An Open Letter to My Friends Who Voted for Donald Trump

My dear friend,

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, especially when you know it’s likely to be filled with sadness and anger. I know this is uncomfortable, but I also know that you care about me. That’s why we’re friends. Thank you for your respect; I will strive to show the same to you.

It’s easy to rant against Trump supporters in the abstract, but not against you, because I know you. I know you’re not racist, or sexist, or homophobic. I know you respect and care for me and others like me. And that’s why, as a woman, as a Millennial, as a writer, and as your friend, I have to let you know how your vote feels, and more importantly, how it functions, to me.

Donald J. Trump has now been elected to become arguably the most powerful person on the planet. He has been catapulted onto perhaps the largest and loudest platform a human can have. And I, as a woman, am deeply hurt by this. We have handed a gigantic megaphone clad in the stars and stripes to a man who repeatedly discusses women as having value based only on their sexual attractiveness to him. He attacks women who disagree with him not by dismantling their ideas, but by calling them “nasty,” “unattractive,” “very hard to be a 10,” saying they don’t “look presidential,” have “the face of a dog,” and asking, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”.

This is a man who has said that if a woman is sexually harassed in the workplace, it is her job to leave. A man who called a lawyer “disgusting” in court when she requested a medical break to pump breast milk for her infant daughter. A man who has insulted the appearance of his rivals’ wives to undermine their masculinity. A man who said of a ten-year-old girl as she left, “I’m going to be dating her in ten years. Can you believe it?” A man who explained sexual assault in the military as what happens “when you put men & women together.” A man who has bragged about sexual assault, not really apologized for it, and then ridiculed the women who accused him of the same, saying one “would not be [his] first choice,” that she wasn’t even attractive enough to assault.

He is teaching the young people of this country that women like me are worth less, that our ideas are secondary to the utility of our bodies. That I am a piece of meat and my value is tied directly to how much he wants to consume me. That everyone else in society is free to treat me in the same way. And that in treating me that way, in fact, “nobody has more respect for women than [he does].”

Donald Trump is about to become the face of our nation to the world. The president does not unilaterally pass laws, or strike them down, or overturn court cases. He does set the conversation and tell the world who we are and what we’re about. He does lead the process of executing the laws. He does not respect me, and he will not represent me. I do not trust a Trump administration to prioritize enforcing the laws that protect me, because he has never prioritized respecting me.

I cannot speak for the friends of color I know you have. I cannot speak for the friends with disabilities I know you have. I cannot speak for the LGBT friends I know you have. I cannot speak for the friends of different religions I know you have.

I can speak only for myself. And I am hurt and dehumanized by the man who earned your vote.

I have no intention of unfriending you, or ignoring you, or avoiding you. I will have whatever conversations you want that we can have with love. I am not a single issue voter, and I’m happy to talk at another time about why I think the vast majority of his other rhetoric and policy are also unacceptable, some of which I’ve expounded here.

But I am heartbroken by the message that treating me this way is not only acceptable, it may even get you the highest office in the land.

I’m not upset because my team lost, because states went red instead of blue. I am upset because this country told me that it is acceptable, maybe even “honest” and “telling it like it is,” to treat me and others like shit.

And I know that you don’t believe that. So let me say that voting for him doesn’t mean that you have to put up with the things that he says and does that you know are wrong. Protest isn’t limited to the “losers.”

I know that my writing a blog post is not dialogue, but I hope it leads to some. And if I break down in tears when we do talk, you’ll know one reason why.

With love,
Chloe

The Law School Diaries: What’s Your Excuse?

Greetings from beautiful, inexplicably 65-degree, Pittsburgh, PA! I write this from the porch of The Porch in Schenley Plaza, because I want you to vote.

As you probably know, the US presidential election is tomorrow. You can check out some of my thoughts on our candidates here, here, and here. But this blog post is not about them. This blog is about you. You and your beautiful vote.

If you are a US citizen, please, pease vote tomorrow. This election matters, and your participation in it matters. People have fought, been arrested, and died for your suffrage, some more recently than others. Honor the legacy of the American Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act, the Suffragettes, and everyone else who believed that you, and your voice, matter.

On Friday morning at 11am, I got on a Greyhound bus at South Station in Boston en route to New York City. I arrived in New York an hour and a half late, missed my irksome bus connection, spent almost six hours in the bus station trying to finish a ten-page legal memo for Legal Research and Writing that was due the next day at 5pm. Then I got on another bus at 11pm and got into Pittsburgh at 6:20am Saturday. The tireless Lindsey and Katharine picked me up from the bus station.

Why do all this, you ask? Why miss two days of law school classes, travel while I have a paper due, spend a total of over 25 hours on a bus, and get back to campus after an overnight bus ride 40 minutes before I have to get to class?

