an open letter about an election

As we in the United States continue to grapple with the impact of our last presidential administration, I thought I’d share something personal.

Prior to the 2020 Election, I wanted to engage in dialogue with people whose opinions were different from mine. Many of extended family and my parents’ friends–people I’d known all my life, people who’d helped raise me–offered that opportunity.

In an attempt to talk to them, I shared the following letter. The goal was simple: kickstart a conversation about character, morality, and leadership.

Dear _____________,

In these times of sickness, division and despair, I’m writing to you for several reasons, the first of which is to express my gratitude.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and you were a member of the village I called home. Whether you realize it or not, you’re someone who’s shaped my life in the most profound of ways, by modeling a sense of morality and integrity, of what it right and what is wrong. You’ve shown me patience and generosity and forgiveness and I can’t thank you enough for these things. In this time of trial and isolation, I wanted to reach out and offer my thanks, as the lessons you’ve instilled in me have offered the wisdom to endure this time.

It’s my sincere belief that our children must bear the responsibility of holding us accountable, of offering a reflection of our true selves. While I’m not longer a child, I hope to offer a reflection of the best parts of you, the parts that have provided me with a bearing to navigate the trials of this year.

As Robert Frost once wrote, “Two roads diverged in the wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This November, we all have a role to play in choosing which road our country takes. I believe one road leads to more divisiveness, more hatred and scorn, more chaos and meanness. The other offers an opportunity for all of us to grow, to care for the least among us, to take care of our planet and ensure a future for our children and grandchildren, to step in the direction of leaving our world better than we found it.

Far be it from me to tell anyone who to vote for. All I can ask is that you take the time to ask yourself what you believe, that you look to the candidates in the race for our nation’s highest office and choose the one who you believe models character and integrity, the same character and integrity you’ve modeled for me.

This is an election like no other—this is an election that transcends our typical definitions of liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat. It calls into question not who is right and who is wrong, but instead what is right and what is wrong. Ultimately, I believe the true measure of a person is not their words, but their deeds, the actions they take on a daily basis to lift up those around them. From where I sit, under the orange haze of wildfire smoke in Southern California, that choice is obvious.

There’s an old adage that dictates we’re not to discuss religion or politics with one another, something I happen to believe does us a great disservice. These topics so often lead to hard conversations, to disagreement and resentment. But it’s only in pushing past our disagreement, in looking up from our phone screens and looking one another in the eye, in approaching each other with empathy and dignity, in recognizing the divinity that lies in every human being, that we step into better understanding ourselves and one another.

As always, I welcome your questions and your thoughts. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to discuss anything I’ve said here.

You have my gratitude, my respect, and my sincerest appreciation for all you’ve done for me.

sincerely,

josh

If we’re going to fix our world, approaching one another with respect, empathy, and a desire to acknowledge our shared humanity is the only way to do so.