• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).

Title

Letter to President Trump

Rescinding an earlier offer.

 

April 9, 2017
 
 

President Trump:

On November 13 last year I wrote you a personal letter.  It was one of the most intense posts of my blog life, one in which I channeled so much of the shock and concern I felt around your election into communication and hope. I deeply love this country.  I know that from many data points in my life. The pride with which I tell people about my father and his four brother’s World War II military experience. The eight years of my young adult life studying its history, and many years after teaching it. The profound wonder at geographic expanse of this country, the sheer magnitude and varied terrain, together with the overwhelming vastness of Alaska and the unique splendor of Hawaii. The Sunday after 9/11 at church we sang the anthem, America the Beautiful, at dismissal. Until that day, I don’t think I knew the depth of my patriotism. I wept.

You feel this country too. You are, in my opinion, egotistical and vainglorious, but sincere, I believe, in your dedication to it.  In fact, you identify yourself with its path. Part of what made this past presidential election season so fascinating is that both you and Hillary Clinton fused yourselves to a notion of the United States at a level deeper than any of the other potential candidates, and yet you both came to represent such apparently divergent notions as to what politically that meant. Although I admire many aspects about Secretary Clinton, I am not a personal fan. I did not contribute to her campaign, but I did vote for her and share many of her policy positions. Because I believe in this country, and have tremendous respect for its offices, I sat almost in a meditative state to write you that letter last November.  It was my best effort to reconcile myself to your governance.

Many of my friends and some commenters were surprised, and even angry, at me for that post. They thought perhaps I was being cowardly or obsequious; one considered me stupid for ignoring what in her mind are the clear fascists leanings of your personality and politics. Other commenters, those who supported you, took it as an opportunity to gloat. I get that, it was an amazing upset, but it was also an unfortunate tack. If we had all just taken a deep breath in those initial moments, and set aside the “I told you so” as well as the defensive incredulity, to find the common ground between us and the best legislative approach, that would have been the real win, a true victory for all of us. But we did not, and we don’t, and so here we are, not even 100 days into your administration, and we are already at many, many points of both emotional and political impasse.

Some readers of this blog have grown weary of the drip, drip, drip of my frustration and anger at your policies and conduct. A few them, I would guess, are dyed-in-the-wool supporters who want to strike back. Others use these posts as a launching pad for their own bully pulpits. And still some others have grown weary of the tinny pitch of my moralizing sarcasm. As you might imagine, since I must have enough of an ego to write you this letter, I have varying responses depending on their posts. Sometimes I literally laugh out loud, or, in privacy of my living room, roll my eyes.  In between meetings on busy work days, I check comments especially after a post; I squirrel away some time to write a reply before the next meeting starts. What none but one see is me when I lie awake in the middle of night, lost in thought about how to respond, working through my own emotional knee-jerks, often embarrassed beyond belief at my life-long penchant for writing too fast and making mistakes. I no longer lose sleep over information technology policy or internecine institutional politics, but I do devote a lot of myself to being real in this space. 

That is why I am writing you this letter. I have thought a lot about my readers’ comments and it is time for me to be honest with you about where I stand. I was prepared last November to give you a chance, but you have done very little other than disappoint. While I continue to believe in the sincerity of your effort, I consider almost every policy decision you have made (immigration, health care, trade, energy, environment, communications law) to be short-sighted, even foolish, and often reckless. I think there is a good chance that you are in violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution.  Probably you knew something in advance about the Russian hack of the Democratic National Party and the WikiLeaks release. Because you wagered an advantage, and since all you have ever cared about is winning (something you and the Clinton’s have in common), you did not give a moment’s thought to the potential violation of laws involved and how close you may be to a charge of misprision. Your constant profusion of lies is ridiculous and your delusions truly scary for a man in your position.  Moreover, you have surrounded yourself with people, who, if they really believe in the things that they say, can, in my opinion, wreak havoc on contemporary American society (e.g. dismantling the administrative state). Finally, you completely lost my respect with those tweets about President Obama. 

 Therefore, I rescind the offer of the previous letter.  I no longer carry any hope in you as a governmental leader, your presidency and administration.  I do not believe you made any effort to consider at least some of the points of your opposition.  You constitutionally lack the capacity to reach across the political aisle.  You cynically play to your base and neglect your responsibilities as president for all American people. More damaging to our relationship, we seem not to share any values.  There is no foundation to believe a word you say, or to know from one minute to the next whether you even understand your utterances. I appreciate the needs and the desires of the many good people across this country who voted for you, those who struggle to find meaningful work, or with addictions, or who want to live self-sufficient lives without overbearing governmental or corporate interference. But I don’t have faith for a minute that you care about them, or have any realistic idea of how to shape policy that gives them a chance to achieve those aspirations. Your drive for recognition is not healthy for this country or its people.  Your survival instinct, and what appears to be genuine love for your family, may keep you from grinding yourself to a powder, but you could care less whether that is the outcome for millions of others. I sincerely want – I admit it – for sufficient evidence to be found on the Russian question to have the House of Representatives indict you, and that, either with a shove or your own self-satisfied consent, you leave office. 

 Recognizing it is a privilege to have this blog space and the opportunity to share my views with people, especially in a community to which I have dedicated my career life, I have decided not to let you undermine my own self-respect.  Whether it be from personal disappointment or over-inflated morals (you can take the girl out of Catholic school but you can’t take the Catholic school out of the girl), the sarcasm with which I have addressed you I will try my hardest to eliminate. That is part of why I have chosen to write you this letter. Coming from the venerable Irish tradition (my mother was a Whelehan), sarcasm – believe it or not – might cut, but it can also be the tell-tale sign of, if not affection, connection. I had some for you when I wrote that first letter.  Even if it was only scraps of shared ego – the recognition that we have aspects of an enthusiastic personality type in common, and maybe the psychological impacts of somewhat similar family dynamics – it was enough for me to hope for a better conclusion.  It is time for me to lay my cards on the table.  Fully recognizing that you could not care less, I, nonetheless, must be honest and let you know that I no longer feel it. 

To the degree that your stars align with those of this country, Mr. Trump, I will, however, continue to write about you and your administration, how and in what ways it intersects with internet law and policy, and, most importantly, higher education. 

P.S.   I wrote this piece Wednesday last week. Since then you showed some compassion, did the right thing in Syria, and got Bannon off the National Security Council. Keep showing your true self – which I believe to be good, and maybe we can talk again?

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