Please, oh please, surprise me, Donald Trump.
You proffered that carrot in your stump speeches so many times. “You will be surprised,” you promised. Now, many hours after your election, I am going to hold you to it.
I am a writer, however, and I’m going to exercise my writer’s prerogative. I will substitute the word “appalled” for your word “surprised.”
To begin with, don’t appall me by reverting to the crass, bigoted, misogynistic, racist bully you were on the campaign trail. Surprise me by demonstrating that you know better and understand the gravity of your new position. Our country wants and needs a leader we can respect, not a 9-year-old bully/brat.
Please. Don’t appall me by continued behavior and deeds that communicate that women are senseless objects to be groped, fondled, ogled, and dehumanized. Surprise me. Treat all women with respect. Recognize the value of our thoughts, our actions, our speech. Stand with us when we condemn every instance of misogyny. That will surprise me.
Don’t appall me by threatening minorities in this country. Don’t stereotype people of particular skin tones, or countries of origin, or religious beliefs. Recognize that this country was founded on the tenets of freedoms of religious expression and speech. Understand that almost all our families (unless we are Native American) were immigrants to this land at some point. Embrace the knowledge that diversity is what makes us strong. Protect us, to be sure, Mr. President-elect, but don’t short cut the job by oversimplifying it. Look at individuals, not groups. Surprise me. Please.
Don’t appall me by making fun of the disabled, again. We are not cruel people. We are people who understand that the disability is not the person. The person is the person. Consider Stephen Hawking, even in spite of what he said about you. “He is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.” Consider his brilliance. Or Mohammed Ali. Parkinson’s Disease made him shake and eventually killed him. Consider the life he led, though, until the very end. He inspired so many. Me among them. Don’t degrade yourself by targeting the disabled. Surprise me. Lift yourself up to the level of their greatness.
Don’t appall me with your arrogance. I am quite certain you do not know more than our military experts, you do not possess the singular business acumen to fix the economy, and you do not have a breast suit pocket stuffed full of plans that will right the ills we face. Surprise me. Surround yourself with wise people who aren’t afraid of you. And then surprise me even more when you listen to them.
Don’t appall me with any more lies. We saw you lie and lie again on the campaign trail. We knew it, and you definitely knew it. You lied in the face of undeniable fact. Surprise me. Work hard to get yourself to a place where we can believe what you say. It will take time for that to evolve, but convince us that from day one you will tell the truth. Promise you won’t revert to insinuation, wild leaps of judgment, and smoke and mirrors. Please.
Don’t appall me by taking any action without understanding the full range of its consequences. For instance, don’t threaten to repeal The Affordable Care Act without understanding the plight of those who rely on it. Surprise me by instructing your advisors to consider all scenarios. Insist that they present to you alternatives that don’t leave the most vulnerable even less protected.
Don’t appall me by taking actions that fly in the face of the Constitution. Don’t appoint Supreme Court justices you think will rubber stamp your senseless campaign promises. Surprise me by demonstrating a fundamental understanding of the balance of power among the three branches of government. In fact, here’s a way in which you could really surprise me. Read our Constitution. Think about it. Listen when people talk about it. Ask questions.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, don’t appall me by trying to insert your administration’s oversight into the lives of my daughters, my granddaughters, and all women in this country. Understand it is their right, and theirs alone, to make decisions over their own bodies. Don’t just surprise me; shock the hell out of me. Vow to leave Roe v. Wade untouched. If you oppose abortion, say so. Just don’t attempt to legislate it out of existence.
Please, don’t appall me by denying climate change any longer. You can’t. Even you with your pomposity cannot refute this reality. Take some time. Study it. Listen to the experts. All of them, not just those who happen to agree with you. Surprise me by demonstrating a willingness to protect our planet from human neglect.
Don’t appall me by courting world leaders simply because they say nice things about you or, worse, who run their countries with the same maniacal iron fist with which you have run your businesses. Listen to your advisors who warn that you are at risk of being duped into becoming the pawn of despots. Surprise me. Evaluate all world leaders carefully. Start with Vladimir Putin. He doesn’t like you. He wants to use you. And with you in his pocket, he threatens what our country believes in.
And finally, as a member of the press, please, please don’t appall me one more time by penning in my colleagues like cattle at public events, labeling them liars and singling them out as horrible people. Don’t appall me with overt efforts to thwart them from reporting to the world what you are doing. Whether I like it are not, you will soon be my country’s leader. Until or unless I renounce my citizenship and move to Ireland, I must know what you are doing. Surprise me by understanding that.
Mr. President-elect, you have unleashed a firestorm of pent-up anger in this country. Witness all of the hatemongering that spewed forth in the first 24 hours after your election. These are the people who gravitated to you because they felt helpless, and you emboldened them. These are the people who lashed out against protestors at your rallies because you encouraged them. These are the people who, to borrow a phrase from the 1976 movie “Network,” are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” With your election, they have demanded to be heard, and they should be heard. The behavior, however, must be condemned.
But the people who aren’t acting out deserve an equal hearing. Those who are also angry and disenfranchised but who would never consider violence as a method for expressing their pain. They should also be heard. So should the women and children and the elderly and the LGBTQs and the minorities and the rest of us who are appalled by your election.
Please, Mr. Trump, appall us no more. Live up to your word. Surprise us.
All of us.