LETTER TO A TRUMP SUPPORTING FRIEND*
When last we met, you said to me, “There is nothing more important than making our country great again! Anything or anyone that helps to make that happen is good. There is no sacrifice too great to that end.”
I said to you, “We have different visions of greatness. I cannot believe that America’s highest principles must be subordinated to accumulating power and dominance. There are means being used to preserve the privileges that many of you have come to expect from your European heritage that cannot be excused. I can love my country and reject those means. I can love my country and still love equal justice. I can love my country and still love economic justice. I can love my country and still have concern for the environment. I don’t want just any greatness for my country, particularly a greatness born of oppression, environmental destruction, and lies. I want to keep our country great by keeping justice and fairness alive for everyone in it.”
Unmoved, you retorted, “Well, you don’t love your country. You are not a patriot.”
That was a few years ago and storms, plagues, and other circumstances have kept us mostly separated since. Yet not a single day has passed that I have not remembered your accusation that I do not love my country, that I am not a patriot. When I think of your words today, I feel a choking sensation. Can I not, in your mind, point out what is unjust in my country and still love my country? Can I not love my country while insisting it measure up to its finest image in my mind?
You complained of “thugs” and those you see as “wanting to destroy our country.” You complained of those you falsely labeled as “socialists” and “communists” wanting to destroy our country. Yet, I see these people as neither thugs, socialists nor communists, for they are neither. I see them as loving their vision of our country more than you are capable of loving your vision of our country. They have done more than you could do in a hundred lifetimes because their heroism comes from having first conquered their own greed and selfishness. You have not yet conquered yours.
Thus, as I explained in that last meeting, you and I have markedly different visions for our country. In this letter, I will, despite past failures, attempt one last time to enlighten you as to those differences before we part ways for good.
We will likely encounter each other again, sooner or later. But our friendship will be over. You will be full of your political defeat. Yet, you will not be ashamed of your former political victories and the means used to obtain them. Rather, you will longingly remember it with all your crushed might. You will align your hopes to its restoration. You will expect me, if we were to remain friends, to accept your frustrations and your hopes as valid choices. We will not be friends then because that is impossible for me. Yet, today, despite that, in this letter, I seek to be close to you again in spirit for one last time. Your adversary, to be sure, but still a little your friend because I am speaking honestly and from the heart with you now. Before we become finally and completely indifferent to each other, I want to make one last effort to have you understand what neither victory nor defeat of your vision has taught you to see about our opposing visions for our country.
I want you to understand the sort of greatness that I, and those who think like me, seek for our country.
This includes your understanding what kind of courage we applaud, which is not your kind of courage. One is not courageous when force is used to preserve an undeserved superiority. One is not courageous when they use force to obtain selfish goals. One is not courageous when violence comes more naturally than thinking. On the other hand, it is quite courageous to face off against violence and suppression when you know deep down that confrontation, hatred and violence are empty things in themselves. It is courageous to fight while despising the whole notion of fighting and taking no joy in it. It is courageous to risk safety and security to stand up for the principles one believes, rather than simply to preserve or advance one’s standing in the world’s pecking order.
I, and people like me, do more than you for our country because we have to draw on ourselves. You have nothing to conquer in your heart or your mind to take your positions. But we, on the other hand, have two enemies – one is you and other is ourselves. We insist that greatness for our country requires more than a president who encourages and validates our selfishness. To support our vision for our country, we have to overcome our temptation to emulate you. We are human and we are also pulled toward selfishness, simpleness, a contempt for intelligence, and a cult doctrine that seemingly provides a convenient “truth”, impervious to facts and contradictions. Yet, we continue to question ourselves. We continue to offer you supportable facts. How much less effort it would be for us to live like you, without regard for science or logic. We are tempted, but the cure for these temptations is readily available to us. You are there to show us, by your example, what such a course would make of us. So we resist these temptations. We have watched you wallow in falsehoods from the moment it became necessary for your cause, so we adhere faithfully to seeking the truth in all matters.
This is why you had some victories in the beginning – because while you sought a goal by any means, we sought truth and truth is not always quickly or easily found. We were held back by your many lies. In addition to carefully seeking truth, we had to overcome our desire for cooperation and compromise. We had to overcome our desire for peaceful coexistence with our relatives and neighbors. To put it in a word that I hope you understand, as this comes from me who you once counted as a friend, you have forced us to stifle our passion for friendship in order to stand up for our principles. You made it a choice between our principles or you. We have had to first search for every option that might avoid declaring you selfishly small-minded and lacking in virtue. All the while your appointed leaders have pounded on us with disparagements and demonization from the beginning and have encouraged you to do so as well.
