I am writing this letter to you despite the fact that you cannot yet read it. You are due the day after Inauguration Day, on January 21, 2017. You will be one of the first American babies born under our new president. One day, you will ask where I stood at this unique moment in history and it is important to me that you know. I am writing this for you.
So let me jump right in. This election is a very unique one in many regards. It features a man, Donald Trump, who has spent the last 30 years serving only one person, Donald Trump. He is running against a woman, Hillary Clinton, who spent the last 30 years serving others, including the least fortunate among us. This is not a trivial point.
In politics as in life, intentions matter just as much as outcomes.
Your mom and I are not sure if you’re a boy or a girl at this stage. We purposefully decided not to find out. The reason is that it doesn’t matter to us a whole lot, and we like surprises. Regardless of the celestial coin toss that determines your genitalia, we will treasure you, give you the same exact opportunities, and teach you to respect all human beings. Yet in this election, there is someone who wants to be President who has serially abused and assaulted people precisely because they are women. The other candidate, as First Lady of the United States, stood up for women’s rights in China, declaring “that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” These words reverberated throughout the world. Now, she could be the first woman president ever in the history of our country. If you are a girl, I would be very happy to know that this is also possible for you.
Whatever job you choose to do one day — whether you’re a post office worker, photographer, or a president — there is this concept called “basic human decency.” This truly matters above all else.
While we hope and pray above all that you will be born healthy and always remain that way, some people are sadly not that lucky. Donald Trump, the leader of a major political party, actually mocked a reporter because he was handicapped. He couldn’t lie to cover this one up. He was caught on video.
The concept of the truth is also something that you will learn one day. We’ll start simple. In a couple years, you will be taught you’re A,B,C’s and that 1+1=2. You will not be taught you’re Z, J, T’s and that 1+1=3. Yet, in this election we have a candidate in Donald Trump who has taken the politician’s tendency to distort to new heights, lying far more than his rival and any candidate in history. Trump, in fact, catapulted himself and his campaign into the national spotlight with one whopper of a lie: that President Obama was born in Africa, and not Hawaii.
I doubt Trump himself actually believed his own foundational lie. He did it for a specific reason: to galvanize a specific subset of the American electorate, right wing racists and conspiracy theorists. Sadly, it worked.
I’ll tell you why in a minute, but this is where things get a bit more complicated. One thing we do know is what ethnicity you will be. You are going to be mainly of Eastern European descent with a drop of Scottish royal blood on your father’s side, with a nice mix of Russian, Polish, Syrian, Turkish, and Iraqi from your mom’s side. To make matters even more confusing, your dad’s family come from South Africa originally. Your mom’s family hails from Colombia. Your parents met in Miami and fell in love in Israel.
Oh, and you’re Jewish.
One day you will learn the amazing history of our people. You will be taught to be proud of your ancestors, of what they stood for then and what we continue to stand for today; values like education, loving thy neighbor, and repairing the world (tikkun olam). You will also learn of our tragedies. You will learn about the Holocaust. It is something that you will never comprehend.
Now back to Trump’s foundational lie.
It is not the act of lying, but the nature of this particular lie that gives me pause. Since sometimes words and meaning are not the same, let me translate the subtext of the lie for you. What Trump actually meant is that Obama, because of the color of his skin, his ethnicity, and because his middle name is Hussein, doesn’t actually belong in the United States. And that he, along with other non-white Christians (Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, African-Americans, brown people), are now taking over the country. Trump’s foundational lie is in its essence no different than the propaganda peddled around by the Nazis about Jewish people. Despite our contribution to German or Lithuanian or European culture in the arts and sciences, the premise that Jews were outsiders and not native to Europe is the very notion that led to the murder of 6 million of our people just a few generations ago. What Trump has said about judges of Mexican descent and his plans to ban people because of their Muslim faith are the exact same type of xenophobic and hateful speech the Nazis used to justify their crimes against our people, Gypsies, homosexuals, and the handicapped.
This message was heard loud and clear by white supremacists and conspiracy theorists across the country. It was embraced by Andrew Anglin, editor of the Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, modeled after Adolf Hitler’s favorite publication, the former Nazi tabloid Der Stürmer (“the Attacker”). It describes itself as the world’s #1 Alt-Right and Pro-Genocide Website. And now the US version has not just backed Trump. It has made him their poster boy.
