A Letter to the American People

Brene Brown quote: You can't lead people if you don't understand emotion in yourself or in other people"

Hello American Neighbors…

You are next door to the south of us.  We watch your televsion shows, we shop in your stores, we send you our fabulous musicians to enjoy, and some of our vast country’s resources. I’ve lived in the U.S. when I was studying and enjoyed the experience. Many of you have visited our beautiful prairies, gorgeous mountains, and rough, rugged norther terrain. We share so much together–you feel like our American cousins.

D’ya mind if we have one of those “visiting over the back fence” visits? Maybe you even would like to, metaphorically, come to sit on the back porch with me with a Coke or a Pepsi?  Please, come.  Thanx.

Lemme start by telling you why I wanted to chat…years ago, one of my relatives left her husband.  It was a bad match–a terrible marriage.  His character was questionable, and the way he treated her was awful.  After she left him, she said that people in her life were now telling her that prior to her marriage, they had concerns about her future husband.  But they didn’t say anything.

They didn’t feel it was their place.

They were hesitant to impose their opinions where they might not be welcome.

They stayed silent, and she paid the price.

My relative told me that she wished people had taken the risk and cared enough to “butt into her business” to let her know of what they saw.  She wished that she could have heard of the concerns of those looking from the outside.  It might have saved her a heckuva lotta pain. It would have been a courageous kindness that might’ve saved her a load of heartache.

So…it is in that spirit I wanted to talk to you, the American People.  You folks have all the power to decide your next President.  Truly you do.  But, as your neighbour, I have a unique perspective, and I’d just like to share it with you.  That might be perceived as very forward, but I express it because I care. My words are my own, but they reflect the perspectives of very many Canadians. At the risk of offending you, I share boldly.  We Canadians care about you guys, our neighbours to the south, eh?

Your northerly neighbors are worried.  We are concerned about who the next president will be. What will happen if you elect Mr. Trump?

Mr. Trump acts as a bully…he interrupts, talks over people. He often tells people what they said and what they meant when they said it.  He tells them what they are thinking and when they disagree, he tells them they are wrong.

As Canadians we notice he isn’t brave enough to really listen, really hear concerns.  If someone doesn’t think like he does, he says they are wrong. He isn’t respectful to those he disagrees with, in a way that encourages dialogue and growth and learning.

We are very worried, American friends, that Mr. Trump cannot build strong relationships that set this world up for peace. In a world that faces serious conflicts, natural disasters, and the ever looming effects of global warming, we need our world leaders to find ways of building common ground to work together to create solutions.

Flippantly and frequently calling individuals in a life of political service: stupid, lying, crooked and cheatin’, does not make for respectful working relationships.  He hasn’t built consensus amongst his party–rather, much division. How can he do so as a world leader?

Mr. Trump has repeatedly done impulsive things.  He tweets and says outrageous things (which he will later deny saying). He provokes people, and there are incidents of violence at his rallies, which he has encouraged. He sneers and shows contempt–relationship killers. When he exposed, he goes on the offensive saying he’s been ganged up on, telling us if he loses then the vote will have been rigged, and other claims which he cannot back up.

He’s fast and loose with the facts in a self serving way (fact checking documents point this out frequently), and very quick to get nasty.

And if he is President, Mr. Trump will have access to the nuclear codes.

Frankly, that terrifies me as a Canadian.

The President has access to the nuclear codes and can, at any time, begin a war that can destroy millions of lives.  The power behind these weapons are enormous…and need to be in the hands of someone with restraint and wisdom…someone who can listen to experts who have spent their lives studying geopolitical dynamics and cultures internationally.  Someone who understands the nuances of civility, and how to relate to people who live in very different contexts.

Those nuclear codes need to be in the hands of someone who knows that the President doesn’t and can’t know it all, and relies heavily on the expertise of people who know other languages, cultures, political histories, and how best to navigate tricky situations that are chaotic and tumultuous.

International politics requires adept strategy and accurate and effective communication–not sledgehammer threatening and boisterous blustering.

Mr. Trump frequently uses humiliation as a tactic to power over people. He so often is demeaning to those who are vulnerable.  He interrupts frequently. When he can’t argue a point intelligently, he repeats the same lines that are useful or helpful repeatedly.

American People, this style of relating in tense situations isn’t going to do your country any service on the world stage.

I think what is most dangerous about Mr. Trump is his lack of empathy.  He looks to do what is good for Mr. Trump, and he appeals to voters to vote for him because it will be good for them. I have seen little evidence that he has the ability to perceive the other person’s perspective and appreciate the significance of that perspective.

Perhaps that was clearest last week when he made comments on the bus that celebrated his ability to sexually assault women with impunity. He has repeatedly dismissed that as locker room talk.  Many men say they have never spoken in a locker room like this. For the sake of argument, though, let’s give Mr. Trump that claim…and who of us haven’t said something privately in a moment of poor judgement that we wouldn’t want repeated in public? Even if you should choose to give him the benefit of the doubt that this was out of character for him–his response was to briefly state an apology that was more about criticizing Mrs. Clinton than accepting responsibility for his words, and understanding the devastating effects this had.  It was a political statement, not a compassionate apology. Trust me, his words were hurtful, and his cavalier attitude to them even moreso for the 1 in 6 women who have been sexually violated. Millions of women this week struggled with what he said, and even more how he handled it. He simply doesn’t understand the impact of his words on others, and doesn’t seem to care to try to understand.