Because I’m registered to vote in Pennsylvania and didn’t get an absentee ballot. Because my right to vote matters to me, especially in this historic election. Because women were arrested, abused, and force-fed through the nose so that I could go to the polls tomorrow.

What’s your excuse, America? Let’s show up in record numbers tomorrow. Let’s shatter the expectations of those who project how many (or how few) of us will speak. Let’s make sure the outcome of this election really reflects what America means to us.

Vote.

Find your polling place at https://www.iwillvote.com/

Who Is My Neighbor? Voting as an Evangelical

It’s really only been this week that I figured out what, at base, so disturbs me about this election. There’s plenty to choose from, sure. But beyond the actions of the candidates themselves, beyond the insane and horrible rhetoric, beyond the general polarization and scandal and dishonesty, there’s one thing above everything else that burdens my heart. This election, more than any other I can remember, we are desperate to save ourselves at any cost.

The Evangelical voting bloc has been a powerful one for a long time. It’s vocal and it’s effective. Conservatives have used lots of different methods to appeal to us, to assure us that they are the best candidates for us. This election, the Evangelical bloc has been courted through fear: fear that our way of life will disappear if we vote for the wrong candidate.

It is a new version, a stronger version of the us versus them mentality. No more are we just on separate sides: now we are told to weigh our own interests in Supreme Court justices and freedom of conscience laws against the dignity, safety, and rights of others — and to find our own interests overwhelming.

Where in the Bible, I wonder, does Jesus tell us to protect ourselves at all costs? Where does He tell us to barricade ourselves inside the church walls no matter what evil is occurring outside them? Where does He command that we avoid those who hate us and give only to those who already love us? Where does He declare the protection of the church to be above the rights of the poor and slaves and refugees?

The safety and comfort of the church should not guide our thinking — the giving, sacrificial, other-centric nature of the Kingdom of God should. We are told to be afraid, to believe that we must stand up for ourselves first and foremost because no one else will.

Thank God Jesus didn’t take that advice.

10 Points on Eric Metaxas

In July, I wrote a response to a piece by Wayne Allyn Root advocating that Christians must vote for Donald Trump. Root’s piece didn’t turn out to have much readership, but then Eric Metaxas, of Bonhoeffer fame, wrote his own piece for the Wall Street Journal. This piece, in contrast, has gotten a lot of Evangelical response. It has the tone of many of the pieces written by this community: yes, Trump is distasteful, but hold your nose and vote for him because the alternative is worse. Here is, point by point, why I believe Eric Metaxas has it wrong.

1. “Over this past year many of Donald Trump’s comments have made me almost literally hopping mad. The hot-mic comments from 2005 are especially horrifying. … So yes, many see these comments as a deal breaker. But we have a very knotty and larger problem. What if the other candidate also has deal breakers? Even a whole deplorable basketful?”

I’m disturbed by the rhetoric that the 2005 tape is Trump’s only, and most damaging, “deal breaker.” Of course, Metaxas leaves room for the other offensive statements, but this is the only one he mentions specifically. Implied to me, especially in the context of this leaked recording, is that we wouldn’t have any deal breakers with Trump otherwise — “odious” behavior, sure, but not deal breakers.

This appears all over the internet, but a few other possible “deal breakers”.

2. “What if not pulling the lever for Mr. Trump effectively means electing someone who has actively enabled sexual predation in her husband before—and while—he was president?”

This is a complex issue, but I want to start by pointing out that Metaxas nowhere acknowledges the sheer volume of sexual assault or harassment allegations Mr. Trump has had against him. Trump recently responded to one of the allegations by telling his supporters, “She would not be my first choice,” as though her appearance made the allegations obviously false. Politico published a list here, with links to the original sources. There is a more thorough list here from New York Magazine reaching farther back into the past, although you may have to dig a little more to find credible sources. There are also at least 20 lawsuits about sexual harassment within Trump’s businesses. It also appears there is a pending lawsuit in New York alleging that Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein both raped a thirteen-year-old girl in 1994, Mr. Trump multiple times. It’s true that he has not been convicted or lost a lawsuit for sexual assault or harassment, but his accusers are legion. It may be worth noting, also, that Ben Carson, one of Trump’s advisors, says it doesn’t even matter whether his accusers are telling the truth. It’s a little disingenuous to talk about Bill’s horrors in this area without talking about those allegations.

