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Friday, June 12, 2020

Thoughts on Social Justice


With what shall I come before the Lord

And bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings

Shall I come before Him with yearling calves?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams
With ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give Him my firstborn for my transgressions
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O man;

He has shown you what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, and to love kindness
And to walk humbly

Walk humbly with your God.
—Text of John Ness Beck’s Offertory, adapted from Micah 6:6-8

I remember singing these words with a church choir when I was very young, probably around 10 years old. 

I remember most pieces I’ve performed with choirs, especially the ones I sung (sometimes I play piano, organ, or other instruments). Other favorites include

  • John Rutter’s Candellight Carol
  • Stephen Chatman’s setting of Reconciliation a text by Walt Whitman
  • The Pasture, one of Randall Thompson's settings of Robert Frost poems
  • Loving-Kindness, an excerpt from Buddhist scripture set by Stephen Paulus
  • Mack Wilberg's version of My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
I don’t think of myself as being very religious. I participate pretty regularly in services with my local Mormon (officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) congregation. That helps fulfill my need for community. My beliefs are unorthodox and my commitment to church activity has been stronger in the past. But the language of scripture was part of the language of my family from before I was born, so it stays with me even though I don't practice by reading as often as the Church says I should.

This week the words from Micah (with Beck's beautiful harmonies) have been on my mind a lot, especially the last verse. However you define God, Micah says that God’s requirements for you and me are 1) do justice, 2) love kindness, and 3) walk humbly. With the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the attempted lynching by cop of Christian Cooper in between, we’ve seen some recent bad examples. I know police have killed other people before George Floyd. I do not include their names here because these thoughts were mainly prompted by events surrounding these three recent cases. For anyone reading this, please do include other people in your thoughts as you go on. Their lives and their stories are no less important than the ones I have in mind.

Micah's first instruction is to do justice. My understanding of justice has changed over time. Until recently I worked as a mental health counselor. Nearly my whole career as a counselor, I worked with populations that go underserved. I started off working with adults who were involved with the criminal justice system. There is so much stigma surrounding people who have been arrested or charged with a crime. Aside from their involvement with government/legal systems, the social stigma makes it hard for these folks to find much justice. There are plenty of arguments to be made about people involved in the criminal justice system, and this is not the setting for them. Let's leave it at this: people ending their time of criminal justice involvement face a ripple effect that never stops affecting their lives, even if they never have any other contact with police or the courts. 

From there I transitioned to working with people who were diagnosed with personality disorders. Personality disorders are a special group of diagnoses that describe trends in the person's behavior that last for a long time, and that often show little change even after intensive treatment. There are plenty of opinions among mental health workers about what personality disorders are, where they come from, and how to work with them.  For decades, many therapists have been hesitant to treat people with personality disorders because the long-term prognosis is worse compared to other kinds of mental health disorders. In the last 30 years or so, a few researchers have developed treatment methods that work well for one or a couple of personality disorders. There is still research happening now to find out how best to serve people with these diagnoses. And it's important to know that people with personality disorders are still receiving services less often and less effectively than people with other kinds of problems.

After learning to use a specialized treatment for borderline personality disorder, I transitioned to working exclusively with kids and their families. I joined a group that focuses on racial and ethnic minorities, and I got to work with Black and Latino families more often. I moved to Oregon and worked for a while in a for-profit clinic with kids experiencing problems with mental health and drugs at the same time. From there I went back into the non-profit side to do mental health crisis response work. Since I speak Spanish, I worked almost exclusively with Spanish-speaking families in crisis.

Throughout my time working with underserved, under-seen and less-understood groups of people, I found it critically important and useful to keep up with the science of racism. I could never be an effective therapist if I were re-creating the conditions that kept my clients stuck. No therapist can be there for their clients if they perpetuate any kind of racism.

