A Letter to Speaker Paul Ryan

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Mailed today!

Dear Speaker Ryan,

I am concerned for our country’s future, and I see you as a sensible leader with the potential to be a force for good. You have no particular reason to hear to me out. I am not a Republican, and I oppose most of your party’s platform. I am not your constituent, and I probably wouldn’t vote for you if I were. Still, I reach out to you because you strike me as a man willing to listen to reason. You are a reluctant leader, thrust into a higher position of power than you deliberately sought, and I value your humility. I can see you have a strong moral compass even if you sometimes suppress it for political expediency. As fellow natives of Wisconsin, I think we can understand each other. Both of our families have lived in southeastern Wisconsin since the 1800s. It wouldn’t surprise me if we are distantly related; some of my cousins even look like you. I know the people and values from which you come.

There is a lot that I would love to ask of our government, but I will limit myself to three requests. Please take these to heart as you and your party lead America into 2017 and beyond.

1.    Heed science. Science shouldn’t be a partisan issue. America leads the world in research. We should all be proud of that, and pay attention to our scientists’ findings. For example, scientists overwhelmingly agree that human-caused climate change is a serious and urgent threat. For the federal government to ignore it would be the height of irresponsibility. Our grandchildren would never forgive us. I’m sure you already know this, and your reluctance to act must be due to lingering doubts. I ask you to talk, in person, with climate scientists, and you will see that they have integrity and speak with certainty. Beyond this one issue, we need science-based policy in all areas of government: energy, agriculture, health, and so on. We need well-funded science agencies like the NSF, the NIH, the EPA, and NOAA, in order to stay on the global forefront of discovery. We may disagree on what to do with the facts, but let’s make sure we all know them. As a scientist myself, I ask you to lead with your head, not your gut.
2.    Listen to the disadvantaged. Countless Americans, especially those who are the most different from you and me, are terrified. The incoming leadership has shown little indication that it will stand up for the rights of anyone who isn’t a native-born white heterosexual male. I can only assume that many Republican leaders simply don’t have any personal friends who are immigrants, or gay, or Muslim, etc. Because the thing is, once you spend some time with people of different backgrounds, you can’t help but feel some compassion for them. I know immigrants who are afraid that their families, still abroad, will not be able to join them here. I know nontraditional families worried about whether they will be able to get insurance for their non-biological children. I know women who fear that the new government will condone sexual assault. I ask you to take the time to listen to the stories from people like this. Before making legislative decisions, please at least take their concerns into consideration.
3.    Block Trump. Trump’s presidency will be unprecedented in several frightening ways. These include his financial conflicts of interest, his lack of transparency, his inability to control his emotions, his disregard for American institutions and standards of decency, his reliance on blatant bigotry as a political tool, and his complete disrespect for many, perhaps most, American citizens. Our nation has a proud history of standing up to authoritarian regimes all over the world. It would be ironic and tragic if we fostered one on our own soil. I urge you to limit Trump’s power however you can. Should it be legally practical, please remove him from power. I ask this knowing full well that he would probably be replaced with a conservative whom I would detest. Still, there a big difference between, say, agreeing to disagree about the optimal size of the federal budget, and the mortal peril of Trump’s unacceptably inadequate leadership.

Thank you for your time and attention. America is counting on you. Please lead us wisely.

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