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An Open Letter To George W. Bush

Posted on November 3, 2004 in Compassion Social Justice

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

Won’t Get Fooled Again, the Who

Dear Mr. President:

square284.gifCongratulations on your victory. I hope you will review the final numbers, observe the groundswell of support for your opponent, and reconcile with him and his followers. We, too, are America.

Too much anger was expressed in this campaign. Some Americans found themselves watching for terrorists in every house and other Americans worried that the secret police would blast down their doors. As President, your first job in the coming four years is to safeguard and expand the civil rights of every American. The fears generated by 9-11 generated distrust for civil liberties. You must realize their value.

I suggest to you to begin by putting a new keynote in your next administration. And that is that criticism is good. Criticism keeps us alive, Mr. President. It makes us strong because others help us to discern the truth. Your critics may be your best friends. They certainly make America stronger every day. The key isn’t to silence them, but to bring them into the fold.

Too often, both parties have deepened the rift between ordinary Americans. Too often both parties have veered from morality. Too often both parties have dwelled too much on conspiracy theories and viscious attacks on others. Start by saying good things about John Kerry. Invite him to participate in your administration. You do not have to worry about re-election now, so you can sometimes say no to your supporters. Don’t listen to them when they tell you not to give us anything. Tell them that the greatest power granted to the victorious is the power of mercy and reconciliation. Use this power well and use it wisely.

If you do, you will be remembered as a great president. Right now, the ugliness of the 2004 campaign is a sore. I suggest that you do not blame. I suggest that you just change the tenor of our public discourse. Seek bipartisan support for everything you do. Do not ridicule the voices of dissent. Accept questions (as opposed to mere abuse) about authority and ask them of yourself every day. Have the courage to acknowledge your shortcomings. It will help all Americans to undo the damage they have done to themselves.

This is a great opportunity for leadership, Mr. President. Be honest: until now, you have only led half of America. The other half fears you. Assuage their dread of you and your party. Do something for them, honor them. If you do so, the next four years may prove as bright as the last have been dark. It may be the beginning of a New Jerusalem.

Love America, Mr. President, by loving Americans like me.

You think that good is hating what is bad. What is bad is the hating mind itself.”

—Bon Kai (Buddhist monk)

Cf. my earlier article, Thich Nhat Hanh.

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