In counselor school (at least when I was there) there's a strong emphasis on developing cultural competency. In part, that includes learning what styles of therapy and what interventions work best with people of different cultures. In general, people of some cultures experience more change when the counselor is very direct and gives specific instructions. People of other cultural groups tend to have more meaningful change when the counselor talks less and gives more vague or indirect input. Another side of cultural competency is learning about power, privilege, and oppression, and looking at how they play out in the lives of the therapist and the client. Those three words, power, privilege, and oppression come up a lot in the last few decades' worth of scientific literature of psychotherapy, and with good reason. There are systems in place in the US and around the world that are meant to preserve the status quo--that means keeping power in the hands of the people who already have it. Social scientists (including therapists) call this systemic racism.

Most people in the US today recognize that racism has played a big part in US history. Black people were slaves, treated as property or livestock rather than people. After emancipation came laws designed to stop Black people from obtaining or keeping wealth, voting, owning weapons, etc. Other rules (some formal, some unwritten) made it easier for White people to get away with violence towards Black people than for Black people to get away with violence towards anyone. More recently there have been laws regarding punishments for crimes committed more often by White people vs. crimes committed more often by Black people, with the result that Black people are incarcerated at a much higher rate. In between there have been rules made by banks about the geography of home loan approval, along with a slew of other policies enacted by government and business that all end up maintaining the status quo.

And the status quo is such that Black people and other people of color are still oppressed even in today's America. We as a society have moved closer to equity (treating everyone fairly, rather than equality, which means treating everyone the same) in the last few decades, but we're still not there. Staying quiet helps preserve the status quo. I know that has been sort of a buzz-phrase in the days since George Floyd's death, and I still find truth in it. If we stay quiet, we tacitly give our support to the way things have always been. 

Professional organizations for therapists have started to stand up against racial inequity, as well as other forms of inequity. These groups strive to be apolitical, and to avoid any kind of political affiliation at a group level, even as they encourage individual members to vote and advocate for government policies that help the profession and the clients. However, these organizations have concluded that maintaining the status quo is a political stance, and one that tends to match the interests of conservatives or the Republican Party, at least in the US. Therapist professional organizations argue that by advocating equity, they seek to empower all voters, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. And by empowering all, the organizations remain neutral in the political landscape.

This has been a long, rambling, thought-vomit kind of entry here. And if you chose to follow what I write on this blog, you agreed to take that risk. It was in the fine print. Don't look for it.

To bring it back to the song I quoted at the beginning: however we perceive or imagine God, all we need to do is act in justice, love kindness, and be humble. We can do justice by voting, contacting government officials, and moving our nation towards internal peace. There are all sorts of stats showing how the law can be satisfied with less violence, though that's a topic for another day. We're on track, and need to keep going. To love kindness can be tricky. I like to think that each time we act kindly towards someone, we come to love kindness a little more, or to be a little more committed to kindness. And when we are humble, we will gladly share our power with people who have been oppressed. We will recognize our privilege as something that just happened in our lives, and we will seek to use it to make the world better for every person.

Let's listen to Micah.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Relationship Therapy for Trump and his Constituents

I originally wrote this in February, 2017 when we were in the early days of the Trump administration. I’ll bet that anyone who reads this could add a litany of examples to each section of this piece. Feel free to comment, and remember to show respect for other people, no matter how much you disagree with their opinions.

—Erik

John Gottman is one of the world's leading experts on interpersonal relationships. Scratch that... he is THE leading expert.  He has been studying marriage, family, and other relationships for many years. One of his main goals is to improve the effectiveness of marriage/family therapy (he and his wife run one of the most influential family therapy training programs in the world).

Gottman found what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse, four types of behavior that are each a strong predictor that the relationship will end. And together... let's just say they don't look pretty.

First is criticism. That means attacking your partner's character instead of focusing on the problem.  Example: calling them "liars" when you disagree with their opinions.

Next is defensiveness.  That means blaming your partner or anything but yourself when you are at least partly responsible.  Example: "it's not my fault my car ran out of gas!" (when I'm the only one who drives it or takes care of it).

