My family immigrated to the United States of America on the third boat after the Mayflower. Our heritage precedes any records of Trumps, or Drumpfs, in America. Members of my family have served in every major conflict in US history with the exception of Iraq; your family cannot say the same. Yet, you continue to act as if you’ve sacrificed for the betterment of our country when the reality is: we don’t even know you’ve paid taxes half the time.
Instead of acknowledging your past though, and honourably promising to change from a position of great entitlement, you accost service members you don’t care for, threaten democracy with attacks on the media, and worsen divides that threaten to tear America apart. Moreover, there’s a part of me that’s angry from a personal standpoint, my father founded the criminal division of the EPA, and was the senior environmental prosecutor in the country until 2014, and whose storied career began with work on Watergate. You’ve destroyed his life’s work in under 7 months, but I’m not writing this from a position of anger or even from a personal standpoint, I’m trying to speak for a great many Americans who are understandably frightened for the future; who feel they’re watching the degradation of our way of life. This letter isn’t about me, or my feelings, but it is intended for you, Mr. President.
There’s a storm coming and as our enemies around the world lick their chops watching the division within America, we continue to charge towards a future in which we tear ourselves apart. Many of us, yourself included, seem to have forgotten what it means to be American. If our memory continues to fail and we forget entirely what being American truly means, we’ll not only lose our status as the world’s leader, we won’t deserve it anymore.
This is not a world I can imagine nor that I have any desire to. Without America to serve as an eternal source of light within the darkness the world will be cast into chaos. In order to preserve what so many gave so much to obtain, we must first remember what it means to be American. While we seem hopelessly intertwined in a national, and very partisan, identity crisis we can only hope to pull out of it by remembering the lessons our founding father’s taught us all those years ago when they first defined, through their actions, what it means to be American.
Currently, there are a few misconceptions on what makes someone American; there seems to be a great deal of entitlement when considering the term. I was born a white male and a citizen of The United States of America but I don’t think that makes me an American. There seems to be a lot of controversies swirling around this notion but the reality is being born a certain way entitles me to nothing. The circumstances of birth don’t make you American, they never have, but actions do.
We earn our status as American through our actions day to day, month to month, and year to year. In doing the right thing by our loved ones, our countrymen, and ourselves we become American. There’s not flashy gesture or a fancy piece of paper that can make you truly American but living the right way can; waking up and doing the right thing every day, no matter how big or small the action, is what makes us American. It isn’t a static definition either, it’s a dynamic one just like we are as people; always changing, growing, and working towards the betterment of not only ourselves but our society as a whole. When considering how we define being American it’s worth noting those criteria.
When I voted it was in a densely populated, urban sector of Philadelphia. There were four booths for hundreds of people; many of whom were elderly and couldn’t stand for hours. It was a very telling few hours. Some of those elderly individuals struggling the most sported Make America Great Again hats. Instead of being happy at your supporter’s misfortune though I spent my day making trips to a conference room located at the back of the line hundreds of people long in order to ferry chairs to those who couldn’t stand. It wasn’t a big gesture or one that required a tremendous effort, it certainly DID NOT deserve any praise, because I knew it was merely the right thing to do for my fellow American. This attitude seems to be dying though, as we forget more and more what being American means.
As I walked back and forth with chairs under each arm I watched many of my young peers barely look up from their phones; some even seemed noticeably annoyed that a fellow millennial would go out of his way to help your supporters. Make no mistake, those watching seemed to have forgotten what being American means just as much as anyone. When nobody joined in to help I was only made more aware of the change I’ve seen in my lifetime; the gradual shift many of us have noticed in our culture. It might seem subtle to some, but many have forgotten to do the right thing for no other reason than it helps another American.
If this lack of support for each other continues to proliferate we’ll witness the decay of American values and worth This is something I attribute to the win at all cost/look out for yourself mentality that’s taken over politics and permeated into our culture; winning has become more important than standing up for each other. Americans used to do the right thing automatically, while many still do, others have stopped if there’s no reward or personal incentive. Americans used to help each other no matter who was President and that’s truly what made America great; our uniquely American loyalty. That loyalty, love, and solidarity saved us from the greatest threat the world has ever known, liberated Europe, and won two world wars.
There’s been a change though. It’s apparent everywhere. We saw it when 23 of 24 Texas congressmen voted to deny aid when Hurricane Sandy hit, now faced with Harvey, Texans find themselves in an unfortunate position. This is merely one example of a larger problem within our society though and if this cancerous divisionist mentality continues to spread we’ll witness our downfall.
Hope is not lost though because it isn’t too late to start putting America, and each other, first again; all that’s required is remembering what made us Americans in the first place.
In school, when I was young and studying our history, I learned a great lesson; one I think is important enough to share. I learned that being an American isn’t something you obtain from being born here, or even from keeping other people out; being American is something you become through your actions and character. Defining what it meant to be an American was something our founding father’s sacrificed all that they had for.
Today, with all the modern luxuries we have it’s hard to understand being so passionate about something you’d die for it but our founders had that passion for the characteristics which would later define our nation. By fighting so fervently amongst ourselves that we forget the value of other Americans we put into jeopardy all that we have. It’s all of our duty to honour that which our founding father’s felt defined America.
Honoring those traditions can mean different things to different people but all of us must find a way to honour them, every day if we are ever to truly Make America Great Again. This isn’t hard to do, it only takes remembering to do the right thing. I’m not perfect, in fact, I would consider myself the last person for anyone to take their cues from, but for me, I honor those traditions by trying to do the right thing every day to the best of my ability, whether it’s big or small, seen or unseen, noted or unnoticed.
You see, if you remember to do the right thing, to treat others how you’d like to be treated, and do everything to the best of your ability, I promise everything else, all the nonsense in the media, won’t matter a single bit, because we’ll once again have a country of people who look out for one another. The alternative is unacceptable.
So Mr. President with this in mind I wanted to give you some advice for salvaging your presidency:
- Tell the truth. In times of doubt, the truth is always the right answer. If lies are allowed to be believed as fact America will continue to forget that the real enemy isn’t each other, it’s those who seek to end democracy, freedom, and our way of life.
- Stop defining what it means to be American from a partisan stance. You have no right. None of us do. Being American is defined by those who came before, and it’s defined by those whose examples will survive the test of time. If someone is willing to come here, work hard, abide by our laws, and protect our way of life, then you, Donald Trump, have no right to tell them they cannot be Americans. Being born to millions in New York, dodging your country’s call in its time of need, and verbally accosting service members does not make you the one to decide what it means to be an American.
- Stop attacking the media. You bear a great responsibility; millions of Americans look to you for guidance and comfort during hardship. If you continue to point their anger at the media we may lose an integral pillar of democracy. If you do not you will cement your legacy as the enemy of democracy. History will condemn you.
- Stop using radical Islam and immigrants as scapegoats to bring people together. We’ve seen in history scapegoats unite the masses but at great cost. Instead of pandering to the fears of your base you could teach them to accept. You’ve uniquely been able to reach the individuals that make up your base unlike any before you; you have the opportunity to take advantage of their love for you and to teach them that being American really means doing the right thing above all else. In doing this you could not only save your legacy but America as a whole.
There is a storm coming and it cannot be defeated by a divided nation; a storm that doesn’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, a storm that seeks to upend democracy, freedom, and our way of life. As Americans, we have to do the right thing even when it isn’t easy, even when there’s no reward because that’s truly what makes us Americans and if we forget that, we’ll truly be lost.
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