Talking about Hillary’s treatment of her husband’s accusers is harder, and I won’t try to defend her actions, or at least the actions of the Clinton staff of the time, in trying to discredit them. CNN has a good individual analysis of the different accusations and the treatment of them here. There’s also a more in-depth and critical article in the New York Times. A few things worth noting here:

  • Like Trump’s accusers, Bill Clinton’s accusers of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment have not been vindicated, either — he has not been convicted or lost a civil suit. He did settle the sexual harassment suit by Paula Jones with no admission of guilt for $850,000.
  • There is some amount of uncertainty about Hillary’s exact involvement in these events.
  • These allegations are, at base, about Bill. Bill is not running for president. Hillary is.
3. “What if she defended a man who raped a 12-year-old and in recalling the case laughed about getting away with it?”

This is one I’m getting a little frustrated with. Here’s a fact check article on it. Hillary Clinton (then Rodham) worked for a legal aid clinic, one of whose functions is to defend those accused of a crime who can’t afford their own legal counsel. She was on a list of lawyers who would represent indigent clients, so the judge assigned her to the case and didn’t remove her when she asked. You can listen to the recording here as far as the “laughter” is concerned — to me it sounds a lot less like someone laughing at a rape victim and a lot more like laughing at the weird legal idiosyncrasies of one of her cases as a young lawyer. Not classy, maybe. But not laughing at a rape victim, and not “getting off” the defendant, as some claim — plea bargaining isn’t the same as “getting off,” meaning being found not guilty.

This is how our legal system is supposed to work — lawyers do the best job they possibly can for their clients, because everyone is entitled to representation.

4. “What if she used her position as secretary of state to funnel hundreds of millions into her own foundation, much of it from nations that treat women and gay people worse than dogs?”

This whole area looks a little murky, but this particular claim also seems to be unsubstantiated. Here’s a pretty good overview of the situation. Charities are tricky, because they don’t have to precisely disclose the identities and amounts of donors, but you can go here to see cumulative giving (in large categories) from the Foundation’s donors. Metaxas is probably referring to:

  • Saudi Arabia: 10-25 million
  • Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi (Saudi Arabia): 5-10 million
  • State of Kuwait: 5-10 million
  • Nasser Al-Rashid (Saudi Arabia): 1-5 million
  • Dubai Foundation: 1-5 million
  • Issam M. Fares (Lebanon): 1-5 million
  • Friends Of Saudi Arabia: 1-5 million
  • Amar Singh (India): 1-5 million
  • State of Qatar: 1-5 million
  • The Government of Brunei Darussalam: 1-5 million
  • The Sultanate of Oman: 1-5 million
  • United Arab Emirates: 1-5 million

“Hundreds of millions” looks like an exaggeration, but the real issue here is whether she used her position to get these donations. Keep in mind these donation amounts date back to 2007 and include those from both before and after her time as Secretary. This Politifact article goes through the various ethical landmines, and this one gives more detail on the accuracy of Trump’s pushback toward the Foundation. Some highlights: Hillary was not on the Board of Directors for the Foundation before or while she was Secretary, and Saudi Arabia (likely the main focus of Metaxas’s comments) did not donate during her tenure. It is difficult to definitively tell whether Hillary “used her position” to “funnel” money into the Foundation.

It’s true that some of these nations treat both women and the queer community badly. The government’s entanglement with them, however, is far from limited to possible overlap with the Clinton Foundation. To criticize that, we’d have to look much more closely at our own foreign policy — the Clinton Foundation, after all, is doing charitable work. What are we doing?

Somewhat separately, the similar accusation that the Clintons “lined their pockets” through the Foundation while she was Secretary of State is false. The Clinton Foundation has an A rating from Charity Watch, and 88% of its fundings goes to actual program costs rather than overhead, which is considered very good.

Worried about all this entanglement if Hillary becomes president? In that event, the Foundation will stop accepting foreign and corporate funds, and Bill will step down from the board. See more here.

5. “Since these things are true, can I escape responsibility for them by simply not voting?”

This felt a little disingenuous, like he could bolster his argument more by repeating to readers that his statements are true. But I take his second point — I agree that we can’t escape responsibility for these issues by simply not voting. We also can’t escape the much more serious issues that a Trump presidency would create.

6. “The anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer also did things most Christians of his day were disgusted by. He most infamously joined a plot to kill the head of his government. He was horrified by it, but he did it nonetheless because he knew that to stay ‘morally pure’ would allow the murder of millions to continue.”

Out of context, this is a beautiful excerpt. I’m going to assume Metaxas is equating Christian voters, and not Trump, with Bonhoeffer, because it would be a tough argument to analogize trying to assassinate Hitler with bragging about sexual assault. What I’m struggling to understand is the implicit assumption here that not intervening in a Clinton win would be tantamount to watching the Holocaust without doing something. Whose Holocaust are we worried about right now? Mexicans? The press? Muslims? Political dissidentsWomen? Or maybe just an outbreak of preventable disease? I’m exaggerating — sort of. But I guess I’m unclear what Hillary’s corollary to the Holocaust is.

