and dangerous, and I don’t understand quite how we’ve allowed it to happen, and so it’s all I can do to ask questions. If you’re willing to talk with me further, I would welcome that conversation with open arms. And if you’d like to avoid ever broaching this subject again, that’s alright too; we are family regardless, even if we don’t quite understand each other. I simply thank you for listening.