Grandpa, please don't add another brick to the wall

Guest Opinion by Robert Reynolds

My late grandfather rarely changed his opinions.  Head of a business that employed thousands of Montanans, his office nameplate joked, “CEO (and don’t you forget it!).”  In that same office, he taught me a lesson I will never forget: always, always vote Republican.  His favorite farewell was, “I love you and don’t run over any Republicans.”

If he were still alive, this is what I would tell him: 

Grandpa, don’t vote for Trump. 

Our Catholic, Jesuit tradition believes that how we treat others — especially those different from us — is the highest expression of our faith.  Instead of highlighting how my siblings and I are different because of our mother’s Mexican heritage, you celebrated our multiculturalism.  You practiced Spanish with me, drew similarities between my maternal grandparents’ immigrant values and your family’s homesteader values, and consistently introduced my sisters saying, “The reason my granddaughters are so pretty is because they are half-German and half-Mexican.”

Instead of bringing us together, Trump denounces the “other.”  He says Indiana-born U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel has “an absolute conflict” in presiding over Trump University litigation because he is “of Mexican heritage.”  In Judge Curiel I see myself: a US-born Latino from rural America.

Grandpa, do you believe that a Montanan of Mexican descent is unfit for public office?

You saluted Reagan’s call to “tear down this wall.”  Trump fuels bigotry that builds walls between us.  Each additional vote Trump and his supporters — such as Mr. Gianforte and Representative Zinke — receive creates an America with a smaller definition of us and a larger definition of them.

I know that not voting for the Republican nominee may feel like you are abandoning your Party, contradicting your teachings, and opposing many of your friends.  I empathize with these challenges, but Trump does not represent your values.  This time it is wrong to vote Republican.

Born the year the Great Depression struck, you taught me that with hard work and good values I can help drive any change I want — from ending poverty to sending humans to Mars.  You instilled my belief that America’s best is yet to come.  Before we can get to work building our tomorrow — our most prosperous chapter ever — we need to deconstruct the wall that Trump has built to divide us.  Please, Grandpa, don’t add another brick to that wall.

Robert Reynolds is from Miles City and lives in Washington, D.C.  He is a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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