Off and on for the last couple weeks, I have been working on an open letter to you. Sending out the original letter would have had real, direct interpersonal consequences within my adopted family. Because so much was riding on it, I weighed paragraph structure and vocabulary word by word for dozens of hours.
In brief, the original letter was straightforward, and it stripped away all policy issues that we might get hung up on; my idea was that, if you decided to engage in a dialog with me, all that would be allowed in our discussion was POTUS 45’s fitness for office based only on his ethics and morals. And then—perhaps foolishly, perhaps brilliantly—I was going to ask you to consider these two issues before casting your vote.
And we can have that discussion if you would like. But not here.
You see, it occurs to me that most people—liberal and conservative—are tired and scared, whether they admit it or not. 2020 has been non-stop stress and anxiety. But maybe stress and anxiety could actually unite us.
This is to say, perhaps we need to take a long pause once a day and stop drinking from the firehose of anxiety-causing news and doomscrolling. Perhaps then we can focus on the good that our close fellow humans bring into our lives, regardless of political affiliation. Maybe then we can allow ourselves to get in touch with our humanity again.
I mean, I have failed to have any real conversations with anyone about baseball. Where’s the humanity in that?
Maybe you think most of what I’m writing about here is some hippie-dippy bullshit (and if you think I’m a hippie, I suppose we need to get to know each other better, because I ain’t no hippie). Or maybe you, like my liberal friends, think I’m being soft, that I have my head in the sand, that I am being unrealistic.
But my idea here is more realistic than believing that one of two political ideologies is the only way we can move forward. I mean, really, there’s little more that you or I could do right now (or even after the election) than be civically engaged in our communities, and voice our concerns to our elected officials. And vote.
So here it is: more of my vulnerability to make you uncomfortable. But maybe it will help us to truly start prioritizing our individual and collective well-being.
So here it is: the most important parts of my original letter.
I write this letter to you as a person you have shared birthdays, weddings, graduations, and holidays with, a person who you grew up with, who you sponsored for Confirmation into the Catholic Church, who partied with you and swam laps with you in high school, who navigated Korean culture with you. I write as a person who has exchanged travel stories with you, who has traded stories with you about first loves and heartbreaks.
I write this because I am forever grateful to the rural-suburban Wisconsin family that welcomed me more than a decade ago. I write this as a person who has tailgated with you at Miller Park in snow and sun, a person whose commitment ceremony you attended in Milwaukee’s East Side, a person you have shared martinis with, and Old Fashions, and the Champagne of Beers, and the Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous. I’m a guy who has benefitted from your generosity, whether it was your donation to my book project, or a friendly payout after the Niners beat the Packers, or your treating me to a Friday night fish fry at MJ Stevens’, or your warm unhesitating Midwest hug. I write as a person who has waited with you for a deer in 4 AM flurries of November snow in the Kettle Moraine, as a person who has helped you tend your land, mow your lawn, whack your sumac, cut your trees, split your wood, and burn your brush.
I write this letter to you because you have played a part in my life, and/or you have given me perspective, and/or you were a close friend in lifetimes past, or you play an important role in my life now.
I write to you today as a person, not a “leftist mobster.”
I write to you as your fellow American, not a “coastal elite.”
I write to you to find common ground, not to find ways to further isolate us.
I write to bring us together, not to divide.
So I propose something scary: vulnerability. Call me or write in my blog’s comments section (since I am using StayFocused to limit my social media time to 10 minutes a day) and let me know what you think we could accomplish together.
Inevitably, we will find differences in how we accomplish those goals.
And I promise to do my best to be open-minded and be respectful.
But that only works if you can promise the same thing.