May we not allow you to divide us into enemy factions

Dear President Trump,

Our little dog Buddy routinely gets confused when confronted with his own reflection, whether in a mirror or in a window at night. He’ll catch sight of himself and the image will startle him, he’ll do a double take and start kicking his back feet and barking. No amount of reassurance that the dog in the mirror is him makes a dent in his consciousness – he sees an intruder and it’s only when we cajole him away from the mirror that he can calm down. When it happened the other day it occurred to me that if we purposely startled him or made growling noises during one of these episodes we could get him even more riled up and sensitized. We wouldn’t do it, though, because it would be mean.

You might have figured out where I’m going with this. Or not. Anyway, there are two things about this habit of Buddy’s that I think apply to our current political situation. First, Buddy is literally barking at himself, he is afraid of his own image much the way we are all increasingly afraid and not able to see ourselves reflected in one another. Along these lines, I saw my first “TRUMP 2020” bumper sticker on a Ford pick-up this morning and my instinct was to move away from it, put some distance between us. And then traffic did its thing and I was alongside them again and saw the little boy in the back of the cab looking out backwards. There were a man and a woman in the front seat, presumably his parents, and for a couple of minutes I wondered about this family’s stories. I also wondered whether they truly think they are better off with you as president and or if they’d been manipulated into seeing you as the strongman leader who will protect them from the hordes of invaders you regularly invoke. It’s those dog whistle codes that are the second part of how the Buddy mirror drama is relevant, at least in so far as he’s vulnerable to having his scared startle poked and exacerbated.

If you were a leader who was invested in leading, who had genuine care and concern for us, you’d ask us to look at one another and see ourselves, see our shared struggles and concerns. You wouldn’t goad us into seeing others as frightening enemies who want to annihilate us. You just wouldn’t.

May we be safe from leaders who don’t have our best interests at heart.
May we be happy to vote those leaders out of office.
May we insist that our leaders lead in healthy, life-sustaining ways.
May we not allow you to divide us into enemy factions.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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