I sincerely hope this link doesn’t work by the time you’re surfing the web. To a rational, lucid mind the words randomly scattered on the pages will make little sense, so here’s the key take away. Anglin describes the unifying force Trump has had on the deluded fringe of racists and conspiracy theorists that make up the Alt-Right movement, explaining that “the campaign of Donald Trump is effectively the nexus of that centerpoint” of Anti-Semites across the country. If you’re able to browse this website long enough to not vomit in your own mouth, make sure to try and read Anglin’s collection of nonsensical stories in the “Jewish Problem” section.
Trump may deny any formal affiliation with these groups, but that misses the point. His rhetoric has glorified him in the eyes of racists because he makes them believe that their distorted ideology is normal and that their lies are truths. Obama was not born in Hawaii, 1+1=3, The Jews control Hillary, etc.
It is reminiscent of how the publisher of the original Nazi rag Der Stürmer, Julius Streicher, described how hearing Hitler speak for the first time in 1921 made him feel less isolated in his racist mind. He was transformed and emboldened.
That same year, Streicher joined the Nazi Party and helped double the party membership, spreading the virus of Anti-Semitism across Germany with his racist tabloid.
On October 16, 1946, Streicher was executed for crimes against humanity.
That was the year Trump was born.
Seventy years later, he re-tweeted a message from a Twitter account called White Genocide.
Wait, there’s more: David Duke of the KKK, is also endorsing Trump. The KKK is basically the American version of the Nazi Party in that they are organized politically and even have their own youth movement. They hate everyone foreign and non-white and non-Christian. They unfortunately hate you even before you are born because of your DNA. The leader of this racist group, who calls himself a grand wizard (not the good kind), is running for the Senate. He has given a full-throated endorsement of Trump, telling his white, Christian supporters that to vote against Trump is “treason to your heritage.” Trump denies knowing who Duke was. This, of course, has proven to be yet another lie.
Believe it or not, child, despite all this, there are Jews actually voting for Trump. This puts them squarely in the same camp as those who would prefer us all to be back in concentration camps.
So why are some of our people voting for this man, you might ask in a few years ? Great question.
There are two main reasons: the belief that the Republican party’s foreign policy doctrine in the Middle East is superior. And taxes.
Let’s start with Middle East foreign policy. You’re in luck as your father happens to know a little bit about this topic. When 9/11 happened I was studying international relations at the University of Florida. I happened to be walking into a class called “Culture and World Politics” and was reading Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” at the exact moment when I heard the news. How’s that for coincidence ?
This horrific attack had a huge impact on me and was the main reason I decided to become a journalist. I based myself in the Middle East largely to try and comprehend it. In nearly a decade of reporting from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, while the US was under the Republican leadership of George W. Bush, I witnessed the devastating effects of our country’s forays in the Middle East firsthand. We invaded Iraq, despite them not having the weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) that Bush claimed they had. Once the intelligence reports were de-classified years later, we learned the truth in a Congressional investigation, that the Bush administrations claims for WMD’s was “not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.” In other words, the Bush administration formed their opinions despite the evidence, not because of it. So we invaded Iraq under a false premise, killed Saddam Hussein and hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and then didn’t really have a clue what to do next. In 2005, I was in Kirkuk, in Northern Iraq, covering the first “democratic” election in post-Saddam Iraq. The consensus amongst Sunni Iraqis was that it was basically a sham election designed to hand power to the Shia and Kurds. This deficit of Sunni leadership post-Saddam and hostility towards the US led to the genesis of ISIS.
In that same year, I was in Gaza as Israel handed the territory to Hamas during Israel’s 2005 disengagement. This unilateral move by Ariel Sharon, with the support of George W. Bush, clearly rewarded terrorist organizations by handing over territory with no peace agreement. It was beyond surreal watching Islamic Jihad members walking into abandoned Jewish synagogues. The actual effect of this rash, reckless decision was that it divided and conquered the Palestinians, ensuring that we will not see peace between Israelis and Palestinians in our lifetime.
You’ll probably hear a lot about this Israeli-Palestinian conflict so let me break it down for you. I believe, along with most of the world, that Israel is the rightful home of the Jewish people AND the rightful home of the Palestinians. The only just and lasting solution will be to share it in peace. As any Israeli or Palestinian will tell you, the odds of peace went from low to impossible during the George Bush years.
