I waited five days to write this.
The first day, all I could do was stare at the wall. The second day, I could breathe again, though the air smelled faintly sulfurous. The third day I spent traveling to the nation’s capital, listening to Leonard Cohen in the car. The fourth day I spent teaching a class of Episcopal ministerial candidates how to preach in a time of crisis. The fifth day I went to church in Bethesda and, as I was leaving, this picture popped into my inbox, from the grounds of a neighboring parish.
I waited five days to write this, not because I was mourning Hillary Clinton’s loss. I supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and though I voted for Clinton, I was definitely not #withher.
I waited five days to write this so that I could do it without anger, without over-generalizing, without being unfair to people who voted for Donald Trump.
I waited five days to write this, so that I could be reasoned, calm, and grace-filled. I waited five days to write this and even though that hateful attack on a church comprising mostly African and Latin American immigrants happened just a short distance from me, I’m not going to give in to the rage coursing through my veins.
I waited five days to write this, so even though a friend of mine posted this a couple of hours ago, I’m going to swallow the bile that keeps rising in my throat.
I waited five days to write this, so even though I’ve had friends calling me all week, weeping, frightened, worried, hopeless, I’m going to keep trying to reassure them that we have nothing to fear from President-elect Trump and the strange coalition of followers he has amassed.
I waited five days to write this.
Dear President-elect Trump:
My sincerest hope is that you will become a great president.
I hope that you can help to solve the greatest problems facing our country and world.
I hope that your ideas on globalization, immigration, economic development, international alliances, terrorism, income inequality and tax reform are correct. I hope that you mean it when you say that you are supportive of minorities, that you respect inclusion and diversity, that you would protect the social safety net.
But my hope is tempered by my experience with you, not just during the past 18 months, but over the last 30 years or so that you have been part of the decaying landscape of the United States of America.
I have heard your words, and seen your actions even as you are about to ascend to the highest office in our country and the most powerful position in the world. So, please understand that, while I hope, I do not believe.
I am willing to give you an opportunity, unlike the way you dealt with your predecessor eight years ago. But that opportunity is not endless, and it has limits. I will hold you and your government accountable for attacks on my friends and those I love by people who use your words to justify their hate.
This is your first chance to prove to me that I am wrong about you: condemn the hateful graffiti, threats, and intimidation of the past five days and during the campaign. Tell your alt-right supporters that you renounce them and you renounce hate. Tell the people who voted for you to renounce hatred, racism and intimidation. Do it quickly and do it without qualification.
Make me believe that you really are making America great. I hope you can.