And then there's contempt. That can look like sarcasm, eye-rolling, name-calling, mocking, or similar behavior.  It's all about showing your partner that they disgust you and you're better than them.

The last one is stonewalling.  It happens when one partner refuses to participate in the argument. It can look like shutting down, having to have the last word, walking away, or deflection.  If you have ever felt like you were talking to... well, a stone wall, then you know what this means.

Over the last couple of years I've noticed these relationship killers in a few other contexts, besides marriages.  For example, I've been seeing some criticism and stonewalling from top leaders of the LDS (Mormon) church in discussion about some of their actions.

I've also been seeing a lot of these behaviors in the relationship between the Trump administration and the American people.  Let's look at some of them.

Criticism

On Monday, the White House released a list of terrorist attacks to accuse the media of shirking their duties.  Whether or not his message was true, his method of communicating it was harmful to the people, as the media are an important part of public life.

If Trump were serious about improving media coverage, he could have invited reporters and investigators to meet and review the information that he wanted publicized.  But instead, he launched yet another in a long list of attacks on journalists' ethics and character.

If he wants to turn things around, Trump could still express disagreement... he would just need to focus less on attacking the media and more on publishing what he actually believes.

Defensiveness

Wow... where to begin... let's start with this.  In the last few days, Trump tweeted "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"  This referred to the federal judge who said Trump couldn't stop people traveling from seven countries with Muslim majorities or stop our refugee-acceptance program.

When I read between the lines here, I find something like "it's not MY fault I tried to do something hugely unpopular that has done serious damage to our country's reputation!"  And I think "yes, Mr. President, it really is your fault.  Maybe the rumors are true and your advisor(s) put you up to it.  But even then, you're the one who signed the order."

If Mr. Trump accepted even a little responsibility for the damage his actions have done, that would greatly improve his credibility, and it would show that he wants to participate in repairing his relationship with the people who didn't choose him in the first place.

Contempt

As if there weren't enough ineffective behavior in those last two categories, we could write books about his contemptuousness.

Trump's behavior shows signs of narcissistic personality.  The theme of those signs can be summed up as acting on the belief that he's better at everything than everybody else.  If we listen to Trump, then he's better at fighting ISIS, providing health insurance, securing borders, and hosting game shows than... whoever else did those things.  Nielsen ratings support one of those claims, though I doubt it's hard to be better than Arnold Schwarzenegger at hosting a TV show made for Trump.  The other claims have next to no supporting evidence, and in turn provide evidence of Trump's contempt for anything that doesn't go his way.

Stonewalling

Trump has gotten good at refusing to participate in important conversations.  Look at his use of surrogates like Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer.  I know POTUS always has spokespeople, and that doesn't show stonewalling by itself.  After all, most of the time there's more room for questions and feedback.  Recent history shows presidents responding to popularity polls by adjusting their actions.  Trump responds to historically low ratings by tweeting “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting."  He doesn't listen to the real argument.  Instead he hears half of the description of the problem, throws out a criticism, and then refuses to engage.

Bonus: Gaslighting!

Recently, several writers have weighed in about gaslighting, another behavior that is harmful to relationships.  We usually look at it as a sign of an abusive relationship.  Wikipedia describes it well: "Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief."

Does any of that sound familiar?  For one thing, Kelly Anne Conway is a master gaslighter.  For another, "persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying" sounds a lot like "alternative facts" and Trump's frequent claim of "lies."

So on top of four strong signs that our relationship with our partner (POTUS) is on the rocks, we also have signs of psychological abuse by him.  And abusers never stop abusing until they face punishment.  People don't change their behavior until the pain of changing gets smaller than the pain of staying the same.

