The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Following this emotional election season, we each had messages we wanted to share with particular people. So whilst the inauguration is on everyone’s mind, here are our three letters to three important recipients.
Mary Margaret – excerpts from a letter sent to the Trump campaign the week after the election.
Dear President Elect Donald J. Trump,
Perhaps I should start by saying that I did not vote for you. In fact, I was one of the naïve many that found it to be a literal impossibility that you could be elected president of the United States. We were wrong; I was wrong.
Let me next say that I am an Independent, and I was no committed Hillary fan in this disheartening campaign season. Although I was incredibly excited to see a woman achieve that position for the first time, I disagreed with many of her policies…
Aside from a few specific campaign promises, much of your campaign seemed to be about labeling what was done by others in the past as “disasters.” This leaves me full of questions about what kind of president you intend to be. And in that limbo, let me implore a few things as you prepare to take the Oath of Office.
- No president leads alone. Your campaign glorified your outsider-ness from our political system, and while I have an extreme mistrust of politics, I also have great respect for hard work, knowledge, experience, and dedication. As helpful as a fresh perspective in any situation can be, I ask that you please surround yourself with people who know what they are talking about. People who can offer thoughtful, intelligent, expert advice that is based in fact over emotion. Preferably non-partisan people, preferably people not promoting only one special interest, preferably some people who might not agree with you.
- You have stated “America First.” I am not particularly nationalistic, so while I agree that a president’s first responsibility is to the citizens of the country, I also believe in governing a nation as my values ask me to govern my life. To me, America can only be great by following Christ’s teaching that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. I measure our greatness in our ability to be in right relationship with the other people in this world.
- If you honestly intend to be the president for ALL people in this country, you need to vocally and immediately state that you value the lives and rights of the people, many of whom feel vulnerable and marginalized, who have legitimate fears about what your presidency means for them. In upholding the liberties of your citizens, you must emphatically denounce groups that would steal liberties from others— yes, even if they voted for you.
- Although you have been hailed for candidness and “speaking your mind,” I would ask that you consider the sagacity and value in thinking before speaking. Words are important. What you say will be important. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Do not forget this.
I intend to pay attention to what you do in office and continue my civic involvement by contacting you and my other elected officials on specific issues throughout the coming years. I am grateful for checks and balances—that you are just one, though crucial, part of our larger governing body. I don’t really have a choice about “giving you a chance”- you were elected and now you must lead. So lead. And please: listen.
Dear Secretary Clinton,
Throughout this election season, I have remembered time and again the discussions that happened in school when we learned about the government and history of our country.
Someone would ask, “Why hasn’t there ever been a female president?”
A discussion would follow and someone (usually a boy) would say: “A woman can’t be president because what would happen if there was a crisis while she was on her period? She’d start World War III.”
I hated hearing that. I hated that no matter how smart I was, how many times I did all the work on a “group” project, how kind I was, how level headed in the face of a challenge – I would always be the irrational and unstable one. That there would always be certain things I shouldn’t do because I was a woman.
For most of my life, I’ve had the general impression that I was supposed to hate you. From comments made by friends and family members, jokes on the internet, political commentary, I got the impression that you were too pushy, that you thought you knew better than everyone else, that you weren’t a very good first lady, that you didn’t seem to know your place.
After the crucible of the 2016 election, I have come to admire you. You are so human. You’re a mother. A lawyer. A senator. A diplomat.
Your career (and the careers of so many women) can be summed up by the criticisms people raise against you. You’ve done too much. You haven’t done enough. You’re too liberal. You’re too conservative. You’re a socialist. You’re on the side of Wall Street. You should have left your husband. If you’d been a better wife, he wouldn’t have cheated. You’re shrill. You’re not passionate enough. You think you know everything. You’re an idiot.
You have been personally blamed for everything that is wrong in our country, yet, despite all the slander, accusations, and investigations, you haven’t given up on trying to do what you could to make our country a little better. Rather than backing out of the public eye, doing good behind the scenes and claiming you weren’t in it “for the credit,” you’ve stepped into the arena again and again and claimed your right to lead.
I know that you are not perfect, and I love that about you. I wish my daughters had more role models like you. Women who’ve faced challenges, made hard choices, owned up to the consequences of their actions, and still tried to make a difference in the world.
I hope that as we embark on the next four years, I can be more like you. I hope that I show my daughters that it’s okay to have big goals, to want a career, to forgive people that I love who mess up, to speak up, to take credit when it is due, and to accept responsibility when I fail. And when I fail, I hope I fail with dignity, dust myself off, and try again.
Jillian’s open letter, as a white woman, to the teens of color in the high school Black Lives Matter club sponsored by her husband, their teacher.
The morning after the election, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought about you, how betrayed you must feel – that so much of your country went to the polls refusing to care that there is no “again” in making America great for you. It was my privilege that had allowed me to believe our people were better than they showed themselves to be that day. It was my privilege, in every sense, to feel my heart break for you. I came to your meeting that afternoon. I needed to tell you – perhaps more than you actually needed to hear it – that my husband and I see you, we hear you, we believe you, and we will stand by you always.
Some of you said that Trump-supporting kids had been gloating and taunting you. You were feeling confused and wounded, and you were so right to feel that way. It isn’t all in good fun to mock someone over a grievous loss. It isn’t acceptable to refuse to acknowledge the deeply personal nature of a political situation like this one.
Everyone feels insulted or spurned or neglected sometimes, regardless of their level of privilege. When a white person like myself thinks they haven’t gotten a fair shake, they may feel slighted and wronged and angry. They may judge those feelings to have arisen from their personal moral compass, that innate sense of right and wrong that they trust in themselves. They may create labels like “reverse racism” to further legitimize their feelings of mistreatment.
But when something is truly, truly wrong in the world, it hits you with a cold, hard shock, something like a smooth, heavy stone landing in the pit of your stomach. You know this feeling – maybe you have your own way of describing it, but you know the feeling I mean. This is the feeling of your moral compass hitting north. There may be anger, even rage, but it isn’t just anger. It comes with a sudden pop of dread, or a chill of terror.
That’s the feeling you’ve got to trust. You won’t always know exactly why you get that feeling. Sometimes you’ll know, but you won’t have the words. Just don’t let anyone try to talk you out of that feeling, because that feeling is one that is always telling the truth.
When you hear the president-elect say that black protesters need a dose of “law and order,” and you feel that cold sickness in your stomach, that’s how you know this isn’t an argument you need to hear out, this a man who is wrong. When a classmate mocks your political loss and you suddenly feel like there’s a new meanness in them, don’t tell yourself to lighten up. These are people who think they know what wrongness feels like. They don’t.
You said that you expect the coming years to be difficult. But trust yourself and be brave, and you will persevere as the many before you have done. Know that my husband and I will be by your side. And after this is over, it will be you and your friends who are making America great for all Americans for the first time.
We are so proud of you every day,