Oh yeah, and forgot to mention that right after 9/11 we invaded a giant, stunningly gorgeous country called Afghanistan, despite them not hosting this really bad man named Osama Bin Laden. The net results of Bush’s adventures in the Middle East: a generation, my generation, of Americans who sacrificed life and limb for two wars that started for no good reason, and that did not achieve any tangible positive results. On the contrary, we left a trail of blood and destruction, taught a generation of Muslims to question the integrity of the United States, and empowered the actual threats to the US and Israel, Iran and their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. In the meantime, Iran grew closer and closer to developing nuclear weapons.
The Talmud, a Jewish sacred text, as well as the Qur’an, the Muslim sacred text, both teach us that to “save one life is to save the world.” The inverse of this statement is also true. Hundreds of thousands of worlds were destroyed by the foreign policy of the Republican party under the second Bush administration. And Israel’s future, whose destiny is tied to the future of the Palestinians, is far less secure as a result.
President Bush who campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility (keeping the piggy bank heavy) let the deficit soar to new heights to pay for his trillion dollar wars. Oil companies and weapons manufacturers prospered, while our president failed to recognize basic scientific facts about the looming international crisis of global warming, alienated the United States from just about every world ally, and violated our most basic moral and constitutional principles by throwing people into a prison at Guantanamo without ever giving them a trial.
I don’t believe Bush had bad intentions. I believe he was simply feeble-minded, weak and influenced by Dick Cheney, his own dad, and the military-industrial lobby of the United States.
Trump would be no different, and would be far more dangerous because of his character defects.
By contrast, under President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, the US was able to get the majority of our troops out of harm’s way and instead focused energy on curbing the biggest threat to Israel and the US: Iran. Leveraging soft power, targeted attacks, cyber warfare and the art of diplomacy, the U.S. was able to quell Iran without losing a single life. We gained the right to inspect the underground nuclear facilities that were previously off limits to us. Yes, we paid lots of money to Iran and helped their economy by removing sanctions, but nobody on the Republican side, including Trump, can say that the deal is inherently bad. Not yet at least. Only time will tell. For now, I’d rather pay billions of dollars to know that we are safe from a nuclear attack stemming from Tehran.
Nuclear weapons, while we’re on the topic, is the scariest thing of all about a Trump presidency.
Here are some scary comments he has made about nuclear weapons.
This bears repeating: Nuclear war is the biggest short term risk of a Trump presidency.
In the long run, the biggest threat to you of a Trump presidency and a Republican controlled congress is that they do not recognize the basic scientific fact that is global warming. (Remember 1+1=2.)
The only people denying global warming at this stage are conspiracy theorists who don’t think man walked on the moon, and Republicans. Even Marco Rubio who wants to be our senator again in Florida doesn’t recognize the danger despite the fact that those much smarter than him predict that your grandparents, uncles, and cousins will need scuba gear to survive in Miami in 30 years.
If we do nothing to stop climate change now, sadly your generation will incur the debt and have to find a solution for the hundreds of thousands of climate refugees it will generate. Apologies in advance!
Clinton, on the other hand, recognizes global warming (duh!), has travelled to more countries than any other Secretary of State, was able to kill the bad man who perpetrated 9/11, and has proven to be a successful diplomat. When it comes to foreign policy, she is far and away the better candidate.
Now on to the other reason some of our tribe members are voting for Trump: taxes. While I currently make less than 250K/year and will not benefit from Trump’s tax plan, this argument is actually not a terrible one. I am typically for less taxes, less regulations, and less state-controlled social programs. I would be glad to vote for a socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican who was competent, decent, and didn’t deny basic scientific facts. While I think just anything run by Trump (based on his business history) will be an epic failure, hopefully Trump’s policies will not prevent you from running a successful business. If you are fortunate enough to one day fall into the highest tax bracket, here’s what I’d tell you. Remember the countries your grandparents came from: Colombia, South Africa. Part of what made these countries so unstable is the fact that they don’t have a robust middle class. They have a huge number of people below the poverty line and a small number of really rich people. The middle class is what makes American great, and stabilizes it. But the fact of the matter is that the middle class is shrinking as quickly as the ice caps. Without it, there will certainly be a revolution, which means your wealth could disappear just like what happened to wealthy Cubans in 1959. Trump’s economic plan, by limiting or removing social programs, while cutting taxes on the rich, will probably continue to stretch out the middle class in this country.
