No platforms-as-usual

Dear Republican and Democratic leaders:

Please listen to my plea as you come together to create your Presidential Party platforms. While it is tempting to make these a laundry list of opposing policies, I urge both our Democrat and Republican leaders to first please spend time on the bigger picture – the American picture — that no Platform-As-Usual will mend.

{mosads}To lead us through these turbulent times, domestically and globally, we need leaders who recognize that the fear people are feeling is real, but the resulting anger is tearing apart our nation. Ordinary people are being threatened and beaten, at rallies and at protests, and also in parking lots on the way to the grocery store. To be leaders at this pivotal time in our nation, our United States needs leaders willing to hear and hold the stories of those you are pledging to lead. 

Which means Amy needs you to share her fear for her children. Amy is an African American mother in St. Louis who speaks with an unnerving candidness about her fear that her young sons may not live to adulthood due to the violence rampant on our streets.

It means Jason needs you to understand his concern as a multi-million dollar entrepreneur in San Diego. Jason told me that he worries that his tax dollars are funding his competitors. Jason pays all of his employees a living wage but his competitors’ employees must use the social safety net to reduce their personnel costs because his competitors don’t pay a living wage. Jason is a capitalist who believes he is doing the right thing, but he sees his competitors underbidding him on contracts.  He sees that the social safety net is no longer just for struggling families, it’s being exploited as a business subsidy.

Robin needs you to understand her and other full time workers making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. She works at a profitable clothing store chain but told me, I wouldn’t know by looking at her, she has to live in a homeless shelter because she can’t afford rent in Northern Virginia where many of you also live.

Katheryn lives in Kansas City and needs you to know that as a 16-year-old she has been left as the principal caretaker of her four siblings. These children lost their parents when they went to pay a traffic ticket, and ended up deported. Kathryn’s parents did not have current visas even though both parents worked full time in the United States, paid taxes for more than ten years, and have three U.S. citizen children. I ask you for a moment to ponder Katheryn’s 12-year-old sister, Stephanie, who in her own anguished effort to help reduce the burden on her sister, attempted suicide. 

I urge you to allow yourself to feel the anguish of the mother and the minimum wage worker, the entrepreneur and the teenager. Let your hearts be broken open so that you can truly take in their stories. They are stories of racism and xenophobia; white privilege that still systemically benefits white Americans over all others. We need our leaders to take in the threat of individualism and see that it is unpatriotic and incompatible with our democracy. Certainly you as elected officials do not go it alone. None of us goes it alone.

I know the work is daunting. I do this work because of my Catholic faith, which in our amazing pluralistic nation, is not shared by all of you. But I also know that where we all meet is in our U.S. Constitution. The preamble sets forth the standard that I urge you to use to create, not a laundry list of policies, but a vision for our nation. A vision for Amy and her sons, Robin, Jason, Kathryn and Stephanie. A vision for all who are fearful and angry. I urge you to use this daunting moment to help reweave the fabric of our society and create your Platforms as visions for the 100% where We the People can form the more perfect union that we all, in our broken hearts, seek. 

Sr. Simone Campbell is executive director of Network and leader of Network’s “Nuns on the Bus”. She is author of “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.” 





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