This week the Senate confirmed DeVos as Secretary of Education, along with several other hotly protested high-profile appointees.  I know it's not the end of the world.  I also know that the confirmation tells Trump that his behavior isn't that bad, that it's ok to keep doing what he was doing.  It's a reinforcer (a reward that makes the behavior more likely to happen again).

What will it take to show him that it's not ok?  How do we work towards extinction (imposing unwanted consequences until the behavior stops) on a national scale when the bad hombre (to borrow his own phrase) won't listen?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Year and change in Review

The world keeps on turning, and the Mikkelblogger is woefully behind on Mikkelblogging.  The Year In Review format/style of writing has never been my favorite thing to read, but I think I'm about to write one.  Don't get me wrong, if you or your family send Year In Review letters with your Christmas card, please don't stop sending them to my family and me--I'll still read them, and I'll still celebrate with you.  I love hearing about your life.  My hangups about that format are my problem, not yours.

So, now that the New Year is almost a month old (that's like six years in human years!), here's what's new with the Mikkelsens who transplanted to Portland.  It has been a year (and change) of change.

Camille is back in school.  She started the Master's of Public Policy at Portland State in the Fall.  For some time now, she had been thinking about how to get involved in changing education policy.  With her experience as a teacher in a fairly conservative/libertarian area, and then in a fairly liberal area, she has seen a wide range of local education policies, as well as a wide range of local responses to federal policy.  That's not to mention her firsthand knowledge of what works and what doesn't in the education system.

Camille sometimes quotes Rita Pierson, an experienced teacher, as a kind of mission statement for her teacher career:

"Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be."



Camille has been amazingly consistent and powerful in living by Dr. Pierson's call.  Now she's getting ready to be the behind-the-scenes champion.

Lily, the Unlikely Kid, has been stripped of her title as Least Likely Kid in the Family by her little sister, Rosaleen.  A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about Rosie that I promptly forgot to publish.  I finally published it while writing this piece that you're reading now.  You can go read the other one if you want to... I'll wait here.

Okay, when you're back, start reading here.  Lily started kindergarten in the Fall.  She's in a K/1 combo class because the incoming kinder class was so packed.  She's enjoying school, and reading everything she can rest her eyes on.  Camille has been reading the first two Harry Potter books with her for over a year now, repeating them whenever Lily wanted to reread them.  This month she finally graduated to book three.  I think the neighbors at the other end of the street could hear her squeals of excitement when Camille told her that she was ready for book three.

Rosie is in no hurry to start walking.  She can usually convince me to give her a lift wherever she needs to go.  Come to think of it, she can usually convince me to give her just about anything she wants.  And she doesn't even speak English.

Alright, that kid needs to teach me her secret.  Next time she throws her spoon on the floor, we'll see just how badly she wants it back--maybe enough to teach me how she is so persuasive.  I mean, is she a Jedi?  Is it her own modified Imperius Curse?

With Camille's career change in the works, I've also changed what I'm doing.  Over the last year, I've been setting up a music studio at home.  Right before Christmas I stopped working with a counseling agency that does intensive community-based treatment for kids.  After the lowest-stress vacation I've had in years (no day job to go back to when it ends), the music studio is open for business.  Right now it's mostly focused on teaching.  This way I get to see more of Lily and her mastermind little sister.  Oh, and the dog.

We also brought home a puppy about three weeks ago.  Maz Kanata is a very friendly, very lively mutt.  We are pretty sure she is part border collie and part terrier.  My money is on Jack Russel, but we haven't sprung for a DNA test.  The person who introduced her to us suspects that she has some coon hound in her, too, though that's less certain.  She likes to round up Lily and Rosie.  Lily is still learning how to keep her voice and movements a little lower-key when she plays with Maz in order to encourage gentler play.  Maz is still trying to figure out what to do with Rosie.  Rosie glows with pride any time she gets close enough to touch the dog.  Somewhere there's a video of Rosie doing a happy dance right after patting Maz on the back three times in a row.

So that's our year and change of change.  Life goes on, and we're going with it.