7. “It’s a fact that if Hillary Clinton is elected, the country’s chance to have a Supreme Court that values the Constitution—and the genuine liberty and self-government for which millions have died—is gone. Not for four years, or eight, but forever. Many say Mr. Trump can’t be trusted to deliver on this score, but Mrs. Clinton certainly can be trusted in the opposite direction.”

No, that’s an opinion, and one I’m a little confused by. This must be the aforementioned Holocaust metaphor. I’m going to take a wild guess and say we’re probably talking about abortion, gay marriage, “freedom of conscience” laws, and maybe the second amendment. Here’s the thing, though: the Constitution also includes freedom of the press, freedom of speech, equal protection of the law, due process, the right against cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom of religion for more than just Christians. See #1.

If you’re a one-issue abortion voter, I know there’s not a whole lot I can say to persuade you. Trump is certainly not a long-term pro-lifer, but he has pledged to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. The thing is, though, Roe v. Wade was 7-2 decision with some pretty conservative justices in the majority. It’s not nearly as liberal of a decision as people think, and I’m incredibly skeptical of his ability to get it overturned, especially because justices don’t always rule the way their appointing presidents expect. This seems to be one of the biggest ways Evangelicals find to make a decision in this election, and why they think Trump is better. I also think it’s a completely misguided attempt to accomplish something much more difficult than it would appear on its face.

Also, “forever”? Hillary would “ruin” the Supreme Court “forever”? I’m a little surprised to hear language that extreme and that unsubstantiated from him. I’m not sure how it would be possible that this would stop the Supreme Court from ever having a conservative majority again.

The judiciary is independent of the executive branch once they’re appointed. There’s only so much a president can do there. Yes, appointing Supreme Court justices is very powerful — powerful enough that I certainly don’t want Trump to do it — but our Constitution separates our governmental powers for a reason.

8. “If imperiously flouting the rules by having a private server endangered American lives and secrets and may lead to more deaths, if she cynically deleted thousands of emails, and if her foreign-policy judgment led to the rise of Islamic State, won’t refusing to vote make me responsible for those suffering as a result of these things?”

This is another one that’s a little impossible to have a conversation about. Here’s the New York Times on the timeline of what happened with the emails. Yeah, this was careless and stupid. Also, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice also did this. It sounds more like she was disorganized than “imperiously flouting the rules.” Also worth noting — WikiLeaks’s leaked Clinton emails? Looks like Russia was probably behind the hack, despite their denial of meddling in the election. Also, a Putin ally said the US had to elect Trump or face nuclear war, but I digress.

To the ISIS accusations: the roots of the terrorist group stretch back to 2004, way before Obama’s presidency or Clinton’s Secretary career. There is an argument to be made that the administration’s policy in Libya, which Clinton had a strong hand in, created a power vacuum that ISIS exploited. The trick there is whether we’re willing to say that the continued reign of an oppressive military dictator didn’t warrant intervention — foreign policy is more nuanced than saying what she did “led to the rise of the Islamic State.” ISIS relied on a broad range of elements, and Clinton’s foreign policy was only one of them.

Also, Trump’s foreign policy — well, several pages’ worth of Republic national security professionals say they refuse to work for him. A former head of the CIA under both Republican and Democrat administrations endorsed Clinton because he believes she is a capable leader and he would be “a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief” and “is already damaging our national security.” He wants to pull back from our allies, loves flattering Putin (who loves jailing dissidents and invading things), and doesn’t understand why he can’t use nuclear weapons.

9. “We would be responsible for passively electing someone who champions the abomination of partial-birth abortion, someone who is celebrated by an organization that sells baby parts. We already live in a country where judges force bakers, florists and photographers to violate their consciences and faith—and Mrs. Clinton has zealously ratified this. If we believe this ends with bakers and photographers, we are horribly mistaken.”

She doesn’t “champion” partial-birth abortions, she voted against a blanket ban that included no exceptions for the life and health of the mother — there’s a difference. In 2000, she said, “I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected.” More recently, in March, she said, “I have been on record in favor of a late-pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”

Planned Parenthood is not selling baby parts. They do donate tissue and costs can be covered. Only 3% of their budget goes to abortion (which does not, itself, get federal funding), and 45% goes to STI/STD testing and treatment.

