An Open Letter To Ivanka Trump, From One Daughter To Another

It's time to have a heart-to-heart with your father.
Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony at Old Post Office
Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony at Old Post Office on July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Dear Ms. Trump,

I, too, am a daughter of a complex if not difficult man ― a man who, while he had loyal friends, trusting colleagues and loving family, was not universally understood, appreciated or liked. He is no longer alive but, if he were, he might agree with some of your father’s political positions.

I watched with curiosity as you introduced your father to the Republican National Convention. Your deep love and admiration for the man whose last name you bear is what struck me. No doubt he’s a light of your life. Your speech moved me, not as a voter but as a daughter who wasn’t able to articulate to my dad how much he meant to me when I still had the chance.

My father wasn’t thrilled with this country’s immigration policies, especially toward Latin Americans, even though he arrived as a refugee in 1950 fleeing communist Hungary and his own path to citizenship had not been a cakewalk. He didn’t want the United States to be soft on dictators or terrorists given that he’d lost his entire family to Nazi atrocities and barely survived the Holocaust.

Versions of some of his tirades, delivered around the dinner table, are now repeated with less nuance and to a much larger audience by your father. I’m familiar with and understand why some people are sympathetic to these views although I don’t hold them myself. 

Dads, even though we might love them to the moon and back and until the end of time, can still be utterly exasperating doofuses.

As a convert to Judaism, I imagine you are familiar with Jewish teachings on compassionate speech as well as the teaching that children are not responsible for sins of their fathers. Therefore I am not going to insult your intelligence, indulge the secular celebration of snark or hop aboard the (justifiable) rage train barreling through the nation by chronicling everything your father has said that my own dad, despite being unabashedly politically incorrect at times, would have found beyond the pale. I simply want to say that dads, even though we might love them to the moon and back and until the end of time, can still be utterly exasperating doofuses.

My own father’s small scale doofusness took many forms. Sometimes he looked like a doofus because he wore socks with leather sandals, even mismatched hosiery that drooped around his ankles. He failed to button his wrinkled shirts properly, prompting me to straighten him out. His salt and pepper hair had a mind and a life of its own, refusing to be tamed by the common comb, and was almost as caricature-worthy as your father’s unparalleled mane.

That my dad didn’t look like other fathers bothered me at times. Still, his refusal to adopt a polished appearance made me proud. As a physics professor, he preferred to think about things other than matching socks and impeccable locks. That he didn’t particularly care what impression he made gave me permission to not conform, either, and to look beyond and beneath blow dried facades to discover who a person really was.

The special bond between fathers and daughters can cause us to flinch or turn away when our dads look either like a doofus or say or do something doofus-y if not disgraceful. I often tolerated my father’s cantankerousness, his habit of referring to people as “idiots,” and his unwillingness or inability to take other views into account.

Despite the difficulties such behaviors created in my life, I eventually realized that he probably didn’t know any better than to think to himself, even if not aloud, that he was smarter than others and “I alone can fix this” or “I alone have the answer.” He was raised on another continent, in another country, in a vanished culture and distant era. He lost his parents as a teenager and, despite his intellect and academic credentials, lacked schooling in less caustic ways of interaction.

Still, after he passed away, I found amongst his many papers a letter from a colleague: the writer complained of my dad’s propensity to argue, his refusal to consider others’ perspective and his habit of demeaning those who didn’t agree with him, accusations leveled at your own father.

Sometimes it takes a third party to draw a more accurate portrait of the people we love.

Reading that letter broke my grieving heart even further, even though it represented just one person’s experience, not that of millions. I wanted to explain to the writer that my father, beneath his occasional outbursts, had been a sensitive soul who’d suffered unspeakable losses, losses which he probably hadn’t fully grieved let alone healed, losses that he coped with by, at times, lashing out in frustration. Yet, I could not in good conscience deny the letter writer’s perspective. That he chose to reach out to my father at all, much as I and others are reaching out to you, indicated a basic respect and belief that greater harmony could be possible. Most of us do not wish to be demeaned or exposed to perpetual argument.

Sometimes it takes a third party to draw a more accurate portrait of the people we love. To accept that our fathers are flawed, even if deeply, doesn’t diminish the huge role they play in our lives: it just makes these men human. From what I understand, your father enjoyed an early life of privilege rather than trauma, deprivation and displacement. It’s therefore hard for me to empathize with his propensity to lash out or attack the less privileged, nor do I understand what he hopes to gain from doing so, since he already has more than any person could want.

As much as you love your father, and I don’t question your obvious affection for him, it appears that his particular if not peculiar manifestations of doofusness have tipped if not plunged into deeply distressing territory. His compulsive criticism of Mrs. Khan, the despondent mother of a fallen soldier, for remaining silent during her husband’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, has further outraged and aggrieved many people who’ve tested the limits of their patience, tolerance and blood pressure by trying to remain open minded in the face of your father’s inflammatory remarks. The Houston Chroniclewriting in its editorial page, referred to your dad as “a danger to the Republic.” 

To have your father so categorized by a reputable newspaper in a red state is, I imagine, embarrassing and heartbreaking to a devoted daughter such as you. And, it presents an opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk with him. Thanks to your close relationship, you have a chance to help him and the country heal.

Please, gently take him by the elbow and escort him off the national stage so he can return to minding his businesses. The fate of the free world could depend on your courage.

As his beloved daughter to whom he’s entrusted much responsibility in his business and campaign, he might listen to you more carefully than to anyone else, including his current wife. I urge you to tell him that, as much as you love him, you love your country, too, the place where you’ve thrived beyond many people’s wildest dreams and perhaps even your own. Please tell him, as my father told me, that success in life isn’t about being the best or “winning” all the time.

Perhaps it’s fallen to you, in what might be the toughest if not the most terrifying act of love you’ll ever commit, to look into his eyes and tell him to back off from attacking others if not back down from the electoral contest altogether. Tell him you’ll have his back if he decides to walk away from this particular deal or, rather, ordeal.

That your father has succeeded in toppling the GOP’s “big tent” has been, in the view of this independent, a service to our political system and to the future of the United States. I and others recognize this outcome, even if we did not approve of his tactics. For many, what your father has done is not just yuge but more than enough.

Please, gently take him by the elbow and escort him off the national stage so he can return to minding his businesses. The fate of the free world could depend on your courage. If you take up this challenge and succeed, you might just become the American “queen of people’s hearts.”

Respectfully,

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