An Open Letter To Donald Trump From A Social Worker

I'm worried about you.
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Dear Mr. Trump:

I hope this letter finds you well.

I’m part of a weird profession. I’m a social worker.

What makes it weird is that as a group we often have an unconventional response to people’s feelings. I recognized this since I was very young, long before I became a social worker.

Specifically, I recognized it around anger.

I would often notice that when someone got angry, the person who they were angry at tended to get angry too. They’d get angry at that person and they’d yell and argue. Sometimes it became violent ― physically violent.

Back to my being weird — I rarely remember having this kind of reaction. People got angry at me all the time. I was a smart aleck, I could be self-righteous and I could be moralistic. Or just a “scootch” as my Italian family would say. But when someone got angry, I got curious.

“Why are they angry?” I’d think. Sure, maybe I was annoying, but where did that anger come from? Sometimes I even responded with sadness, or tears.

So I’m writing because I’ve been having all kinds of responses to you.

Not your policies — full disclosure: I disagree with most of what you’re advocating for.

I disagree on ethical grounds as well as practicality grounds (e.g., it’s unethical and wrong to say that Mexicans are rapists and it’s impractical to think a wall will keep Mexicans out of the United States), but that’s not why I’m writing. There are no shortage of politicians with whom I disagree morally, ethically, practically, etc.

Here’s my thing: When I work with kids (I’ve worked in and out of child welfare for eight years now), often the kid in my office is not the one who’s being picked on; he/she is not the one who’s getting beaten up. It’s the kid who’s saying the “mean” things. The one who’s throwing things at the teacher. The guy or gal who we call a “bully.”

I was the target of some bullying growing up, but it wasn’t excessive and I had a pretty healthy ego to withstand it. I do naturally sympathize much more with the quiet kid, the underdog, the kid who’s being missed or picked on.

But I’m much more concerned about the kid who’s being “bad.” I’m wondering what the message is behind his taunting, her racial slurs, his homophobia, her violence, his haughtiness.

I’ve learned, and it hasn’t always been easy, to look for the message behind the behavior, no matter how horrendous that behavior is to others (or to me).

See, I told you social work is a weird profession.

So when I hear you mock Marco Rubio (“little Marco”), or when I hear you talk about women as if they’re reduced to their biological cycle, or when I hear you be dismissive of other people (“You’re fired!”) I admit, I’m curious.

“I want to know why you feel the need to say things in such an inflammatory, divisive, dismissive way.”

What is behind this need to do that to others?

And let me say, this isn’t just you that I’m curious about, Mr. Trump. I know a lot of your supporters. I’m related to several of them.

I’m really, really curious as to what happened to you and to them.

People seem to really respond to how you say things to others. I want to know why you feel the need to say things in such an inflammatory, divisive, dismissive way.

Especially dismissive. Why don’t you have a conversation where you respect the other person talking?

What are you covering up?

An artist made that image of you with the small penis. That must have not felt good. But since you have so much power and most of us do not, I can understand the impetus to mock you, to humiliate you.

But I really don’t understand why, with all your money, with all your power, with all your status you, you, you of all people need to humiliate others. To, for lack of a better word, “bully” them.

I know that if I’m in a conversation or an argument with someone, and I’m feeling the desire to say something cutting or shaming, it’s because I’ve usually run out of logical argument strands.

Now I don’t expect you to have the same amount of ongoing, extensive self-reflectiveness as someone who’s a social worker and therapist — it’s taken years of therapy to know myself well enough to sit with that desire — and sometimes I still act out and act on it.

But I know that when I do it always means I “lost.”

So I’m not holding you to the standard I’d hold another social worker. I’m just really, really curious.

I’m also afraid. I’m afraid you may run the country without having any of that self-reflectiveness.

Hillary Clinton, whatever you think about her, and I’m not sure what you think about her because, let’s be real here, you kind of changed your mind about her a few times. Secretary Clinton is self-reflective. She may be ambitious which requires some ego and isn’t inherently a bad thing, but rarely do I get the sense she’s acting from a bullying place.

With you, Mr. Trump, I’m worried about you being in a room with heads of state and you needing to reassert yourself instead of thinking about us.

You know how some kids don’t want dad to come to school because he’s going to blow up and feel insulted, thus making it more difficult for the kid the next day in class?

That’s me with you.

Jesus, what the hell would you do if Angela Merkel disagrees with you? How do I know you won’t lose your cool. If you can’t handle Marco Rubio (Marco Rubio!) how can you be in a room with Angela Merkel. With Vladimir Putin?

So I want to offer you a compromise.

If you stop running for office I will treat you, twice a week. This will be about 90 minutes of your time, so you can still run your businesses, influence politics, start a TV show. We can do it in your office, my office or remotely.

It’ll be confidential. This is just an invitation, I won’t let anyone know ― it’s the law and it’s my ethical duty.

I’m not going to try to change your politics, even your beliefs. I just want to help you understand how you get in your own way. I work fairly relationally so we’ll get to intimately look at how you, Donald Trump, affect another person. It’ll be safe. It’ll be healing.

And in four years if you decide to run again, I promise, you won’t have to try so hard. There won’t be as much pressure as you probably live with right now.

You can be you without having to prove to everyone how you-ish you are.

Invitation’s open. Check out my website, I can also make a referral if you’d prefer someone else.

Thanks for reading.


Justin Lioi


Justin Lioi, LCSW

Counselor for Men

Twitter: @jlioilcsw

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