Ha!  I just realized I didn't miss Lunar New Year!  Gung hay fat choy!



I wish y'all a life-ful (not sure if I'm pulling off the word-invention thing... I tried this one before because I couldn't come up with a better word for it, but it's really cumbersome.  And so is this parenthetical... maybe I should wrap it up...) year, and I wish you whatever you need to go with it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Normal

I like normal every once in a while. Granted, there’s such thing as too much normal. It can become rote and bland and meaningless

And I like abnormal too. Without “abnormal psychology” I wouldn’t have a job [1]. It’s not a coincidence that I feel right at home in the city that prides itself on being weird. I wear long hair and a beard when my Mormon Restored Church community generally frowns upon it [2].

But sometimes a little normal is what I need.

Like today. Today my daughter Rosaleen was born. And it was normal. Camille (my wife, and also one of the toughest, most resilient people I know) didn’t spend days in the delivery room, nor did she pop out a kid in under five minutes. She didn’t have any life threatening (or even seriously life-altering) complications, and it wasn’t completely painless. And Rosaleen wasn’t speaking in full sentences, but neither was she struggling to breathe or circulate blood. As far as I could tell, everything was normal.

Sleepy is normal on the first day.  Posing would not be normal.

The look on Lily's face is new, not normal for her, but it might become normal soon


And after my family’s last two experiences in hospital maternity units, we needed some normal. Lily, our older daughter, was born two months early after a very short labor. She had some scary but easily treated problems (that I have since learned are also fairly normal... go figure). Then we lost our Michael a few months into the pregnancy.

It all makes me glad that I live in a place and time when it’s normal for babies and their moms to survive being born. And that I got to experience that bit of normalcy.

[1] Abnormal psych was one of my favorite college classes, and one of the most influential in my decision to become a therapist. However, to paraphrase Michael Bluth, these days “we just say psychology.” I mean is anyone really normal enough to set the standard for comparison?

[2] “In the minds of most people at this time, the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards or long hair, whether they desire it or not, may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made a slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent. In addition, unkemptness—which is often (though not always) associated with beards and long hair—is a mark of indifference towards the best in life (New Era, December 1971 p. 46).

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Stay Positive—Stay Adding

Lately I’ve seen two things that made me think about one of my pet peeves. One was a TED talk about “emotional courage,” and the other was a little sign nailed to a lamppost in central Portland. It said Stay Positive.

The talk addresses the observation that positivity or positive thinking is like a new form of political correctness. When someone is not happy, relaxed, or hopeful, we act like there’s something wrong, and we try to fix it. Overall, I really enjoyed this talk. It resonated with me.

Because sometimes life just hurts.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

The way people use that word positive bugs me. In the words of one of my heroes, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I'm okay with the way we use that word.
Feeling happy, confident, excited, peaceful, loved, in love, is a part of living as a human. These “positive” emotions happen to everyone at some time. If you find it difficult to access those emotions, I recommend changing something about the way you live. A therapist may be useful, though some people can find ways to make that kind of change without therapy.

Feeling sad, scared, anxious, conflicted, lonely, angry, disgusted, is also a part of living as a human. These “negative” feelings happen to everyone at some time. If you find that these feelings dominate your experience, I recommend you change something. Therapy could be useful as you make that change, and it’s not the only way.

In psychiatry/psychology, we use the words positive and negative more mathematically. Positive means adding something, and negative means taking something away.

For example, schizophrenia has positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are new things that have been added to the person’s experience, like hallucinations and paranoid thoughts that they didn’t have before. Negative symptoms are things the person used to experience, but doesn’t now, like the decrease in range of expression or decrease in social interaction (note: not all of these are diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, but they are all common changes for people with schizophrenia).

Behaviorists talk about positive and negative in context of both rewards AND punishments. Say you give your kid a special dessert when they get an A on a test at school. That’s a positive reward—you add something that they like or want. Alternatively, you could remove their responsibility for their least favorite chore. It’s still a reward (a consequence they like), but it’s a reward by subtraction—a negative reward.

