Dear Mr. President,
Hi! How are you? How are your kids?
Right now waiting for a parade to start in Downtown Edmonton and I thought I would drop you a line.
I am a citizen of the US but I live in Canada. It’s a long story, but I live in Canada due to a series of adventures. I’m not protesting anything nor have I fled anything. I have nothing but love for our country and for the people of our country.
I am writing to you because of my love for our fellow country people, specifically the Evangelical Christian. I used to be one; I still am, despite my ordination into the Anglican Priesthood; and I have fond memories of working with Evangelical Christians. Many of them are still my friends. They were kind to me when I needed kindness, forgiving to me when I was in the wrong, and did a lot of good around me.
However, I can’t talk to them anymore. They will do what you do and will defend what you say. I can only agree with Evangelical Christians if you have said it first. I wish this wasn’t the case, but many of them trust you over their pastors or their youth pastors or those who went through the hard work of study, experience, and affirmation from their community to be in leadership of their churches. They will follow you no matter what anyone else says.
To speak to their hearts, I feel like I need to speak to you.
Simply put, no one wants to be a Nazi.
Calling someone a Nazi, in this day and age, is a knee jerk reaction. Whenever we see someone with a too much swagger or seem to disregard the pain of others, we call them a Nazi. I am not calling you a Nazi, Mr. President. I am just beginning with the statement that no one wants to be a Nazi and that might be the beginning source of our problems.
You see, if someone brings up a problem that is Nazi-like, it gets one defensive, angry, and combative. We all want to be on the right side of history and we can’t think of a people group on the absolute wrong side of history than the Nazis.
Dialogue ends and we don’t get to learn from each other. The divide continues. And we end up calling each Nazis.
Or Socialists. Or whatever insult we can pick.
And yet, your behaviour is against the American dream. Let me explain.
Your followers, whom I love, are defending you. Soon they will mimic you. Churches will lose their witness and influence, which is ironic because this is one of the main reasons why they follow you without question- you have promised them more power and influence and street credentials.
But what mistake am I mentioned to you?
Your tweet towards the four congresswoman.
This is the tweet:
Many people have deconstructed this tweet, so I won’t go into the finer points. Instead, I just want to speak to you about the essence of this tweet.
In essence, you want people to leave the country you are President of because they disagree with you.
Nothing makes American Apple Pie and burgers on a Fourth of July taste better than a heated row about politics, sports, or the Oscars- this is America. It’s also the American dream to have such disagreements and have them cut short because Grandma wants to say grace over the meal. You fight, you stop fighting because we’re all part of the same, combustable family.
The American family will never leave you, like it or not.
As an Ex-Pat, I feel this keenly. I’m still an American, despite my weird Albertan accent or my love of poutine.
I don’t want Evangelical Christians to think this is an acceptable way of handling disagreements and they will follow you, without question, in this new way of handling conflict. They used to believe that disagreement made us stronger, that one had to work through issues…but now, I’m not so sure.
You may noticed, Mr. President, the country has grown farther a part. The solution is not winning more arguments or creating more losers or getting rid of those who stand to disagree with you. The solution is embracing those who disagree with you, work through the issues. Rather than deporting conflict, a leader embraces such things.
When you run from conflict-as this tweet demonstrates- it opens the doors for all kinds of interpretation. A familiar one that you’ve heard is that you are a racist. This would be a jump in conclusions if there wasn’t all sorts of stories about you in this department.
I’m not saying you are a racist. But I bring this up because there has been many stories that have been interpreted racism in your past. And now, there is this tweet.
“I am the least racist person I know,” you have said as a defence.
Here’s the problem with that defence: you do not get to decide if you are a racist or not. This is a lesson I learned from Canada through the many “Truth and Reconciliation” projects between the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and those whose heritage came from Imperialism. As a descendant of a White Imperialist, I don’t have the right to decide how bad someone else’s suffering was, when they should “get over it”, or how racist I am now as my present power and influence systemically grows from historic exploitation.
My response is to allow those who were hurt by my advantage to control the dialogue and set the terms of the solution. My job, simply, is to ask, “What can I do to make this right?”
I’ll admit, it’s scary: I can’t be in control of the outcome. It also takes a long, long time. But it is working (present tense) here in Canada. And it only works if I allow those wronged to set the stage of the dialogue, not me.
In other words, it is up to those wronged by me who will decide if I am a racist or not.
This dynamic works in most areas of life: those who perpetrate crimes and offences are not the ones who get to assess the damages. If I rob a bank, I can’t decide if the money stolen was a big deal or not: that is for the government, the judges, and the victims to decide.
You have decided you are not a racist but the proof is that you want a specific kind of people (who, in this case are all women of colour) to leave your America. And now you do not want this to be a racist comment. It has become, like it or not, about race.
My fear, which is why I write to you, is that the Evangelical Church will copy your posture and they will decide if they have done anything wrong, independent of the assessments made by their surrounding community, those in authority over them, and, ultimately, God.
No one wants to be a Nazi. And yet history is giving you and your supporters an advanced notice: stop trying to get rid of people who disagree with you and who are not like you.
Here’s what I propose: you call a meeting with these four women. They can invite someone they trust as a mediator, to keep things fair. Likewise, you can bring some people along who will keep things pleasant. Have coffee. If this was Alberta, I’d say you should bring some squares or coffee. Maybe doughnuts.
Sit and talk. Fight, if needed. “Go for a rip,” if you must. And keep telling each other no one is leaving or being kicked out, because that isn’t the American way of doing things. Listen. Repeat back to each other what you think the other person is saying. Make some resolutions, if needed. Apologize for the real stuff that was said and done. Disagree. Fight again. Take a ten minute break for coffee and doughnuts. Do this again and again until there’s something that happens between the both of you:
If this happens then, maybe, Evangelicals might copy this behaviour. They, in fact, might do it so often they get good at it. So good at it, in fact, they might get a reputation. It’d be nice if they did it first, but they are going to need some leadership. YOU could be that leader, Mr. Trump.
I mean, think of how amazing the nation would be if we listened to each other and worked out our problems? If we visited and listened to each other? We had coffee and doughnuts instead of rallies? Our list of enemies got smaller and smaller? What if we measure greatness not by who likes us and who agrees with us, but how we work together with those different than us? We were defined but what we want, what we’re for instead of who are against? What if…
Now I must stop. I’m assuming this is the America you want, but is it? I’m also assuming this is the kind of America Evangelical Christians wants. I’m not sure.
Perhaps I’ve said too much.
I shall return to my rainy day in Edmonton, as I sit in a coffee house run by a Lebanese immigrant who makes the best Chai I’ve ever had as I watch a parade in our downtown sector. It’s Kondike Days, here in Edmonton. The parade is made up of marching bands with white cowboy hats, an LGBTQ float, a Highland pipe band, mounties in bright red, Sikh dancers, floats from some of the nearby mosques, a Gospel choir, some 4H club kids, a Chinese dragon, Girl Guides, and some dancers from Northern Africa.
I’ll go back to the parade. Keep working hard on America, Mr. President. And if you need any help, we’re here for you.
The Ex-Pat Priest Located in Canada