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An Open Letter to the President of the United States

January 30, 2019

Mr. Trump,

You are building a wall. But it is not a wall along the southern U.S. border. Rather, it is a wall that is dividing Americans. A wall which follows the divisions that define your world, between blue and red, between rural and urban, between whites and minorities, between men and women, and between science and religion. The bricks are forged from your lies, exaggerations, and hyperbole. The mortar is made from the single examples you give which support your point, but that don’t represent the entire story. The foundation of this wall is built on fear, misogyny, and mistrust. 

This wall you are building, it does not need to exist… and in fact, if we want our country to be stronger, if we want our country to be great, we should all be working to tear down these walls through dialogue and compromise. 

But that is not what you are doing, nor does it seem you are capable of doing. Compromise, dialogue, empathy… these are not words in your vocabulary. You only understand winning and losing. However, a zero-sum game is not how a democratic government is supposed to function. When you study (or maybe I should say if you study) the creation or our country’s constitution, you quickly realize it’s ratification was not a foregone conclusion. Those who favored states rights were vehemently opposed to a strong central government. What made the constitution so strong was precisely because of the deep compromises that ran through every clause and every article. Our founding fathers reached those conclusions through hours and weeks and months of dialogue and debate. They did not pound the table and walk out; they listened, they counseled, they compromised. 

Make no mistake, the longest shutdown is your legacy. We may now have a break for three weeks, but there is no doubt in my mind this will not be the last shutdown of your presidency. Whether or not a wall, or a fence, or steel slats are erected in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, you will be remembered as the president who caused the longest and most costly shutdown in our country’s history. Bigly. The wall you’ve already built created the environment in which this shutdown could flourish, where you felt the need to declare, “My way or the highway.” This is not leadership; it’s cowardice masked by bullying. And it is not working.

Is this what you meant by all the winning? Did you envision a closed government, forcing thousands to work without pay? Could you foresee the piles of trash and human waste collecting in our national parks and billions in lost revenue due to your stubbornness? Or maybe you meant the thousands of already vulnerable farmers taking a hit in the wallet from your unnecessary trade war? Or perhaps you were talking about the pollution caused by your administration cutting environmental regulations, pollution that will make our grandchildren sick from contaminated air and water? If this is your version of winning, then you were right, I am tired of it.

No, the wall you are building does not separate Mexico from the U.S., rather it is driving a wedge right down the middle of our country. And instead of Mexico paying for it, as you so callously promised, it is us, the American people, who are paying, and will continue to pay for generations to come. 

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