The last bit of this section is a tricky issue, I think. In this country, you’re not allowed to discriminate. If your business is open to the public, you can’t refuse to serve someone who’s black or Hindu or in a wheelchair, and refusing to serve someone because they’re gay is discrimination. Whether you think people ought to be able to discriminate that way is a different question. We as Christians are called to love and serve everybody. I’m unconvinced that Trump will be the staunch defender of Christianity that he claims, considering his total lack of understanding of what Christianity is. It’s also worth noting here, again, that defenders of religious freedom need to advocate for religious freedom for everybody, not just themselves.

10. “A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election.”

I agree. It’s a vote for the Muslims who are afraid to be recognized, like the man who was kicked off a plane for saying “Inshallah.” For the press who shouldn’t be threatened for doing their job. For Mexican Americans whose character is called into question. For the women he can’t stop objectifying. For the victims of the largest refugee crisis in history who need our help.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Metaxas himself, from a blog post in June called “A Few (Passionate) Thoughts on America!

The fundamental idea of “exceptionalism” comes from the first pages of the Bible, and it means that God blesses a people in order for them to bless others. If this country has been blessed, and it has, that was always meant to be thought of as a way for us to use those blessings to bless the whole world. To bless immigrants and to bless those beyond our borders and to bless those within our borders who were struggling.

Let’s do that. Let’s go bless the world.

Imposter Syndrome: An Orientation Recap

I can’t quite believe that it’s been almost exactly a month since I started at Harvard. The time has flown, at least in part because I haven’t had a whole lot of time to catch my breath (in a good way, mostly). But I wanted to write a post about the orientation experience to give a window into what starting at HLS is like — I think it did a really good job of setting us up to create a solid environment for ourselves and for each other.

One of the first impressions I got upon coming to campus is that Harvard Law School is HUGE. I knew that conceptually, but the law school population itself is almost as big as my (large) high school — about 1800 students. In order to make it easier to get to know people and avoid getting lost in the shuffle, HLS divides the 1L (first-year) class into seven sections of about 80 people, each of which has a professor as a section leader. It sounds like a lot, but orientation is basically four days of intensive section bonding, so we all got to know each other really fast. At this point, I recognize everybody in my section and probably know about 90% of the names.

The first day I actually got to campus was a Wednesday, and I was just there to pick up my campus ID. As I was walking out of the main law school building, someone on the faculty stopped me and greeted me by name. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. He introduced himself as my section leader and Torts professor, and then I finally connected him to the headshot I’d seen on the website. I can’t say that this is necessarily the norm for section leaders, but before orientation had even really gotten going, this professor had taken it upon himself to learn all of our names, first and last.

Orientation started in earnest the next day, and we had the typical slew of info sessions, panels, and tours, interspersed with a few section-specific meetings. In addition to our section leader, we had six 2Ls and 3Ls (second- and third-years) who acted as orientation leaders/mentors for our section (and who later TAed our Legal Research and Writing class). We call them our BSAs (because they’re part of the Board of Student Advisors). One of the things the BSAs did on Thursday was run a session to get us ready for cold calls in the classroom (I’ll write a full post on what that’s like later — in the meantime, if you’ve seen The Paper Chase, Legally Blonde, or any of the other law school movies, you’ve got an idea). Our BSAs, because Section 5 is the best section, accomplished this by asking us hard-hitting questions about Harry Potter. I was cold called on whether Ron Weasley deserved to end up with Hermione Granger. As you can imagine, especially if you’ve ever experienced the depth of my love for Harry Potter, this was a good sign that I came to the right place.

Another highlight of orientation was our section leader playing the full video of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan, definitely one of the best Disney pump-up songs ever. But in addition to that, it turns out that the lyricist is an alumnus. Go figure.

But there were two themes that took center stage at orientation (besides all the typical administrative, etc. stuff). One was set particularly by our section leader. He put strong, repeated emphasis on the importance of creating a supportive, loving community for each other, particularly within our section. He told us he expected us to learn all of each other’s names by face and by voice (for conversation in class), and that our experience here and our future after would depend heavily on the extent to which we supported each other now. It could easily have been an empty admonishment, but the fact that he’d taken the time to learn all of our names and things about our backgrounds made us take it a lot more seriously. Everyone in the section has been really nice, helpful, and open in the last four weeks, and I give a bit of credit to our section leader for that.

The second theme came up both in our meetings as a section and in the more general panels and talks for the whole entering class. Time and again, we heard a variation of, “We did not make a mistake. You deserve to be here. You can succeed here. You are not a fraud.”

Law school can be hard and scary. You’re surrounded by startlingly accomplished, intelligent people, both as professors and classmates, and it can be easy to convince yourself that you don’t belong among them. My classmates seemed a little confused by this emphatic and repeated refutation of “imposter syndrome” so early in the process, but as a writer, I recognized the symptoms that they were working to head off.