Also, despite what Trump says and does, paying taxes is the right thing to do. It helps ensure important social safety nets, like schools and hospitals, for the less fortunate. If you’re a member of a society, you must contribute. Without safety nets like Medicare and social security, there is no middle class.
Now, child, I know the world seems like a scary place. But I assure you it is not. There is a reason you live here in the US, and not anywhere else. There is a reason immigrants are still clamoring to get a Green Card. It is this brilliant, but flawed concept of democracy that protects our ability to live freely. As Churchill said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” He was right.
One day when you get older I’ll tell you about my brief trip to North Korea. In this country I saw what a country looks like under the most extreme dictatorial rule. They have exactly one channel on the television that is run by the State, no Internet, a dictator who lives in lavish palaces while his people suffer, and who locks up anyone who dares to disagree with him. I have visited many places where the rule of law has been taken over by regimes that did not respect basic human rights. Cuba, Nepal, Egypt, to name a few. I was detained briefly in Egypt for committing an act of journalism there. It was frightening. And Trump shares the same basic traits as every fascist dictator that has walked the earth, people like Qaddafi, Kim Jong Il, Hussein. He lives only for himself, builds ornate palaces, fills them with wives and mistresses and gold, and puts his name on as many things as he can.
But this is not just a commentary on style. Trump has proven not respect basic tenets of democracy, like our media, our troops, and the fair transition of power.
For the first time, a major presidential candidate actually barred critical newspapers from covering his campaign. He has put journalists attending his rallies in pens while encouraging his supporters to ridicule them.
Trump disgraced our military by insulting the family of a dead veteran and trivialized the highest honor we give to soldiers, the Purple Heart.
Trump stated that he would only accept the results of the election if he wins.
Trump thinks he’s above the very system that is designed to protect all of us from people like him.
The fact that he has even gotten so far in this election is frightening to me.
Let me tell you about the first election I ever voted in. It was the year 2000, Bush v. Gore. I was in my junior year at the University of Florida. At the time, I didn’t feel too strongly about the outcome of that election and was actually undecided until Election Day. While I ultimately voted for Gore, I didn’t see a discernible difference between the two candidates. With the rest of the world, I would later watch in awe as the Supreme Court stepped in to decide the election. They stopped the recount which gave George W. Bush the presidency by a measly 537 votes. While Gore won the popular vote and may have won the electoral vote, had the justices ruled differently, he did not throw our democracy under the bus for his own selfish interests. Instead he graciously congratulated George W. Bush on his victory.
Would Trump have acted this graciously in these circumstances? I highly doubt it.
Hillary, of course is far from perfect. But she is the best candidate of the two we have to choose from by a long shot.
Her biggest mistake was deleting those emails that were on her private server. We don’t know why she did it. Maybe she was hiding something. Maybe it was just a dumb mistake. But in 30 years of public service, I’ll take this one mistake over the hundreds of data points that prove Trump to be a clear and present danger to our country and our values.
Also, when you’re wrong — and you will be wrong — you should apologize.
Hillary at least has the decency to apologize for her mistake.
Trump has not apologized for any of his blunders, racist comments, sexual assaults, frivolous lawsuits, lewd comments, or hateful rhetoric.
So now you know where I stand in this important election. #Imwithher.
But you should know that there is of course more to life than politics.
This country is beyond beautiful: Your mom and I can’t wait to take you to the Florida everglades, a literal river of grass 50 feet wide. We’ll hike in the grandest canyon you will ever see. And when you’re a bit older, we’ll soak in these secret hot springs in New Mexico that Native Americans have been relishing for thousands of years.
This country has given us both so much: a first-rate education, the opportunity to travel the world, to work as independent journalists and artists, and to start our own businesses.
We created you in the greatest, most creative city in the world, New York City. The reason it’s so great ? Well, it’s got people from everywhere ! In five years living in NYC, I think I met a person from every country in the world. This is also what makes America great. Somewhere down the line, we are all immigrants. If you work hard and are decent, you get to contribute to this piece of political poetry in motion, this colorful human tapestry that is the United States.
Whatever the outcome of the election on Tuesday, I vow to continue to fight for the values that I hold dear to my heart. Diversity, openness to ideas, preservation of the earth, education, the middle class, a free press, and democracy. I can’t wait to share it all with you.