The day after the election, I woke up feeling a massive hangover of emotion, thinking everything that had happened the night before must have been a nightmare. When I remembered that it was a reality, and that the America I’d known was about to change, I went straight to my laptop and began to type.
“Dear President-Elect,” I wrote.
“Our oldest son has watched you closely these past months. He has called you a bully … But here we are, and congratulations to you.
Please know that a fire has been lit. It has been lit by children who refuse to be bullied and parents who want to see a healthy world for their little ones, a world where minorities and females and the poor can also rise to the leadership positions and change things ….
I want to see you doing the things that Jesus did. Eating with the outcast. Caring for the poor, widowed, orphaned. Embracing all the other. Creating equal rights. Becoming a peacemaker.
Mr. Trump, that fire was lit under Jesus, too.
It’s a fire of justice, grace, and Kingdom, and I’m praying you find it in your early days of leadership and carry it as a humble torch through the next four years …”
After I finished that letter, I knew I couldn’t stop there. I knew that if I wanted to have a voice for the next however-many-years this man was to be in office, I’d have to begin a new practice right there in my own home.
So, I began writing letters. One hand-written letter a week, delivered to the White House door, so that he’ll know we are here, so that he’ll know our story exists and that we are not to be ignored.
I’m not saying that as a liberal I feel ignored; I’m saying that I don’t want to be ignored as a human being, as a citizen, as a woman, as a mother, as a Native American, as a Christian.
The first few letters were easy, because there was so much to say. I told him about my family, about our community, about our daily life. In the next letter, I explained more about my Potawatomi tribe, about what’s important to native peoples today.
I told him I pray for him.
But by the fourth week, it became more and more difficult to decide what to say, and the encroaching reality that he will probably never read these letters was beginning to sink in.
Still, I wrote. I wrote to the secretary who would open them and read them every week, to the people who sit at their desks wondering if this is the president we’ve all been waiting for, the one to Make America Great Again.
And the more I write, the more it affects me.
It affects the way I raise my boys, the way I educate them about what it means to be a refugee, a woman, or to be a person of color in today’s America.
It affects the way I learn my tribe’s language, the way I desire to preserve the foundations of who I am for future generations.
It affects my mental attitude, and gives me a drive to do the work — to write, to lead worship at my church — with a fire in my bones that cannot be put out.
It affects the voice of my faith. When I am angry, these letters keep me tethered to what matters, and in moments when all I can think of toward this man are the harshest criticisms, I beg him to listen to the words I am writing, to take into account the people in this world who are “othered,” to remember the people in his own life who have shaped who he is.
It affects my humanity. We shop at an international market around the corner from our house, and the majority of the people who work there are either refugees or immigrants. We look them in the eye. We share meals with them. I write their stories down and I send them to the president’s door because if he doesn’t hear them from me, he may never hear them.
Writing a letter a week has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life, especially for someone who gives up on New Year’s resolutions by February.
But every Tuesday, I take my two young boys to a local coffee shop, and I write letters for #letterstotrump Tuesday, and I invite all the friends I can.
We sit at a table, my boys drinking vanilla steamers and playing with Legos, and I ask them what they would say to him, what they would write if they could. My oldest leans in and says, “Ask him to be nice to people.” So I write it down again, this kind way of letting a leader know the people are watching.
And I sign the letter, always with the same closing line, With Watching Eyes & Steady Hand, and I sign my name at the bottom with a fine point Sharpie pen.
These letters affect every part of who I am, because they tether me to my identity as a citizen of this country.
They tether me to my identity as an activist, as a writer, as a mother, as a Potawatomi woman, and certainly as a Christian.
President Donald Trump may never read a single letter that goes to his door, but it will go to his door, nonetheless. And the work of my hands will not be in vain, because the way we change this beautiful world that we inhabit is one stroke at a time, one protest at a time, one tiny movement at a time, one conversation at a time, one word written on paper with pen at a time.
And he can never say, “Where were the voices? No one spoke out,” because I’ve got copies of letters in a file on my dresser, a dark green file with big black letters written across the front, #letterstotrump.