Dear President Trump:
You and I both know you won’t see this letter, but that’s OK. I am going to feel better having written it.
For one thing, it will confuse my friends and confound my enemies, many on both sides of the political spectrum who can’t seem to grasp the concept of middle ground. You must be either a rock-bound, hard-nosed, guns-everywhere-but-the-Georgia-State-Capitol conservative or a government-knows-best, open-the-borders-even-to-terrorists, boys-and-girls-share-the-same-bathroom, left-leaning liberal. Believe it or not, a few of us are neither.
I wrote earlier suggesting you tone down the name-calling (particularly with late-night TV hosts who feed on that stuff – it’s called “ratings”) and was assured by one of your close confidants that the letter would get into the White House. I knew that was a crock. I’ve had some dealings with previous White House administrations. That letter ended up in the hands of some junior functionary who has never even seen you in person, let alone delivered you a letter.
But it is the Christmas season and I am the gift that keeps on giving. So, I give you some more advice: Stop the name-calling. Please.
I’m not sure where you learned the art of insults, but I discovered it on the grammar school playground. I found out that if someone called me a name, I could retaliate by calling them a name. Conversely, if I disparaged a playmate, chances are they would disparage me, too. Sometimes, it would lead to fisticuffs. (Today, it would involve lawyers, the police, social workers and intonements about rampant bullying, but that’s a subject for another day.)
Thankfully, I grew out of that phase, although I have been known to digress occasionally on these pages and lay into some pompous soul that deserved it. But I am not the president. You are. You set the tone for the national mood and it is not good at the moment.
Name-calling seems to delight your base. It also encourages the other side to call you names and that delights their base. Back and forth it goes. I, for one, am not sure what all of that accomplishes other than to remember the old story about the guy who kept hitting himself in the head with the hammer. When asked why, he said because it felt so good when he stopped.
The irony is that in the midst of the cacophony, you have done some good things. Despite recent market corrections, stocks are at an all-time high. Unemployment is close to an all-time low. You seem to have that guy with the bad haircut in North Korea thinking twice about running his mouth. While I’m no expert on the subject, I think your tariff strategies are going to work in the country’s favor. But you stay embroiled in controversy. Some of your making, some not.
You could do worse than look to Ronald Reagan as a role model. He had his fair share of partisan criticism to deal with, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He had a great sense of humor which he used effectively. He let people underestimate him at their own risk. Reagan didn’t belittle people. He managed to get the Berlin Wall torn down without insulting Russian premier Mikhail Gorbachev. When the nervous nellies in the State Department objected to the timing of his demands, he quietly reminded them who was president and who was not. And the wall came tumbling down.
My concern is that if the name-calling and insults on both sides continue, a lot of fair-minded people are going to get tired of it and seek an alternative — like a third party that is philosophically somewhere between guns in churches and boys and girls in each other’s bathrooms. When that happens, then will come coalitions as we have in Europe today and governing by a minority. That is a frightening prospect.
We are Americans first and political partisans second. There isn’t anyone among us that doesn’t want to see America great. We also want to see it unified. As one of your predecessors, Abraham Lincoln, said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (By the way, he got that from the Bible, Matthew 12:25, in case you are wondering.) Our house is badly divided these days.
If you want to make America great again, I would suggest you and your enemies put away the hammers and start trying to find some common ground. It’s Christmastime. Can’t we all get along? Please?
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.