It’s our leaders who have to do better

President* Trump,

This morning on our way to the grocery store (where I would eventually sit in the car with the dogs, waiting for Laura to do the shopping because it still isn’t safe for me to pick out my own vegetables), we stopped in the neighborhood we call “Swale-land” to take a walk. It felt like quite the outing. Seriously, our existences are so limited at this point that stopping to take a walk in a familiar but not-within-walking-distance neighborhood is now a treat. And, I know we’re among the fortunate ones who haven’t gotten sick, don’t have something debilitating that’s going untreated, and are still employed and can thus afford grocery and gas. We are also white women who aren’t going to get any suspicious looks if we park in a neighborhood we don’t reside in to take our dogs for a walk. So really, all in all, we have it super easy.

Alright, the stage is set (with some non-essential commentary added in) so I can now tell you what I really want to tell you. Here goes – along the walk we passed a house with a pretty wooden arbor that was decorated with maybe eight brightly colored, kid-drawn, pictures depicting rainbows, stuffed animals, a delivery truck with the words “Thank You” above it, and a flower-covered sign that reads “We Have To Do Better.”

The earnestness of the “We Have To Do Better” sign made me catch my breath. This, along with all the rainbow signs, the Black Lives Matter signs, the “We’ve Got This Seattle” signs, the “We’re In This Together” signs, the “We Love Our Muslim Neighbors” signs at all the houses just feel so poignant and sad. Here so many of us are trying to keep our own and one another’s spirits up, encouraging one another to love everyone, be kind, be inclusive, and to do better with our little homemade or righteously purchased signs while our POTUS, and in some parts of the country, our state officials, are basically mocking us.

It’s like we can’t help but try to stay positive and upbeat. It’s like we can’t help but try to figure out what we, individually, should be doing to do better, to f*cking “be best” (thanks loads, Melania), as if that will somehow fix this shitty situation we’re in. I do get that trading all these earnest efforts for nihilistic alternatives isn’t a great idea either. We do have to shore ourselves up for the long haul that is this Trump/GOP/Fox fueled pandemic, but it sucks that we have little kids making signs about the need to do better when it’s our leaders who need to do better.

I am so down with Kristin Urquiza’s angry obituary for her father Mark, who died of covid-19 last month in Arizona (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/10/coronavirus-obituary-blames-arizona-ducey/). Urquiza recounts how her father initially took the shelter-in-place public health messaging to heart and stayed in except to go to work (he was considered an essential worker). However, as you and Governor Ducey started encouraging people to get out and resume their pre-covid lives, her father did so, reasoning that his country and state’s leadership wouldn’t tell him to do something unsafe. He believed Ducey and he believed you and now he’s dead. Urquiza is correct that you both have blood on your hands.

You know, maybe us adults who were complacent and thought the moral arc of the universe would just continue bending towards justice bear significant responsibility for your 2016 win and do need to do better, but the small person who drew those pictures and made that sign doesn’t deserve this.

And really, none of us do.

May we be safe from our POTUS.
May we be willing to do what it takes to elect leaders of integrity.
May we hang in and be strong for one another.
May we not resign ourselves to such profoundly unfair circumstances.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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