“Sometimes even the President of the United States must have to stand naked.”
—Bob Dylan, Nobel Prize winning musician
Dear Mr. President-Elect,
It’s not that we want to see you naked. It’s that we want to see your soul. We want to know who you really are, under the dark suits and power ties, under the dark brim of the white hat, behind the make-up and and the spray-tan. We want to know who you are, beyond the gold-trimmed doors and marble foyers.
Who you are in your core, I mean. When have you worked? When have you driven a nail? When have you felt pain? When have you been us, getting up early to get coffee, waiting at a bus-stop in the rain, merging into traffic on the interstate? When have you been tired in your body because you worked out of doors, in the early mornings, in the light, under the clouds, through the seasons?
One thing Americans can relate to is work. I’d love to spend a day hanging sheetrock with you. I’d love to hear you cuss a blue-streak—not to impress a bunch of sycophants in a bus on a Hollywood lot—but because you’re straining to push the a 4 x 8 sheet against the ceiling, and sweat is dripping down your nose, and you’re saying, “Hurry the fuck up, this thing is killing me, man.”
I don’t mean I want to see you suffer. I mean to say that I want to see you as a man, a human-being, one who struggles like us, who has to get things done, who only has a couple of hours on the weekend to change the oil, wash the kitchen windows, put the laundry in, make soup for the week.
I have this image of you. It’s time for you to learn something. You’re here to mow my lawn. But you don’t know how to set the wheel-height on the mower, so you ask me, and I show you. I show you how to prime the carburetor. You ask where the best place to start is. I say, “Up by the pond. Work your way down. But watch out for the rocks that got pushed up by the frost. They’re hard to see sometimes.”
For two hours you mow. The July sun is lighting up the field. I can smell the grass and gasoline through the open window. I see you pass from time to time by the room where I am writing. There are flecks of grass stuck to your shins and clumps matted to the bottoms of your ratty running shoes. Your shirt is darkened with sweat. You come past suddenly and then you’re gone, the sound of the mower growing faint until it’s down the hill again.
I know you’re done when the the mower shuts down. I can hear the birds again. I see you pushing the mower back towards the shed where the chicken coop is. I watch you open the chicken coop door. The hens spill out, eager to get at the fresh grass and dandelion greens. They love the light and the sweetness of summer. You lay there in the grass, propped up on your elbows, watching them peck away. One of them pecks at your shoe-lace. You smile at that, and you lift your head and look up to the tops of the maple trees at the edge of the woods. The leaves quiver in the breeze. Your eyes follow a crow’s flight, and you just lay there, on a summer afternoon, smelling the grass and watching the birds.