Dear Mr. President,
The first and only other time I have written a President of the United States was in December of 2013, after a shooting occurred at one of three high schools in my district. Many of my friends at the time were in the building. I wrote an impassioned plea to then-president Obama about gun control, mental health resources, and other possible solutions to gun violence across the country, and so acutely felt in my Colorado community, not just once, but multiple times before and since then. At the time, as I mentioned, I was careless and hopeful enough to believe that when I contacted the President, both senators, and my house Representative, something, anything really, might have been done to combat gun violence in this country I found to be wonderful, passionate, and beautiful, if, clearly a bit dangerous. In the days and years since, I’ve paid careful attention to each mass shooting. I’ve known a school shooter and lived through a false alarm. It has become far more personal of an issue for me, but it has also raised other questions about America and the land I am grateful to call home.
I will not waste your incredibly valuable time asking what you or your administration’s plan to combat gun violence is. Out of fairness, I will also not ask your 2020 opponents. I have learned that no matter who sits in the Oval Office (or in Congress), nothing will be done. After today’s events in El Paso, I have found myself wrestling with an old question, stewing in me ever since that numbing December day six years ago. Do I live in a country that is too incompetent to do anything to protect its citizens, or too apathetic? Do I live in a country that cannot do anything or that simply does not wish to?
I also will not waste your time trying to answer that question. There is no answer that you could feasibly give whilst running for reelection. And you should not be forced into a nihilistic, cynical binary, especially from a citizen who did not vote for you and whom you have never met. Instead, my question for you, and that I have posed to your congressional colleagues, is what makes you proud to be an American? What is lovely and good and pure about America, in your eyes? I know there are plenty of answers, but I am so tired.
My patriotism has taken a major hit after questioning my country’s ability and empathy for six long and bitter years. An answer to this might help me once again sing God Bless America or the Star Spangled Banner without abandon. It may help me hope again in America’s future, and be grateful for playing a part in it.
Bryce Van Vleet,
What about you, dear reader? What is your favorite thing about America? Leave a comment below or contact us.
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