I See Your Humanity, Mr. Trump. We Need You To See Ours.
Dear Mr. Trump,
So it seems that you shall be the president of my country. We are split down the middle, it seems, and fear is crawling at the surface, and hatred creeping into our souls. We are not listening to each other, we are not meeting each other’s gaze. No, we are just running around and around the merry-go-round, the mulberry bush, the prickly pear that means so very little but wounds so very much.
I cannot read your heart, Mr. Trump, but I can feel the impact of your words and your actions. Do you not understand how much they burn? Do you not see that, in leading, you are taking up a trust which you must earn? And what trust can be earned that does not hold love in the sparked heart of the seed? What love can there be in words of usury and manipulation? Can a lie convey a truth? Can half-truths, or the pretense to read the thoughts of others, serve as a saving grace?
No, I think not. You cannot use others as the rungs of your ladder, those less powerful than you, pitting the vulnerable against the vulnerable, and congratulating yourself on the art of the deal. If your art is written in the anguish of others, if it rises from the ashes of others, what can be said to have been gained? If a victory cannot be met with humanity, or a loss accepted with dignity, what worth have either? This is not a lesson for you alone, but for us all. For, in the end, do you not reflect our own selves?
No, I do not judge you, Mr. Trump. You have claimed you simply say what others have thought. If so, then God forgive us for our thoughts. You bring them to the surface, and we flinch to see them, and then respond in a dizzying array of reactions. Some use them a weapon, unshackled from previous constraints. Some use them as a means to claim separated sanctimoniousness. Both sides banish the other as beyond the reach of redemption. We are trapped in our bulwarks, and we fail to look our neighbor in the face.
I stumbled upon your book the other day, your Art of the Deal, glistening glibly in the front window of a store, trying to make the monetary most of the upcoming inauguration. Is it our new Golden Calf, I wonder? As I skim through it, I wonder what you want me to take away from your words, bragging about how much money you have made, and how much status you have achieved, and the nature of your business dealings as an art form. As an artist, perhaps I find the last part to be the most disconcerting. For art is a transcendent, and as such serves its own ends, holding its fulfillment within itself. But if business becomes more than a fair means to a productive end, it becomes an idol.
You want publicity, they say, and to you there is no such thing as negative attention. Some worship you and some revile you. Some paint you as the savior of the world, some as the father of lies. Your words often contradict, your intent is lost, and I find it hard to meet your gaze as you gaze upon my brothers and sisters, whether Muslim or Mexican, the disadvantaged or disabled, women and minorities, as statistical tools in your grand scheme to make America, my dear America, great again. Do you plan on making this happen at the expense of our goodness, harrowing up the inner evils of our national soul?
We have become the slaves of hash tags on twitter, and we have fed your own weaknesses. I do not isolate you in this. We are as much to blame as you are, and in casting you apart from us as the ancient evil, we are trying to strike back at our own selves, our own inclinations towards letting our passions and insecurities run wild, to grab anything we can through any means, and allow ourselves to blind ourselves to ourselves.
And do you know what else? We all have failed you. We have become so obsessed with whether you are or aren’t “my president,” we have forgotten that you are our brother. We cry out against how you have sought to dehumanize others, but we have gone on to dehumanize you, either by rising you to the pinnacle of Christ or sinking you to the pits of Satan. But inside of you there stirs the breath of the light that gives movement to the heart’s song. However dulled that light, or silenced that song, it does live, and if we cannot see it in you, are we are groveling together in the same ditch?
I’m flipping through your work of “art” and I’m reading between your lines. I am finding it harder and harder to hate you, even as the emptiness of your words burns me. For the burning is that of such pain I cannot but be moved to compassion. Is this the stark emptiness that caused Christ to sweat blood in the garden? Do you not understand that this game is at your own cost? If you can only see the movement of money as art, but cannot see the art within the face of your neighbors, in the face of all those you have treated as pawns, oh, how lonely you must be!