When you’re doing something hard, something risky, something that doesn’t offer constant feedback or allow you to gauge exactly how you’re doing at any given moment, it’s easy to doubt yourself. Even if, or maybe especially if, you’re used to being really good at things. How can you know if you’re in the right place doing the right things? Maybe, really, you’re just fooling everybody, just pretending. But what if they find out that you’re a fake?

My Property professor wrote our casebook and is working on the next one. My Torts professor argued the Supreme Court case he had us read for our mock class during orientation (and was the Executive Director for investigations into the Gulf oil spill). My Crim Law professor for next semester has argued a bunch of cases for the ICC and worked on the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Doubtless they and all my other professors have done lots of other impressive work I don’t even know about. This is terrifying, to say nothing of the amazing accomplishments of my classmates. It’s easy to go, “I just turned 23 and I’ve never had a full-time job. What am I doing here?”

Imposter Syndrome is a lie. There are lots of reasons for that, but one is that everyone is faking it. No one knows what they’re doing. Not in law school, not in writing, not in life. So decide that you have a right to be where you are, not to the exclusion of everybody else, but alongside everybody else. Take up space. Practice your art. Have opinions and learn why you’re wrong, or right.

If you’re in law school, or thinking about going to law school, know that sometimes, you’ll feel like you’ve pulled one over on everybody else, and maybe on yourself. That’s okay. It’s normal to feel like an imposter when you’re doing something hard, something worthwhile. You don’t have to do it forever, but at least give yourself a chance. Keep speaking up in class, even when you think you’re wrong. Keep participating. No one is 100% sure what they’re doing, either.

If you’re interested in more on this topic, LS Hawker and I talked about self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome on our podcast in May, and you can check that out here.

So orientation was a great time getting to know everybody and reminding ourselves that we all deserve to be here. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on my first few weeks of class and how law school really works. Have questions you want a law student to answer? Toss ’em in the comments!

The Law School Diaries: Moving In

As of today, I’ve been in Boston for ten days. After all the lead up to getting here, it doesn’t seem possible that this year has finally started.

When last we left off, I was panicking a bit about late financial aid applications and immunization forms. The moral of the story is, I (unsurprisingly) was a little more panicked than was necessary. After much ado, I am indeed here and going through orientation. Everything is not finished (I will be very happy when my financial aid cash advance finally comes through, and even happier when all the extended loan paperwork is taken care of), but I have a Harvard ID card. For now, I’m happy. But let’s back up a little.

After a life-giving week spending time with friends in Pittsburgh and wishing a dear friend good luck in her own next chapter, I flew into Boston Logan on Thursday evening. I managed to pack up pretty much my whole life (besides my book collection) into a large suitcase, a medium suitcase, a carry-on, and a giant backpack. I have one box being shipped to me, but otherwise, I have to pick up everything else here.

I got to my Cambridge apartment fairly late in the evening after some flight shuffling. I fell pretty immediately into bed, which consisted of a futon mattress on the floor with a box fan in the window pointed directly at me. Cambridge is hot in the summer, and we don’t have central air.

On Friday, I finally got to see Cambridge in daylight, and I took a long, meandering walk through the neighborhood. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to live a short walk from this and this. Cambridge is full of history, memorials, huge trees, and old churches. Plus, the Harvard campus is enormous, and a lot of the architecture is really cool.

I’d given myself a lot of time (I didn’t have to be here until Wednesday), so I spent the weekend hanging out, mostly sitting around and sweating before I got my A/C. On Sunday, I walked down to a local farmer’s market, which I have within walking distance three days a week! Yay inexpensive local produce! I’m very happy about that. I also ordered groceries from a delivery service since I don’t have a car, which didn’t end up coming until Tuesday. When they did finally come, I broke in my kitchen by having my first cooking session. Chicken curry success!

Over the course of the several days I had before orientation, I managed to assemble a mattress, bedding set, stack of pillows, and a window A/C unit, most of which I got through Amazon Prime. I still don’t have my bed frame, so I still feel a little like I’m squatting here — curse you, mysterious shipping delays! But that should hopefully come soon.

Once my financial aid comes in (#gradstudentlife), I’ll be able to get a desk and some drawers so everything I own will no longer be crammed into my little city-dweller closet. I’m liking the new place, though — the location is amazing and my roommate’s pretty cool.

I know I’m cheating by making you wait until my next post for info about orientation (it’s good — you’ll like it), but I feel like I should wait until orientation’s over to summarize it. Orientation continues Monday and Tuesday, with class starting on Wednesday. But just to keep you interested, highlights include Harry Potter, a puppy, Merrick Garland, and some CMU pride. Stay tuned!

Are Christians “Missing the Boat” on Donald Trump?

