Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
Political affiliation and physical appearance aside, we need a president who isn’t ugly on the inside. A person with basic human qualities that we’d want future generations to admire and adopt. Nobody’s perfect. All humans are flawed. Even Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy has recently been deconstructed. It’s only a matter of time before we crucify Jesus Christ, god forbid.
In my thirty-three years, I’ve lived through six United States presidents. Five of them had at least one admirable quality that I could cling onto. Ronald Reagan acted in some good B-movies I watched on Turner Classic Movies with my grandma. George H.W. Bush wore socks by Indian American fashion designer Vivek Nagrani. Bill Clinton played the saxophone and invited Maya Angelou to write a poem and read it at his inauguration. George W. Bush helicoptered into Ground Zero three days after September 11, 2001, and addressed the men on the ground. He’s also redeemed himself in retirement through his paintings of immigrants and veterans, acknowledging his own personal struggles with the decisions he made while in office. I won’t list all of Barack Obama’s likable traits as there are too many. In my first eligible voting year, he was my hero and a leader I aspired to emulate. As a multiracial American, I saw myself in him and felt inspired by his promise of change.
Long before his television hosting duties and subsequent political career, my childhood image of Donald Trump was already unsavory when Saved By The Bell parodied him as a contestant on a fictitious dating show. “Donald Chump” sat next to two fellow contestants who resembled horror movie characters Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. And in the early days of YouTube, he publicly called my beloved hometown celebrity (of Commack, NY) Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” and viciously berated her. Honesty is one trait to appreciate in a man, but dignity and respect for one’s fellow human are just as vital. Too bad our president lacks all three.
In 2016, I spoke to many undecided voters who told me they voted for Trump because they were tired of rhetoric, jargon, and bland neutrality coming out of the mouths of politicians. To those voters, Trump’s vulgarity and crudeness shook up the game as he offered himself as a disrupter to DC’s status quo. Overnight, the image of an American president lost its majesty.
As my wife and I discuss the possibility of having a child, I’d like to introduce them to a president who will offer grace and humility over greed and egotism — at the very least, a spokesperson who uses basic grammar and isn’t addicted to Twitter. I can’t promise them that Biden will leave behind an ideal legacy, but I’d rather them be led by Uncle Joe than Don the Slumlord.
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Raj Tawney an American essayist, journalist and poet. He often writes history, culture from his multiracial perspective. Recent contributions include The Hill, New York Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine. You can visit his work at rajtawney.com.