Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016.09.25 Dear President

Imagine yourself face-to-face with the next president of these United States—whoever that may be—and in a few sentences write about what you hope to see addressed in the next four years.

This was the challenge posed to fifty American poets and writers by Poets and Writers Magazine, September/October, 2016.  It turns out that something great happens when you ask writers to convey without political grandstanding what is most important to them. Huge unmanageable issues suddenly come sharply into focus in such collective discourse.

When I read all of it without stopping I felt enlivened and hopeful. Not that I didn’t already have all these issues in my own mind but they were all in a jumble, darting about. This assignment helped. Try it yourself.

All the statements moved me and served too as verbal guideposts. It is worth noting that most of them were addressed to “Madame President . . .” Some even used  “President Clinton . . .” Wishes contain hope, and hope does not disappoint

I will only share a couple of reflections
“Madame President, thank you for sparing us your opponent’s dismal and clownish stupidity, his blind and blinding hate. I’m still scared though. I’m scared that you think beating him will be the hardest part of your job, and I’m scared of what is happening to the environment, to our schools, our water supply and our tolerance, scared of people being out of work, and people being hooked on painkillers and people not being allowed to use the rest room where they feel most comfortable. I don’t give a rip if you’re honest or transparent or running a thousand different email servers, but I need you to be compassionate and smart and clear-eyed, to be afraid with me—and with all of us—and despite our fears, not least yours, I need you to be brave and resilient, and well, hopeful.”   -Bret Anthony Johnston, American author/novelist, Remember Me Like This.

Dear Madame President: Transparency is at the top just now of our politically correct values list. It’s the desired way to be. I wonder.  Okay, so we’ve had too many secrets, secrets that hurt and cheat.  Secrets isolate. Still, total transparency is suicidal without the clear-hearted, level-minded practice of discernment. Discernment means reflection and choice: what and how much to reveal, to whom, and when?

Moderation and modesty are not lost values. I do not want a “naked” Commander in Chief. I want one who is wise and able to discern what is in the public’s best interest to reveal about government, about policies, and about personal health and habit. I also do not need to know everything!

As the author of a memoir I had to discern the meaning and placement of every word. I could be transparent about my own failings and sing but not those of others. I tried to do no harm just for the sake of honesty being best policy or transparency. Transparency is not an easy ethic and we throw the word about as if it were. And for you as a woman, it almost does not matter what you do, because there is a double standard of judgment, you not being a man.  You too have written memoirs and they are worth reading, though not many people who talk a lot about politics and purport to know a lot have read your words. Get elected and they will!!!
-Rev. Lyn G. Brakeman

 Climate change—stop dicking around. War—use only as ultimate last resort."
-Ben Fountain PEN/Hemingway award for Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

Ms. President I want you to know that the power of having our first woman as president doesn't escape me; I've been waiting for this my entire life. And I want you as the first woman president of the United States to place the liberation and justice of historically marginalized people at the center of your work—terrifying, hard, necessary work. We need this more than ever.
-Tanwi Nandini Islam, novelist

There was no voice of religion, or even a hint or a stab at the mention of anything "spiritual," in these impassioned letters. I regret this. One women writer wrote to our next president "God bless you."