Clive, Iowa

November 12, 2016

Letter to my Fellow Americans – who voted for Donald J. Trump:

When the most damning evidence of Mr. Trump’s lack of character was made public weeks ago I started a letter to the editor in my head.  Essentially what I wanted to say was this: Our elected leaders who stand with Mr. Trump are supporting a racist, bigoted misogynist, and a pathological liar.  The failure to classify his behaviors over the course of the campaign and his public life as anything other than this description is at best ignorant, at worst complicit.  I wanted to close this letter urging my fellow Iowans to reject all of the candidates on the ballot this year who fail to reject Mr. Trump.

I never got around to sending that letter just like I never got around to putting that Hillary sticker on my car.  There was so much written, broadcast, and discussed about how hideous Mr. Trump’s campaign had become I didn’t feel I had much to add.  Plus, I didn’t want to offend you.  Even after eight years of listening patiently to your racist, sexist, violent and bigoted rhetoric directed not at an ideology or a set of policies, but a man.

Here is where I have to tell you how offended I am by your action.  While you spent the last eight years maligning a respectable and capable man, you also couldn’t help inflicting collateral damage on the office, itself. And now, after acclimating yourself to its debasement, you saw the Presidency to be such a demeaned thing that you could find a man fundamentally not worthy of our respect, worthy of it. You have elected to represent all of us as leader of the free world a man whose behavior, words, and deeds would not be tolerated in any elementary school classroom.  

Would you allow your daughters to be groped by my sons?  Would you ask that I tolerate the level of dishonesty he consistently demonstrates among my students?  Would you tolerate his level of vulgarity from a high school debater?

Years ago civic, education, and political leaders – many of them Republican – got behind an initiative for teaching civic values to young people called Character Counts.  There are six ethical values that “everyone can agree upon.”  Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.  By any measure our next president has failed in every one of these areas – big time.  Of course you will point to my candidate and say the same.  But Mr. Trump’s failures in the areas of Respect, Fairness, and Caring specifically are beyond the pale or comparison.  

When I woke Wednesday morning I was in tears for our children.  I cannot explain this world of adults who not only tolerate this behavior, they seem to revel in it.  The worse Mr. Trump acted, the more you adored him.  So again our children are failed by our ‘do as I say, not as I do’ hypocrisy.  So I ask you with all sincerity: What do you plan to say to your children to explain why someone of such established grotesque character was found worthy (once again, not by most Americans) of being our leader and representative to the world? What conclusion do you expect they’ll come to when they see a black man of great character reviled, and a white man of repugnant character celebrated? How do you reconcile this hypocrisy?

Ultimately, what has upended my world-view and disturbed my soul is that I have finally become fully aware who you are.  I ignorantly saw you as ‘the other’ for so long: the white guy of a certain age in a pick-up truck.  I ignorantly assumed your racism, sexism, and xenophobia was something isolated to the rural counties, the less educated parts of white society, and areas with white nationalists that I wouldn’t know how to find and rarely would travel.

What has so shaken me is that you are so close to me: you are my doctor, my uncle, my cousin, my co-worker, my teammate, my children’s teacher, my student’s parent, my fellow parishioner, my neighbor.  I realize that I can’t live in a world without you and even if I could wish you away I wouldn’t.  I love you and it brings me to tears.

This love requires me to forgive, not to hate.  It requires me to empathize, if not to agree.  It requires me to dialogue, not to close you off.  I’m not sure what else to write or say just yet because I am too raw and immature to attempt the answers on my own.  But I do have a good start: I will refocus my efforts on telling the truth and fostering loving relationships.

I have held my tongue for far too long in an effort not to offend you.  In doing so I have fallen short of living my most deeply held standards and beliefs in the misplaced assumption that I will lose the benefits of our relationship. But from now on I pledge that fear will no longer make me a hypocrite to my beliefs.  Without fear of offending you or our new president, instead I choose to love you and your chosen leader.  I choose to live in peace and harmony rather than anger.  I hope that by doing so you may consider to do the same.

With love and determination,

Christian Baughman