Wayne Allyn Root, a businessman and political commentator among other things, wrote a column in which he argues that Christians are “missing the boat” on Donald Trump and that they should not only vote for him, but that doing anything else is denying the messages that God is sending us. I had enough thoughts on this that I wanted to write my own point-by-point rebuttal of where I believe Root is missing the whole point.

Root begins with the famous joke about a devout man stuck on a roof during a massive flood. He refuses any and all help, claiming that he’s waiting for God. Now, the man dies and meets God, and he asks about God’s refusal to save him. God replies, “What did you want? I sent you three different people to help you.”

This man on the roof, the writer claims, is America, and Trump is our rowboat. “Maybe God,” Root says, “is trying to tell us something important — that now is not the time for a ‘nice Christian guy’ or a ‘gentleman’ or a typical Republican powder puff…. Because right about now we need a miracle, or America is finished.”

My first question to Root — what’s the flood? What’s the supposed disaster that only someone who is as much of a “warrior” as Donald Trump is (we’ll get to that in a second) can save us from? And how exactly is Donald Trump, who has offered to pay legal fees to defend those who attack his dissenters, a miracle? And finally, if Root is worried that putting Hillary Clinton in the oval office will “finish” America on the world stage, imagine the damage Trump could do. Just look at his kowtowing to Putin and say that under Trump, America is in no danger of losing its place in international relations.

“Maybe a gentleman… would lead us to slaughter,” Root says. Slaughter? As in, mass death? How exactly would the election of a democrat, even one as hated as Hillary Clinton, lead us to a slaughter? Maybe what we’re talking about here is the fear that Hillary would appoint super-liberal Supreme Court justices who would extend the power of the government and whose politics would far outlive her presidency. I would be just as worried, if not more, about the justices Trump would appoint, considering his opposition to a free press, free exercise of religion, and free speech from anyone who disagrees with him.

On the other hand, maybe “slaughter” is referring to the possibility of widespread Christian persecution, of ultimately outlawing Christianity. I find this a difficult possibility to imagine from a candidate who also claims Christianity, unless persecution here is taken to mean the allowance that non-believers not be bound to Christian morality. In a world where Christians in other countries are being actively arrested for practicing their faith or even hunted down and killed, this, too, is an offensive parallel. And this is to say nothing of Trump’s repeated desire to stop Muslims of all sorts from entering the United States (including those Muslims who are also being hunted down and killed) and to assume the guilt, rather than innocence, of Muslims who are already citizens. This is persecution.

But either way, “slaughter” sounds more like fear mongering than an actual danger.

Then Root brings up several past Republicans, presumably the “all-around nice Christians” he’s warning about, who have failed to do what Root wants. “Did any of them lead the GOP to ‘the promised land?’”

What exactly is this “Promised Land” that the GOP is ostensibly looking for? It seems that what Root would really like to see is a theocracy, a government run strictly under Christian values. A country run by God — or at least, run by what we think God wants. A country to bless those around it — or at least, to tell them why they’re wrong. However admirable doing what we perceive to be God’s will may be, it is not the government’s job, nor under conservative ideology should it be. It’s ours.

Root seems to think America is the new Israel. It would take a whole other column to explain why I believe that’s so wrong, but suffice to say for now that America is not Israel. We are not the Chosen People. We have been promised nothing more than His grace and mercy, which is far more than we deserve. But it is not “the Promised Land.”

Then Root answers his own question: “No, because if you don’t win, you have no say.” This, to me, betrays an ultimate misunderstanding of the American government, or deliberate oversimplification, which seems more likely, given Root’s political experience. One senator can force things to grind to a halt on procedural grounds or start a filibuster. A minority can be significantly more problematic. And, you know what’s interesting? The GOP currently has majorities in both chambers of Congress. Does Root really believe that the Presidency is the only seat of US political power? Republicans have managed to block major policy from the Obama administration since gaining the Senate, and had managed to block plenty from just the House. If they’re don’t “have any say,” I don’t think it’s because of who’s sitting in the Oval Office. Maybe it’s because they’re not doing their job.

So, then, Root addresses what happens if “we” (Christians, or in Root’s estimation, Republicans) have no say. “Maybe God understands if we don’t win this election, America is dead. It’s over. The greatest nation in world history will be gone. Finished. Kaput. Adios. … And God can’t allow that.”

I find this premise faulty at best — America is finished if the Republican nominee doesn’t win this election? What is his definition of “finished” here? Is he talking about a failed state with an inability to protect its citizens, or is he talking about less power and prestige, less acknowledgement of American exceptionalism? Or, even deeper, is he talking about losing the ability to turn this country into a Christian theocracy? But there’s a larger question at issue here.

