Dear President Trump,
I’ve started reading Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy.” Our church is reading it together for Lent. I hadn’t even gotten to the first chapter yet when I came across a quote to share with you. It’s eerily in keeping with what I was writing you about the other day regarding the relationship between compassion and integrity: “An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation.” I don’t think he needs the qualifier “can” in the sentence as it seems clear that a lack of compassion will corrupt, but it does read better with it in there, so ok. My other quibble is that he left out individual people. Obviously communities, states, and nations are made up of people so if those entities are corrupt it is because some critical mass of their people are corrupt or their leaders are being allowed to be corrupt. Even still, it seems important to call us individuals out too. And, even though I’m being hypersensitive to his exact words, it was pretty wonderful to come across this idea just two days after it occurred to me. Bryan and I are on to something.
The other thing I want to say to you tonight is more of a lament. I was talking politics with someone I don’t know well but have always enjoyed. At one point in the conversation she got a crestfallen look on her face and said that one of the saddest things for her about your presidency is that you will always be on our list of presidents. This had occurred to me at some point along the way too, but until she said it out loud the weight of it hadn’t really hit me. Forever more, even if there ends up being an asterisk next to your name connoting how you were unfairly installed in office with the aid of a foreign power, you, Donald J. Trump, will always have been one of the people who has held the most important position in our country. I had to edit that sentence repeatedly as I couldn’t get it to come out right, likely because it is such an odious thing for me to have to say. But there it is. You are our president now and you will go down in history as having been our president, our worst ever president, but our president nonetheless. I think this is another good situation in which to invoke “NeverAgain.”
May we be safe from corrupt leaders.
May we be happy to stay awake and not be lulled into complacency.
May we have the strength to defend decency and insist on integrity.
May we cultivate compassion ceaselessly, as though our lives depend on it.