Now imagine that you’re convicted of some kind of minor crime, something non-violent and not very destructive. You could receive a positive punishment, like community service (something unpleasant that’s added to your routine), or a negative punishment like fines (taking away money) or jail time (taking away freedom).

The way I see it, no emotion is negative, and no emotion is positive. They’re all just there, all coexisting, taking turns at center stage. None of them gets added or taken away. They’re cued to take their turn by things that happen around us or inside us, but they don’t just stop happening. When it’s time for happiness or excitement to take a turn, we usually welcome it, because we know what to do about it—we hold our heads high, square our shoulders and show the world what’s up.

But when it’s time for sadness, we pretend it’s not there, because we have to stay positive.

It’s really hard to let all of our feelings take their turn, because some of them are really painful. When Camille and I went through the aftermath of a miscarriage, there were days when my sadness and anger made me not want to exist. I never wanted to commit suicide, I just wanted life to not be a thing anymore sometimes

When we let them all take a turn, they all take a turn. That time sadness had a really, really long turn. And then it moved on, and so did I. That turn was and is a real part of my life, just like the kid I didn’t get to welcome into the world is a real part of my life. Thinking about that time still brings up an echo of that feeling, but it’s just an echo. The echo fades, and I’m back in whatever is happening now.

So I say enough positivity. Live life with all its... life-ful... stuff. Let’s make it okay for ourselves and the people around us to experience all of it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Camille's Letter of Recommendation

We're planning a move across town this summer, so my wife Camille is looking for a new math teaching job over there.  Tonight we were talking about letters of recommendation, including the idea of writing your own and asking someone to sign it.  Then I offered to write it for her. So in honor of the move, the new job, and six years of marriage, here's my letter.

Editor's note: this is from an extremely biased source that plays it fast and loose with things like "history" and "the facts."  Sweeping generalizations about the subject of this piece are presumed true, though supporting evidence may not be.

Revised editor's note: this is from an extremely reliable source that knows everything there is to know about things like "history" and "the facts."  Sweeping generalizations about the subject of this piece are undoubtedly true, while supporting evidence is rock-solid.  You should accept this as fact before you read on.

Once, there were teachers.  They shared information.  They modeled behavior intended to make that information useful.

And then, there was Camille.  And the teachers rejoiced.

Camille is the best teacher in the whole world.  She has been teaching math since before math existed.  In fact, Camille invented most of the maths--two of the three, to be exact.  (I can count them and describe them in terms of fractions because of her.). Her old pal Sir Isaac is to blame for the confusing one.

Camille is better at building rapport with students than anyone who has or will ever build rapport.  She wrote the book on classroom management, and it's one sentence long: "Do what Mrs. Mikkelsen does" (Mikkelsen, 2015).  Legend has it that she travelled back in time and taught Carl Rogers everything he knew about empathy and listening.  Legend also has it that she time travelled back in time to teach the Egyptians how to build their pyramids (or at least the math part of it).

Any school would be lucky to have Camille even walk past, let alone actually agree to work there.  Last time she started at a new school, property values in that school's neighborhood tripled overnight.  So please do not pass up on the opportunity of a lifetime, nay, a millennium. Hire her and watch your students performance and morale improve by miles.

Thank you and congratulations on hiring the best ever,

MC EDM

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Open Letter to Trump

Mr. Trump,

It's the morning after you were elected president of the United States.  Just before I started writing this, NPR was reporting that Secretary Clinton had conceded.

I have deep respect for people who exemplify the spirit of uppercase-C Conservatism.  These are people who are deeply rooted in the lessons of the past.  They are very effective at recognizing and continuing (conserving) what worked before.  They also repair or replace practices, policies, and ideas that did not work in the past.  They look outside of their immediate sphere of influence to learn from others' histories.  They look ahead and move towards something, always remembering where they started and how they have progressed so far.

