DIVIDED: An Open Letter to the Next President – whoever you may be

divided-states-of-america

Dear President,

We’re divided.  Significantly divided.  I’m talking about us…the American People.  The United States of America.  I’m sure you have gotten this news.  But as one of your constituents I’m making an appeal to you – please take this seriously…very seriously.  More seriously than balancing the budget.  More seriously than foreign wars.  More seriously than immigration.  I can’t think of anything more serious than this issue right now.

This isn’t something that has snuck up on us.  This has been alive for a long time.  I recall many months ago Barrack Obama saying that if there is anything he wished he would have worked harder on in his presidency it was the work of mending the division in our government.  In my opinion – he is right.

If the polls that I’m seeing these days are correct you will have won by the narrowest of margins.  Which means that approximately half of the country did not vote for you.  In addition, I’m guessing that a notable number of those that did vote for you did so only because they felt you were a better option than your opponent – not necessarily because they think you’re a great choice.  Please don’t be lured by the idea that your win means that you now have the larger support of the American people.  You don’t.

I’m begging you to do the work of mending the divide.

This will not be easy work.  Making progress on a polarized democracy is adaptive.  No act of authority is going to get this done.  No amount of heath care.  No amount of tax breaks. No amount of border walls.  It just won’t.  I’m not saying that the issues behind all of these matters are not important.  What I am saying is that the work of developing a trustworthy process among our people to get this work done feels largely abandoned in our current day and will require a different kind of leadership.

I feel quite confident that some of your most loyal supporters will encourage you to take some time to gloat in your victory.  Perhaps they may even vaguely encourage you to lift your middle finger to your opponents with a smug “Gotchya!”  I beg you to resist that.  Victory is a seductive thing.  It can lead you to believe that you have the power to do as you wish.  If you take this path I predict that you will regret it.

Why?

Because these acts further the division and division is a powerfully destructive force.  Just look around you.  It’s everywhere.  But you…you have an opportunity…an opportunity that is arguably among the most challenging of any president in history…to give priority to the work of mending.  No one act will get it done.  Neither can it be executed by simply a well-articulated plan.  It must come with a long term commitment.  It must come with a daily schedule that integrates acts of presidential work that build trust…even among those with whom you vehemently disagree.

The choice is yours to make.  I know that I am only one voice among the throngs who will be vying for your attention but I beg you to give this notion some thought.  It will require a different kind of leadership than what I’ve been seeing on the campaign trail.  It will require thoughtful listening, slowness to anger, curiosity and the valuing of people who you may not have felt value from in the past.  This idea is based in the idea that progress is profoundly more potent when we do it together.  Even more – it is founded in the assumption that progress is not really progress at all when it looks at those around them and basically says, “Screw you.”

I’m not saying that there will not be times when the use of presidential authority will not be necessary.  I’m also not saying that the goal is to not do anything until everyone agrees with you.  I’m just saying that it feels that the work of building a trustworthy process has so been abandoned in our government these days that the sense of “us and them” has become standard operating procedure…and our country is paying the price.

Please.  I beg you.  Work on the divisions – and there are many.  Work on it as if our future depended on it…because I’m beginning to wonder if it really does.

May wisdom and grace be yours in these important days.

Ron Fisher

Citizen, USA

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