An Open Letter
Dear Mr. President,
I’m not much of anyone, really. This blog isn’t well-read either. I don’t have much hope that you’ll read this, but I still want to say it. In some ways, I regret that I’ve waited until your successor has been chosen to express myself.
I hope you will understand that I am a peaceful person who doesn’t like conflict or unkindness. I believe in civility and I try to practice it in all things.
When music legend, Etta James, said, “He’s not my president,” about you, I was unsettled. I’ve always believed that whoever is president is my president, whether I agree with him or not. That still holds. You are my president.
I want to say that I appreciate your service to the country. In my lifetime, there is probably no other president with whom I have disagreed more than you, but I can’t imagine the pressure and uncertainty of what it is like to have so much responsibility and so many people verbally attacking you.
My respect is not only for the office of President of the United States, but also for the man who serves in the office. I believe in respect too. I believe I can practice civility and respect while disagreeing.
Today we live in a climate where everyone seems to be clamoring to be a victim of something. I’ve got my own list.
I spent most of my childhood as the victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. I lived much of the time afraid that I was going to be killed or that my abuser would carry out his threats to harm members of my family if I ever told what he did to me.
I also grew up knowing that I was different than most boys. I was not attracted to girls. I was only attracted to boys. People use the word “gay” these days, but I didn’t know the word back then. I spent my childhood and much of my young adulthood in fear that I would be found out.
I married a woman, a wonderful woman and became the father of five amazing children. I struggled a great deal with shame over my secret desires and eventually came forward, but I remained committed to my marriage and family out of love for them. My wife and I just celebrated our 39th anniversary this summer.
In 1980, I suffered a back injury and lost my job because of it. I’ve struggled for the last 36 years with chronic back pain and had to develop a different career path as a computer programmer. Today, I’m sitting at home because every time I try to move, I get severe spasms in my lower back. I am now diagnosed with severe degenerative joint disease in my back and knees. I am also diabetic.
After 9-11, I was laid off from a computer programming job. While I still could do occasional contract work, ageism kept me from being competitive in a scant, at the time, job market. I went to college and after much personal sacrifice, I earned a degree as a social worker. At least two times that I know of, I received a lesser grade because of my religion. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Currently, I work as a mentor and personal support worker for adults with developmental disabilities. I also have a fledgling business with a business partner doing the same work. I have faced discrimination in this work as well.
I have been the victim of discrimination based on my disabilities, my age, my sexual orientation, my race, and my religion. I’ve also endured hate speech related to my mixed-race grandchildren. You see, my wife and I have always thought that people were people, no matter what their color, national origin, abilities, disabilities, sexual orientations, lifestyle choices, or political leanings.
We’re proud that our children have the same ideals and compassion for their fellow human beings. Two of our children married people of other races. Three have married people of other national origins, making for three immigrant children-in-law who are now proud citizens of our country. Needless to say, we believe in immigration.
Mr. President, I want to thank you for my healthcare. With osteoarthritis and diabetes, I don’t know where I’d be without it. If things hadn’t changed with your Affordable Healthcare Act, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have insurance today. It is beginning to look like I may not have it much longer or that I may not be able to afford it. I think it was an ill-conceived plan in the first place, not at all sustainable. I believe it needs to be replaced or reformed but I’m afraid of what might replace it. With neither political party cooperating with the other, it seems pretty hopeless.
Over the eight years of your presidency, I’ve heard some pretty vile things said in the guise of political dissent from your policies and in support of your policies. People no longer disagree with civility. Both ends of the political spectrum in this country have mistaken hatred for disagreement.
I’ve heard it said that Republicans don’t protest when their candidate loses. That appears to be true, but I’ve heard some mean-spirited things said by Republicans about you and your policies for the last eight years. As a Republican, I am ashamed of this. These days, it seems that we don’t know how to get along civilly with anyone but those with whom we agree.
It is a common campaign device to ask people if they feel like they are better off than 4 years ago. I don’t really think about this question much. I’ve always believed that whether I’m better off has more to do with me than with a president. Despite all I’ve been through, I still think that my happiness has mostly to do with the opportunities I make for myself.
For me, it is a much more telling question whether I feel the nation is more or less divided than it was 8 years ago. I have to say that I believe we are far more divided. No one individual can be blamed for this, but I believe it is the first job of the president to be a healer. I know you have spoken for peaceful protests, beginning with the riots in Ferguson. I know that you have tried to address the root causes of why people turn peaceful protests into riots. Somehow, Sir, it doesn’t feel like it is enough. It doesn’t feel like it is your highest priority, and I think it should be.
As my president, I call on you to make a greater effort to bring peace and healing to this nation. You don’t have many days left in the office. It’s a noble thing to want to be known for a peaceful transition of power in the organization, but I would like to see more peace in the nation itself.
Stephen Rex Goode