Dear President Trump-
Almost everyone is moved by a photograph of a baby or a child. Most people are deeply grieved by imagery of dead or injured children. Photographs of parents who have lost children are among the most heart-wrenching pictures that exist. The kind of pain that is stirred up by that kind of imagery is hard to ignore. It pushes many evolutionary buttons and creates a restlessness that will only be satisfied by action.
When you have that feeling again, Mr. President, you need to sit down until it passes. I understand that it felt good to say the words and know that somewhere, because of your commands, missiles were flying through the air to ineffectually damage a Syrian satellite airbase and some out-dated equipment. I suppose you were thinking of Russian and Syrian babies when permission was given to warn the Kremlin and Assad about the coming attacks.
Your decision to give a warning. The choice of missiles that did not render the airbase inoperable. Your big words that contradict speeches you gave just weeks ago. These things do not add up to anything meaningful. Your reaction to the images of the children moved you, but not in any kind of productive way. You pulled punches with forces that are willing to test your resolve at intervention. They are not afraid of you. They are not impressed. They have no intention of desisting.
While we are on the subject of the images of children, I realize that the various programs that you record might not show you enough babies of the world. Have you seen pictures of South Sudanese refugees fleeing to Uganda? Over 60% of those refugees are children. There are children and babies attempting to get into the United States from our southern border, but these children are perhaps not photogenic enough (read: not white enough) to capture your compassion? There were babies who were affected by the bombing of Coptic Churches in Egypt. There are babies in the city in which you live- Washington, D.C., Palm Beach, and New York City- that do not have enough to eat, uncertain housing, and spotty medical care.
While none of these children may twang your particular heartstrings as much as light skinned, European children who suffocated to death because of a chemical attack, either you actually care about all children or you don’t. Are you willing to admit that all of this is complex, that international conversations are not simply building deals writ large, that there is a delicacy in diplomacy that you had not anticipated? If you actually were moved by the babies, the beautiful babies, the innocent babies, let it be that you were moved enough to say that you need help.
Now is the time for honesty. Now is the time to surround yourself with people, not who tell you how great you are, but who can tell you the history of these situations, the fine points of negotiations with dictators, and the tit-for-tat deals that are the reality of global politics. The art of the deal is knowing when to admit that you do not actually know the game, but if you could hold your cards and watch for a minute- you’ll be better able to play. Your bluffing- in response to what you see on the news- threatens to destroy the world.
You were moved by pictures of the babies. I understand. If you want to fix things for babies and children, then you have to be a grown-up. It’s not always fun. It’s not always big trucks, outdoor games, and fried chicken. There is paperwork, long conversations, learning, and vegetables. The people who deal with those things make the world a better place for babies.
Would you like to be counted in among the people who do that?
Or do you want to yield to the adults in the room?
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