I identify myself as a capital-L Liberal.  That word comes from a Latin word meaning free man.  Over time, Liberal has come to mean giving generously or free from restraint.  I hold all of those definitions as meaningful and true.  True Liberals are free from restraint, free to share money, goods, attention or the benefit of the doubt.  They associate with free people, so they treat everyone as free people who deserve basic human dignity and respect.

From my perspective, it is possible to be a Conservative Liberal--someone who gives liberally to others and assumes the best, while looking to the past to learn the best way to share what they have.  Our president needs to have both characteristics, at least to some degree.  Some may be stricter in their giving and some may be more future-oriented, but without some measure of Conservatism and Liberalism, our elected officials cannot do what is best for their constituents.  I am a little sad that we as a nation have lost sight of that fact.

I am also very worried and more than a little sad about your victory in the presidential race.  Based on your behavior in the campaign season and prior, I see almost no evidence that you are either Conservative or Liberal.  On the contrary, most of the evidence I see shows that you make the same mistakes over and over again, without learning from them, and you do not learn from others' examples or advice.  It shows that your attempts at expressions of charity and human service are ultimately--and often directly--aimed at increasing your own profits, not at improving the quality of human life.

I recognize that Secretary Clinton did some things--okay, a lot of things--that were ethically and morally questionable.  She still needs to answer for those.  But her behavior has shown at least a little of both true Conservatism and true Liberalism.  She has publicly reflected on the past and its lessons.  She has shared plans to give, even if that is just giving consideration and attention without any material gifts.

You accused a whole country--and our neighbors at that--of being drug dealers and rapists.  You continually pandered to the man who seems to want to bring back Soviet imperialism and oppression.  You encouraged violence at your campaign events (double meaning!  At your events you encouraged your supporters to go forth and be violent, and you told them to act violently during the events).  You cheered when your supporters assaulted and literally took the coat from the back of a peaceful dissenter.  You encouraged large-scale religious discrimination because of a handful of terrorists who really haven't done anything to us, and whose main mission does not directly involve us.  You put down the parents of a war hero who died to protect his friends.  You said "coward" of an older man who was a combat veteran, POW, and elected official (whose morals and experiences I respect, even while I strongly disagree with his politics).  You bragged about getting away with sexual assault and relationship infidelity.  When your accusers came forward, your (non-)defense was to insult them based on their looks.  You bragged about cheating on your taxes.  You threatened multiple times to flout our traditions of graceful democratic sportsmanship, either by refusing to accept defeat or by incarcerating your opponent without criminal charges.

That's not to mention the many, many specific policies that you proposed that have great potential to harm our nation's people.

I respect the democratic process that puts you in office.  I will abide by its results.  I respect the voice of the people, and I will honor it.  I respect the office that you will assume in January.  I will try my best to show my respect for it.

POTUS is always one of the most powerful people in the world, and in January you will be especially powerful, even for POTUS.  You have a legislature united, at least in name, behind you and your party.  You also have the power to appoint jurists who share your views to the Supreme Court and other federal courts.  Use that power to bring us back together.  Do right by your people, not just your party--or, worse, your profits.

Please prove me wrong.  Show us, your country, that you have an ounce of Liberalism in you, or even the faintest glimpse of true Conservative perspective.  Please, please walk back the rhetoric of exclusion and fear.  Those messages will not make us great.  Make it easier for everyone to afford healthcare for physical and mental problems.  Make it easier for skilled, intelligent people from all over the world to come to the US legally and share their gifts.  Work on increasing access to high-quality education, whether that is basic skills in grade school, research at a university, or a practical, specialized vocational program in the field.  Help neighbors of all religious traditions, nationalities, and races to be just that--neighbors.

If you do that, then we'll be on the road to greatness.

That's a big if.  For now, I'll have to sit with my fear and wait.

Reluctantly,
Erik