I have never known such pain as lies in these pages. And yet you are a part of me. And your pain becomes my pain. For you are lost and staggering, and all I can feel is pity as all the world reacts the way you think you want them to, maniacally, with adulation or contempt. You are now a very powerful man, yes, the highest ranking man in this nation, and one of the highest in the world. Perhaps we are all at your mercy. But all I can give you back…is mercy.
Are you afraid, Mr. Trump? For sometimes I feel it in you, the fear of losing oneself, and constantly seeking to fill up the void with all the glitters, like sickened eyes glitter when a fever ravages the mind. You must keep saying it to yourself, to all of us, you must rub it in our faces. Because it hurts. I know it does, deep down, and in the crisp whiteness between the dark ink, thou art only a man. How many of us have stopped to think of you as such? No, no, we have instead played your game, played it up to the hilt, and we are now all bloodied from it.
I want to tell you something. I want you to understand that you are not alone. Are we not all fallen in the darkness, and are we not all too often blinded by our own need for satiation, or own tendency to dehumanize the other, our own drive to climb and clutch and clamber for more? Did it not start in that first garden so many generations ago? Have any of us truly forgotten how sweet that strange fruit tasted when the snake was whispering in our ears, and we stopped seeing the beauty in the face of the sun?
I am a writer, Mr. Trump, and ink runs in my blood. With all due respect to your office, my pen is primed to write the truth. In any way that you uphold the dignity of all life, it is loyally at your service to do your cause good. But in any way in which you fail to uphold that very dignity, I will stand out as Sir Thomas More, and be the King’s good servant, but God’s first. I will call you out, and I will write you out, and I will stand beside my neighbors and protect their rights and sign your registries, and you will see my face among all those other faces which have blurred in the core of your conscience.
I am bound up with you, as you are a soul in great need, as am I. You are afraid, and I am afraid, for life as we know it often walks the knife’s edge of faith and doubt, hope and despair, and each one of us needs the other. If only you could see that reality in all its clarity, then all the world of art would burst forth in shafts and colors and contours of contrast, and you would understand that each of us holds a greatness that is brought to fruition in unity. We all make America great and make this world great. We can, and do, make America good through our awakened consciousness and hands that wounded through with the willingness to show love. I see it every day, in those little acts of kindness that never make the headlines, those acts of giving for others at the expense of one’s own self. So ,you see, the best things in this world are not always the ones that grab the headlines.
I want to help you if I can, Mr. Trump. If I could, I would try to touch your eyes with mine, and see if I could not find you out, through the shadows that fall with the veil of fame. Is it not sometimes like the black mantle over the mirrors, marking out the passage of the dead? But as it is, all I can do is send you a bitter medicine I hope may bring back feeling to all that is numb. We have a tradition in my Catholic faith which is often hard to swallow. It is called “The Litany of Humility.”
It calls for us to abandon ourselves, and, in so doing, rediscover ourselves. It calls us to lay down those yearnings that bite so keenly, and to take up the mantle of self-sacrifice.
For it is it not said that the first shall be last, and the last first? Is it not in the shedding of self that we can learn to truly serve? Is this not the heart of all reality, that we must learn to distinguish the shadow from the shadow-caster, that we unbind the anchors around our own necks, and let go the phantoms of passing favors? Is it not that we learn to close our eyes to regain sight, and apologize to be worthy of respect, and find that communion of spirit that transcends “juice and crackers?” And when we say “Merry Christmas” is it not to remember a desperate outcast child shivering in the straw, as opposed to a slogan to worship ourselves?
I offer you all I can, Mr. Trump, and I offer it from my heart’s blood, from my flowing ink and pounding music and all that pours from the art of God’s tears for the broken that need binding up. Take my prayers, take my blessings, and take these words. They are the best inauguration gift I can extend:
From the love of my own comfort,
From the fear of having nothing,
From a life of worldly passions,
Deliver me, O God!
From a need to be understood,
From a need to be accepted,
From the fear of being lonely,
Deliver me, O God!
From the fear of serving others,
From the fear of death or trial,
From the fear of humility,
Deliver me, O God!
April 23, 2018
February 28, 2018