Mr. Trump often engages in gas-lighting, a dangerous practice that just doesn’t fit in any healthy relationship.  How is it possible for our Prime Minister Trudeau, or any other world leader to engage in a reciprocal relationship with him of mutual respect and collaboration?

Mr. Trump denies things that we know he has said…because we have watched him on video or read his tweets.  It’s like he thinks that if he says it loud enough and often enough, American people, he can actually change what he said. That’s confusing and crazy making. Not cool.

In my books, if you have to say things like: “I like women. Nobody likes women more than I do” or “I love Hispanics”–you are asking people to believe the content of your words, and ignore the process of your lifestyle.  If Mr. Trump really did care about women and different ethnic groups, he wouldn’t have to tell us. People who care about women just live it out. Our Prime Minister makes such no verbal claim. He was just respectful in providing half the positions to women in his new cabinet, and in response to questions about that action, said simply: “Because it’s 2015”.

So, while I, as a Canadian, worry about what it will be like to have Mr. Trump as President of the United States because of how it will affect Canada…in the last days, I have even greater concern and compassion for how it will be for you as Americans to have him as your leader. I worry he will not protect your vulnerable populations:

  • that he will exploit women on a national level
  • that Americans that need support and care will be discarded because they don’t serve Mr. Trump’s purposes
  • That sick Americans won’t have access to healthcare
  • that families will be divided because of immigration issues, and
  • African American men will continue to be killed on the streets of your cities because of the color of their skin

Dr. Brené Brown says“If you ask me what is the one thing that all transformational leaders have in common….I would say self awareness and the ability to lean into emotional discomfort.” 

Would you say Mr. Trump is self aware? Can he lean into his own emotional discomfort and be curious about it? I haven’t seen it.

If you ask me what is the one thing that all transformational leaders have in common....I would say self awareness and the ability to lean into emotional discomfort. Quote by Brene Brown

Simon Sinek says that real leaders eat last…He says: “We call them leaders because they go first. We call them leaders because they take the risk before anybody else does. We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected and so their people may gain.” By these definitions, Mr. Trump may not a qualified leader to lead a fast food outlet, never mind a large, dynamic country that needs to continue to address complex internal and external problems.

Mr. Trump has power.  He has power because he has money.

That money and power give him authority, but all the finger pointing and pouting and shouting does not make him a leader.

In a way that feels like a harsh truth coming from a Canadian who is watching from up north, who is this bold only because she cares, I need to tell you that Mr. Trump is not a leader.

Mr. Sinek, in his TED talk goes on to say:

Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank. I know many people at the seniormost levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities, and we do what they say because they have authority over us, but we would not follow them. And I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizations who have no authority and they are absolutely leaders, and this is because they have chosen to look after the person to the left of them, and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is.

Y’know the proverbial story of the 16 year old bride who is swept up by the charming loud mouthed braggart? He promises to take care of her, with stories of diamond rings and expensive trips, and protection from all that frightens her? He will take her away from the terrible existence she knows to a beautiful place far away and life will be great again? He is charming, debonair, and terribly convincing to her, even as those around her wonder what she sees in him?

Y’know how that story goes, right?

She realizes within hours after the marriage that he only wants her around for what she can do for him.  She is miserable, and stuck with a situation that is terrible. Her world is imploding, and she implores to him for help, and he laughs at her…reminding her that she chose him and there is no way out. He mocks her, berates her, and uses her for his own purposes.

From this side of the border, it just feels like this might not just be a pathetic metaphor.

It could become the story of the United States.


  • Leslie Petoski

    That’s what you don’t get because you are not an American. Voting is a scam here. It is a device used to stave off any resistance movements. We The People do NOT have control. We are NOT represented. We lost that many decades ago. We have only recently come to understand this reality. It’s time the rest of you armchair observers wake up. This is why so many people stand with someone like Trump. We are facing our own demise. Globalism is anathema to our very foundation. No other generation of Americans have been so betrayed by their government. Truth is, if you haven’t experienced life as an American living in America exposed to innumerable influences and holding a belief formed over almost three centuries that we are honored and privileged to carry on the light of the whole world, You can never fully understand how the threat of dismantling that core belief will render a people ruined beyond measure.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      “You can never fully understand how the threat of dismantling that core belief will render a people ruined beyond measure.” Wow, Leslie…thanx for your powerful insight. I think it’s important to understand and hear the voices of the voters who don’t feel able to actually impact the system. In many ways then, you feel the same as we do…wondering if we are watching a train wreck in slow motion, completely unable to stop it. That’s a very helpless feeling.

  • Brenda Skene

    Hopefully the American people will consider what was written to them when voting.
    We love and care for our neighbors.
    God bless them and America.

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