Monday, May 25, 2020 – Live to Blog on Memorial Day
Today is one of, if not, the most solemn Memorial Day in the history of the United States. The death toll for COVID-19 is nearing 100,000. It is possible that it could reach this mark before the day is through. It does not seem ethically or morally right to spend this day as we have spent so many other Memorial Day holidays – with outings at the beach, family gatherings, barbecues, or a day on the golf course. For this reason, today’s blog will be different from anything I’ve written before. Tomorrow I will return to serving the usual hot steaming cup of drivel.
Golfing in the Midst of a Forest Fire
I have spent this day reflecting on what it means to have lived to witness the death of nearly 100,000 people in my country in only 86 days. The first COVID-19 death in the United States occurred on February 29th. Since then the pandemic has been a wildfire burning through the country. When we calculate the numeric average, we find Americans are dying at the rate of 1,162 per day. Let’s put all of this in perspective:
- 100,000 dead of COVID-19, when compared to the number of American’s killed in combat in the major wars of the 20th century, is:
- Almost double that of World War I
- A third of World War II
- Three times the Korean War
- More than double the Vietnam War
- More than 18 times the War on Terror over the past 19 years
- Having 1,162 people die each day is the equivalent to having:
- Nearly seven Oklahoma City bombings every day
Despite this devastation before your eyes and mine, our President appears to be unconvinced of the severity of the situation, uncommitted to full disclosure, and unwilling to model behavior that shows understanding and builds confidence in his leadership. All in all, Mr. Trump is simply golfing in the midst of a forest fire. For this reason, I’ve decided to make today’s blog an open letter to Donald Trump.
I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent. By the way, if the following letter speaks your mind, please feel free to share it with others.
A Letter to President Donald J. Trump
May 25, 2020
Dear Mr. President,
Should you ever see this letter and take time to read it, thank you for considering its message.
Mr. President, our country needs you to be your best self in this moment. I do not know you at all and so I do not know you well enough to know who your best self would be. I want to believe that your very best self is:
- A person who genuinely cares about others more than you care about yourself.
- A person who deeply grieves the loss of 100,000 souls and has shed tears, as so many of us have already, for those we love who have died in this pandemic.
- A person who is self-confident enough to show us the grief he feels.
- A person who is strong and brave enough to speak the truth about the nature of this pandemic, even if it is not popular with your political base or anyone else.
- A person who trusts the public health and medical expertise that is availalble to you.
- A person who is humble enough to admit when misteps have occurred, errors have been made, and failures have cost valuable time and lives.
- A person who is willing to use his words and actions to for healing in our country.
- A person who is willing to knit together the partisan political divides that keep us from working together as effectively as we could and as we need right now.
- A person who understands the power of example.
- A person who understands that leaders “go first” in setting that example by publicly following the counsel of rigorous science and our country’s finest public health and medical experts without complaint, pushback, or ridicule.
- A person who shows no favor in who gets equipment, testing, treatment, and vacinations (when they become available) and how quickly they receive them.
All in all, Mr. President, we need you to be each of these things and more. We need you to be the very best idea of what it means to be fully human. I know it isn’t fair to put all of this on the shoulders of one person. However, that is the burden of the presidency in the United States. That mantle is a heavy one. From what I’ve observed in my lifetime, only those who are capable of being their best selves, and who are willing to be so most of the time, are able to carry it well. However, they don’t carry the burden alone. They enlist the support of the country and they do so by calling on us to similarly be our best selves.
We need you to be this best self and so much more at this time, Mr. President, because the majority of people in the United States have very little confidence in your honesty and most do not trust you. I know those are harsh words and I apologize if they offend. May I, however, illustrate them with a brief story?
Each week during the pandemic I have been meeting with a group of people for mutual support via Zoom. Last week we were talking about when a vaccine realistically might be ready. One person commented, “If the President announced it was ready today and that I could get innoculated, I don’t believe I would. I’m not sure I can trust anything he tells me to be true anymore.” Everyone in the group, yes, including me, agreed. None of us are anti-vaxxers but we don’t know that we can trust anything you say right now.
Mr. President, we need to be able to trust you. We want to be able to trust you, even if we didn’t vote for you or plan to vote for you in the Fall. Why? Because our lives may depend upon it.
But our trust has been broken. I know personally how hard it is to restore trust once it has been damaged. It is very difficult to repair and sometimes it can’t be fixed, especially when there has been so much destruction and grief related to it. However, we must always try.
You must try, Mr. President. By trying to repair trust you may actually save many lives. How do you try?
- Start by speaking truth with humiliy, kindness, and compassion.
- Call a truce on all political wars and be the first to walk to the middle of “no man’s land” with your arms extended and hands open.
- Find it within yourself to believe the press and the Democrats have better intentions that you can imagine. Remember, just as you feel hurt by them, they feel hurt by you. Everyone is feeling wounded and sore right now.
- Give us an example to follow in deed and speech. Wear your mask in every public appearance.
- Keep physical distance between yourself and others in your public appearances and news conferences.
- Only promote the treatments and solutions that your public health and medical experts tell you are viable when they are available.
- In fact, step back and let them speak their truth.
- Avoid denegrating the press. Though the American press is not perfect, they strive more often than not to be accurate and fair. They are still our best source of information.
- Avoid all appearances that you or your friends may be benefiting financially during or from the pandemic.
Finally, from one golfer to another, put your clubs away for a while, please. There will be plenty of time to play golf in the future. Right now though, on this Memorial Day weekend, it appears disrespectful and, even more, highly insensitive. It suggests you don’t care at all about the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths we may be reaching today or tomorrow.
Thank you for your time, Mr. President. I wish you success in turning things around because our lives may depend upon it. I don’t know that there is anything I can do for you but I do promise this. If you will release this best self to help us, I will meet you with my best self.
Mr. President, stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask every day, and keep trying to be the best version of yourself that our country needs.