Does God need America?

Root seems to think that God needs America in order to accomplish His will, that America is the Kingdom come to Earth. And without America, God will fail.

Put that way, Root’s assertion is hubristic at best, blasphemous at worst.

But, Root argues, America has used power to overcome evil before. “When we won World War II, was God ‘nice?’ Were we gentlemanly when defeating Hitler?” Well… yes. At least as far as chivalry goes — in World War II, we were defending those who could not defend themselves. Yes, it’s more complicated than that, but comparing defeating the Democrats to liberating concentration camps and stopping the wholesale slaughter of millions of people is more than misleading and tone-deaf. It’s blind to the point of absurdity, and it’s offensive.

Then, Root does the requisite scripture-quoting and cites Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Trump has lots of energy for someone his age, Root says, more than the rest of the primary contenders, and therefore his energy must be from God. “You mean that kind of energy in a 70-year old [sic] isn’t inspired by God?” Apparently, a few cans of Red Bull and you’re divinely inspired.

Taking strength (or energy) to be equivalent to God’s favor/inspiration isn’t supported by scripture, or history — what about the strength of Ahab and Jezebel, of King Herod, of the Roman Empire? What about the strength of Egypt? Sure, they lost — after enslaving Israel for 400 years. What about the strength of the Nazi movement and Hitler, of Stalin’s cult of personality, of the North Korean dictatorship that still refuses to fall? What about all of the Psalms where David mourns the strength and power of his enemies?

Let’s take a look at the people God HAS used in leadership:

  • David, a shepherd boy and the youngest of twelve who only defeated Goliath because everyone else refused to. He wouldn’t accept any shiny armor or acclamation. He was just doing what God commanded.
  • Daniel, who gained power through submission and using his gifts. He refused to give glory to anyone but God to the point of ending up in the lion’s den.
  • Paul, who God struck blind to humble, who accepted imprisonment with thanksgiving, and whose epistles are saturated with gratitude and humility. He told his followers to be joyful when they were persecuted for the sake of the gospel and to continue serving anyway.
  • Moses, who had a stutter or other difficulty speaking and who couldn’t even speak without his brother Aaron to help him. Moses could be someone you say isn’t a “nice guy,” but God humbled him and used him to bring liberation to people who were in literal slavery.

These examples don’t demonstrate that God only uses “nice guys” — God uses humility and those who are able to point back to Him (and not just by accident).

But Root is uninterested in the submissive form of leadership. He wants to fight “against Obama, Hillary, big government, big business, big media, big unions… the powerful forces of evil.” So Obama and his cohort are the ultimate enemy for Christians, despite Obama being a Christian himself. Even if you don’t believe that Obama is a Christian (which seems pretty presumptuous), the assumption in Root’s argument is that Obama, Hillary, and liberal groups are the enemy of American Christians — or maybe even Christianity itself. But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where Christians are instructed to fight God’s fight against political parties or interest groups. Jesus tells the Pharisees to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” and their problem wasn’t just taxes that were too high. Jesus’s messages to the oppressed Israelites were to free the captives and love the poor — not to fight a political revolution or crush their enemies (though his commands are definitely revolutionary on their own).

But Root is in awe. “With Trump we mount up with wings like eagles. With Trump as our leader there is nothing we can’t do. …With Trump we run, we are not weary. … Trump inspires us. Trump gives us hope.”

This, friends, makes Trump God. And Trump is not God.

Let me say that again. In this reading of this passage, Root has given the role of God to Trump. He has told us that our hope is in Trump, and scripture is pretty clear that our hope is in the Lord.

Let me refute with my own scripture citation: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” — Ephesians 6:12. These are not earthly authorities or governments; these are the powers of spiritual darkness. Our fight is not against our “political enemies,” and it’s not against each other. As Christians, our fight is against the forces of Hell, not the forces of the Left.

And the more we fight each other, the more the forces of darkness cheer as we do their work for them.

Dealing with Difficult Relatives

Any time I see an article on this topic, the advice generally goes something like this: “We know it’s hard to disagree with relatives sometimes, but they love you and want you to be happy, so as long as you explain to them that what you’re doing makes you happy, they’ll be kind about it even if they don’t agree with you! Then everything will work out just fine!”

I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I define difficult relatives. Continue reading

Starting “The Law School Diaries”: Law School Prep

This August, I have the amazing opportunity to start studying at Harvard Law School. While I’m at it, I decided I wanted to start a blog series on my experiences for those of you who are interested in maybe going to law school one day, or even are just curious about what the experience is like. For those of you who are going through law school right now, I hope this series can be a companion in your journey — I’d love to hear about your experiences, too!

The Road So Far

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