May 27, 2016
450 American authors bravely band together to publicly denounce the most reviled public figure in recent memory
by Simon Reichley
Over at iPetitions.com, a group of 450 American authors have posted an open letter opposing the candidacy of Donald Trump, who, if you haven’t heard, is running for President of the United States of America. And is receiving record numbers of votes. And appears to have secured the nomination of his party. At present, about 16,000 people have added their signatures, including notable authors Stephen King, Jennifer Egan, David Shields, Lydia Davis, Rebecca Solnit, and Dave Eggers.
You know who didn’t sign it? Jonathan Franzen.
Below is the full text of the petition:
The following is a statement signed by more than 450 U.S. writers, regarding the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States. If you agree with us—whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you live—we hope you’ll join us by adding your name and the state you live in and help us spread the word. Many thanks.
AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR FELLOW AMERICANS
Because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power;
Because we believe that any democracy worthy of the name rests on pluralism, welcomes principled disagreement, and achieves consensus through reasoned debate;
Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;
Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies;
Because the search for justice is predicated on a respect for the truth;
Because we believe that knowledge, experience, flexibility, and historical awareness are indispensable in a leader;
Because neither wealth nor celebrity qualifies anyone to speak for the United States, to lead its military, to maintain its alliances, or to represent its people;
Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response;
For all these reasons, we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.
First of all, we applaud these 16,000 brave souls for daring to say in public that Donald Trump is a small-fisted bigot unfit for office. He is. But I can’t help wondering what exactly the purpose of this statement might be. There’s nothing wrong with declaring one’s opposition to a pig-faced fascist with bad hair, but it’s probably not the most useful thing in the world either.
There’s also a fair bit of intellectual dissonance going on here. For one thing, it seems a little absurd for a handful of famous authors to band together, leveraging their celebrity and cultural cache to issue a document claiming that “neither wealth nor celebrity qualifies anyone to speak for the United States… or to represent its people.” And the claim that “American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another” is either ignorant or contemptuous of the historical record. America’s roots lay in slavery and empire. Sure, we’ve been trying really really hard to, you know, make up for it, but facts are facts, and it’s not hard to argue that the current “period of…bigotry” has lasted for a little over 250 years. Regardless of the spirit of your argument, misrepresenting the American narrative like this is not a good look if you want to drill the other guy for a lack of “historical awareness.”
Again, Trump is a deluded megalomaniac with bad skin and cocktail-weenie fingers. He is a motherfucker and should be roundly rejected by the American people. But that’s no excuse for sloppy thinking and false premises.
Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.