Letter to an American President

Dear Mr. President,

I hope you, your family and all who you love and care about are well and happy.

I write to you today out of deep concern for the state of our country and of the world to which we all belong. We are living in interesting times to say the least and humankind has never been in greater danger.

As I’m sure you know, we are living in a climate crisis that is escalating before our very eyes and it is doing so faster than we expected. The summer of 2023 has seen record-setting heat. Texas is sweltering, Vermont has endured devastating floods, Canada is on fire and the world’s oceans are growing warmer and warmer. I know your administration has acknowledged this crisis and taken some action to address the situation but honestly, so much more is needed.

How can it be that as the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world and with all the resources at our disposal we are not doing so much more? We could be leading the way to a world that will be truly livable for all of us. Is it possible that our government which was meant to be of The People, by The People and for The People has been taken hostage by corporate power? Is this what stops us? It will cost too much money? Prioritizing profits over people is a 21st century Golden Calf. We worship this idol at our own peril.

As if the climate crisis isn’t enough, scientists have recently set the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight. We have never been closer to self-annihilation. The threat of thermonuclear suicide for all of humanity, indeed, for all life on our one little planet has never been more dire. Is it possible, Mr. President, that we have lost our appreciation for the staggering magnitude of how devastating these weapons really are? Do any of our military leaders actually believe that these weapons can be used in a “tactical” manner? Honestly sir, that notion is completely delusional. If we or anyone else uses a thermonuclear weapon we all lose in a very big way.

More broadly Mr. President, how is it that in the 21st century we still believe that militarism is the way to resolve conflicts? We cloak this belief with a faux rationality yet war is arguably the most irrational of all human behaviors. Believing that that we will get peace from war is like believing that if we plant apple seeds we will get trees that give us oranges. We reap what we sow and if we continue to sow the seeds of destruction we will get destruction. And yet…..we persist.

War, of course, cannot be separated from the climate crisis. As I’m sure you are aware, sir, the United States military has a carbon footprint larger than that of several countries. Our armed forces pollute the land, air and water that all life depends on. They do this with impunity. This is unacceptable if we are to bequeath a livable world to our children and grandchildren.

Lastly, Mr. President, can we please stop pretending that America is God? There have been too many episodes in our nation’s history where we have acted as if we were the Almighty wielding the power to end life. In World War II our firebombing of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo revealed our willingness to target civilians as did our use of atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our use of napalm in Vietnam likewise made no distinction between military targets and innocent civilians. The My Lai massacre remains an ugly stain on our nation’s history. Too many still believe in the pernicious lie of “American exceptionalism” and use it to falsely justify their destructive agendas. They conflate a twisted concept of patriotism with Divine Leadership. This is a highly toxic combination. It is a cult-like dynamic. It is a way of death, not life.

Yes, let us love our country. Yes, let us respect our nation and the high ideals that gave birth to it. But let us not become hostage to the dishonest nonsense of “American exceptionalism” which is nothing but a modern re-branding of Manifest Destiny. It is as arrogant as it is wrong and it is high time that we officially and publicly reject it.

Let us be patriotic but not at the cost of being ensnared by “Us vs. Them” thinking. Our patriotism needs to be fully inclusive such that the full spectrum of human diversity is embraced, honored and respected. Let us remember that any “patriotism” that is devoid of humility and historical honesty is nothing but cheap propaganda.

In 1953 President Eisenhower made a speech in which he said:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

What President Eisenhower said 70 years ago is even more true today. The Military Industrial Complex he warned us about has consumed American society and has made us a nation addicted to war. This addiction has infiltrated virtually every aspect of our society. Our recovery from this addiction is one of our most difficult and necessary tasks. If we do not rise to meet this challenge, we will meet the fate of all addicts who do not recover. We will suffer and die. This need not be our fate Mr. President. Together we are more than capable of meeting every adversity the Road to Recovery puts before us but to do so means that we will need to make room for a new consciousness to grow within us both individually and collectively. We can choose to humble ourselves or we can be filled with pride before our fall. We need to recall and reclaim our true identities as members of a sacred human family whose kinship transcends all the false and superficial barriers that have been the source of so much of humankind’s pain and suffering.

Mr. President, we have so much healing work to do as a nation. I know that this is a very heavy burden for you to bear and it cannot be yours to bear alone. Each of us must shoulder it as best we can. Recovery must happen in the community of America and in the larger global community. None may be excluded. We have many amends to make to our own citizens, to citizens of other nations and to nature itself. It is imperative for us to do this work so that we can truly be free. We will not be free otherwise. We have done great harm to so many and we need to assume full responsibility for our actions. We must make meaningful reparations for all the injuries we have caused. We need to start now.

Thank you sir, for your kind patience and consideration of my concerns.

In Friendship and with Respect,

Paul Nyklicek

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