In My Opinion: Letter to My Husband’s Uncle


Hello Harlan,

We had a wonderful time recently celebrating my mother’s 92nd birthday with my daughter’s family and her in-laws, who have moved from the Midwest to a town just north of Seattle to be near their son and grandsons. They are originally from the southern part of India and came here years ago to study (he has a Ph.D. in chemistry and worked for years in the pharmaceutical industry that supplies many of the medications you use and she held positions as an administrative librarian at Wisconsin and Illinois universities).

You have written to me to say that even though you don’t want to engage your nephew, my husband Kurt on politics or religion, you love me and enjoyed our times together during our visits to your state. I enjoyed visiting with you and Marion the many times we did at your lovely home.

I believe love calls for knowing the other person, and so I want to tell you some of who I am in these times.

The outcome of the 2016 election and the news every day since has left me feeling that so much of what I worked for since high school is about to be undone by a crude, dishonest man who incites violence and hate among our citizens.

During his campaign, he said he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and his supporters would still love him. He said he wasn’t about to kill journalists but “Well, maybe.” He knowingly tells lies in press talks, rallies and his tweets (two years into office and over 10,000 lies documented). He retweets unfounded conspiracy theories. It is hard to digest that this kind of behavior is now our country’s top-level discourse. It is also hard to digest the derogatory nicknames he adopts for anyone in Congress who does not agree with him, overriding the respect we have had for our Constitutionally mandated and empowered Senate and House of Representatives.

It is hard to digest his rage against news sources that do their job finding and reporting facts. It is hard to digest the appointments he makes of people who want to destroy protections put in place to rid our air, water, soil and coastlines of toxic pollution that threatens our lives. It is hard to digest the way he continually tells the world that the intelligence agencies of the very country he leads are untrustworthy, that the lawful opposing party in our country is creating a coup, while his party gerrymanders to increase the number of votes in their favor.

In addition to setting a disrespectful tone, I don’t see how Trump has helped the working class or US industry and agricultural sectors. From the large GM plant closure to Harley Davidson’s move out of the country to soybean farmers not able to sell their crops to China, their biggest customer, because of higher tariffs that have China purchasing from other countries, to consumers paying more for major appliances due to tariffs, to steel and aluminum tariffs affecting Caterpillar (which said that tariffs may have cost the company over $100 million in 2018) and Whirlpool (which said this January that tariffs and higher raw material prices may result in a $300 million hit in 2019). These are not alternative facts — they are facts that some alternatively do not want to allow themselves to register, though the facts impact their lives in many ways.

That Carrier deal from when the man was running for election isn’t going to save the number of jobs the president-elect said it would; the Indiana union leader who spoke out about that has had to handle serious death threats to himself and his children for speaking from his knowledge.

This sort of situation and the number of gun shootings in this country every day (shootings of people driving, riding buses, sitting in restaurants, going to school, seeking entertainment and attending their places of worship) are not in line with the Judeo-Christian values taught to Kurt by your family and cherished by him.

He is taking a break from this country and living overseas for now. I visited him in a country many Americans think is dangerous –Turkey. Although they have an authoritarian president as we do, their population is not armed, the people are gracious and the streets are safe. What a relaxing feeling; what a sinking feeling to return to the US just after yet another shooter killed people near where my daughter and her family live, near where I visit when I am in the city. How can it be okay that Trump broadcasts threats about tough people like the self-proclaimed, armed citizen militias and bikers having his back?

Is this the country you want your grandchildren to grow up in? A country in which mothers can’t assure their children they will be safe at dances, at concerts, or in schools no matter how well-behaved they are? Mustn’t these issues be faced by all of us who enjoy the safeties we’ve experienced over the years before the proliferation of mass shootings and before leadership was not about bullying?

Isn’t talking and being informed important in a democracy? Why can’t you speak with Kurt about his heartbreak over what he sees as his father and uncles going against the very values you had him study and live by when he was growing up in your family?

The talk of wrecking Medicare, privatizing Social Security and actions to hasten the dismantling the Affordable Care Act are very upsetting to me. You have grown children with children of their own who count on affordable insurance and use the plan, I am sure. I appreciate Medicare and am looking forward to receiving the Social Security benefits for which I paid with every paycheck and business profit I earned. Aren’t you enjoying yours?

There will always be social programs better administered by the government than private businesses looking to make a profit. Governing isn’t the same as running a business. It is the government’s job to look out for all of the country’s people. There is a need for social safety nets, which I am sure one of your children used when she was an unmarried mother of babies from two different fathers. You didn’t stop talking with her but kept her in the family fold despite what you must have considered immoral behavior given what I know from Kurt of the strict ethic you held of celibacy before marriage.

We are humans and there are many ways of being ethical–your daughter is a fine mother and you have been fine grandparents to her children. Perhaps your hearts broke with news of babies and children separated from their parents at our southern border and then put in cages with inadequate records for returning them to their parents?

What would Jesus say? I have never heard or read anything other than his complete humanity, significantly about the poorest among us.

I believe that our children and grandchildren will be affected for decades by a declining environment because of significant rollbacks in regulations and our government’s belief that unmitigated climate disruption, despite world-wide scientists’ warnings, is its rightful stance. The president (I can’t bring myself now to capitalize the word) disregards the welfare of our country and its citizens while helping himself and other billionaires around the world, including Russian oligarchs who partied with him at his inauguration, to the biggest pieces of the pie. See the reports from Kentucky of Oleg Deripasa building a huge and unwelcome aluminum plant now that Trump has desanctioned him — a plant that will be the biggest entry into that lucrative American market.

If you have read this far, know that I am writing to you because as I said at the opening, I think love is about letting another person know who you are. I am the grandmother of two bright, empathetic, in love with life, optimistic brown children, who have, as your grandchildren do, a stake in life and in the greatness of our country, both morally and politically.

I sign this letter with the hope that our country returns to the paths that love and kindness build,


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In My Opinion: Letter to My Husband’s Uncle — 5 Comments

  1. I so appreciate the courage this letter represents. I have family members that I have distanced myself from because of the value differences you so eloquately articulated. Also some of those same individuals had a strong disapproval of my lifestyle when they realized I was married to a woman. For my peace of mind I’ve simply withdrawn from that side of the family. Luckily, I do not miss them.

  2. Thank you for this heartfelt, courageous letter, Sheila.
    I so understand your need to write the letter.
    My sister’s family, her husband and their three children, are all Drump supporters.
    It breaks my heart to be so distanced from them, but I cannot endorse, or even tolerate, their heartless convictions.
    Such is life in America today.

    • Thank you for the encouragement on writing this opinion piece. I think it speaks for many of us who suffer isolation from loved family members because of the politics of our times. It is very hard to watch anyone make excuses for not being empathetic and caring. It is downright frightening to witness the lengths some people go to distance themselves from their otherwise charitable and humane thoughts.

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