Fear and courage, courage and fear

Dear President Trump,

Recently at a social gathering I learned that someone I don’t know all that well has been reading my letters to you on my blog every day for the last two years. She said it’s one of her main ways of coping with what’s happening to our country. I was (and am) so touched – I’ve said before that these letters to you feel like missives that I stuff in a bottle and hurl out into the ocean as far as I can throw them, always hoping, but never expecting, that the bottle will wash up on someone’s shore and they will find the letters useful. So it was a gift to learn this from her, and as usual when sweet things like this happen, I duly teared up and blushed a lot.

For a little while the fact that I write to you every day was a conversation topic at my end of the table. At one point, one of the people asked if I thought I was in any danger or if there might be consequences for me around the letter writing. Although I’ve privately wondered whether I’m on some sort of list people would rather not be on and whether it’s a good idea for me to leave the country, I’ve not had anyone ask me that before and it was disconcerting that he thought to ask. Honestly (and this is what I said), I’m 99.9% sure that I’m just a gnat to you all, that I am so inconsequential there’s no way I pose a threat and therefore don’t need to worry about any untoward fallout. It did give me a tiny bit of pause later, though, when he commented that what I’m doing is courageous.

This is really the crux of the thing – this courage deal. The handy online dictionary says that courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” I’m pretty sure I’ve written you about this before – about how one doesn’t get to be called courageous when one does something hard or fraught but one isn’t frightened by it; it might be “brave” but it’s not courageous. So yes, sometimes in these letters I’m courageous in that I broach topics that frighten me, topics where I worry that I’m might my foot in it and offend someone. Those are hard letters to write, send, and post and I generally agonize over them.

But the general act of writing to you and telling you what I think is not something that frightens me and really, and this is actually quite a good sign for all of us. I may have nanoseconds where I have mini-delusions of grandeur and worry that I might be detained at the border trying to come home from Canada, but I am not really afraid of this. We are not Russia or China or any of the other countries you wish we were and so as long as I’m not threatening you with any harm (and I am not), I can send you as many angry missives in metaphorical bottles I want and I can even hurl them in your general direction.

I wish, oh, do I wish, though, that Joshua Brown were still safe, that he were still alive, after his courageous testimony in the case against police officer Amber Guyger for the murder of Botham Jean. The WP article about his assassination (they didn’t call it that, but that is what it was) closed with this:

“…..the lead prosecutor in the Guyger trial said Brown had been courageous to come forward with what he knew. ‘He bravely came forward to testify when others wouldn’t,’ Jason Hermus said. ‘If we had more people like him, we would have a better world.’”

Brown, the whistleblowers, the couple of GOP congress-people who’ve spoken out against you – these people are courageous and the world is already better for them. We do, however, desperately need more such people and I hope that millions of us are getting ready to burst out of the safety of our chrysalises, transformed into the heroes we all need us to be.

May we do what we need to do even when our safety is not guaranteed.
May we be willing to take risks on behalf of the greater good.
May we see that taking our fear along with us is healthy and fine.
Indeed, may we make peace with fear and not let us stop us from engaging with courageous integrity.

Tracy Simpson

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