Now that we have made that search and come up with no alternative but to approach you as you have approached us, we have to overcome the time lost by that long detour. It was a detour that regard for truth imposes on intelligence, that regard for friendship imposes on the heart. It was a detour that safeguarded justice and put truth on the side of those who first question themselves.
Without a doubt, I, and those on my side, have paid heavily for that detour. Your side has done things silently and in the dark as well as publicly to strengthen your positions while we have simply called upon you to abandon your means and clarify your goals. Repeatedly, though, your side has disappointed us. We have watched as innocent children were forever separated from their fit and loving parents. We have watched as white supremacists have filled the streets with your president’s veiled encouragement. We have watched as our tax reductions were limited in time while the tax breaks for the rich were made permanent. We have had to watch black men with only a small infraction be strangled to death by the arms or knees of uncaring and improperly trained law enforcement officers. We have had to watch as your president sided with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agency. We have had to watch over a quarter million of our fellow citizens suffer and die to date from a virus your president refused to warn of or take necessary steps to protect against. These, as well as many other things there is not space here to mention, we have had to endure because of you. And finally, even after your president lost the election, we have to watch the plot now afoot to have him declared president again by republican governors and perhaps to be supported by his unfairly packed Supreme Court.
But, despite that detour, we shall be victorious, you may be sure. Even if the dictatorial plot to place your president in office despite losing the election succeeds, we will still be victorious. If not immediately, then very soon. Because we have now been pushed to the point of taking the stands we must take regardless of the cost. We shall be victorious precisely because we allowed ourselves to be detoured to ensure that we were on the side of virtue and truth. And, we have now clearly learned that while being virtuous does not, in and of itself, prevail against the sword, having virtue and the sword will win against the sword alone. This is why we now accept the sword, knowing that virtue is on our side. And we will fight before we turn over our country to a dictator.
One only has the virtue for which one has paid the price in laborious and painful soul searching. We have paid that price dearly. We have virtue, spirit, and the sword now and thus your defeat is inevitable.
You refused to acknowledge the distinctions I have attempted to explain to you over the years. But your understanding and acceptance is no longer an issue for me. I will now fight for these fine points, for they are as important as the future of our species. I will fight for the superiority of science over mysticism, for the superiority of reason over force, of strength over cruelty, of truth over lies, of enlightenment over adherence to outdated doctrine. I will fight regardless of your willful ignorance of why I fight.
And, I will now answer your accusation that I do not love my country, that I am not a patriot, which still haunts me having come from the mouth of a friend. This is the whole meaning of my message to you today. That friend you disdained those years ago is the same man who now proudly says to you, and all those who continue to support Trump as you do, “I belong to a proud and admirable group of Americans who love our country because despite its errors and backslides of which we are painfully aware, many of us do not lose sight of the ideals upon which it was founded, the ideals which constitute our country’s whole greatness. I belong to the group and support the leaders who are always trying to express those ideals ever more clearly. This country is worthy of the difficult and demanding love that is mine, despite the many despicable things that have been done in its name. I love our country precisely because of the Americans, among whom I am included, who continuously seek the highest ideals for our country.
And, now I say to you that you do not love your country, that you are not a patriot. How can you claim to love your country when you have such a lowly vision for it? How can you claim to love your country when you would defeat the very democratic principles that make it great in the first place? How can you claim to love your country when you are so readily willing to hand it over to a dictator? You were defeated from the beginning due to your dark and selfish vision of your country. I cannot remain friends with someone who does not love our country, someone who does not love truth and virtue.
When I encounter you again, I will be polite, perhaps even distantly caring, but there will be no respect there for you any longer. You have forfeited the respect I held for you. And, if you attempt to fight to hand our country to a dictator, then we shall fight. For this, I am sad, but I will no longer be deterred by the poor choices you have made.
By George J. Little
*This is not a letter sent to any particular friend, but is a generalized statement of sentiment, which I believe to be shared by others. It is modeled upon, and borrows heavily from, an article entitled “Letter to a German Friend” written by Albert Camus and first published in the second edition of Revue Libra, a French Resistance Newspaper, in July, 1943. It is amazing to me how closely the sentiments of a Frenchman expressed to a German Nazi almost a century ago, while France was still occupied but close to liberation, match my feelings about Trump supporters today.