Dear Mr. Trump,
You don’t know me, but I am an American citizen. However, before that, I was also a Syrian immigrant. And now I have become something else: A person fighting cancer.
On November 24, 2016, I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Please consider my position for a moment. If you were in my situation, you would probably be given between 4 to 10 months to live. I can imagine that if you were told this fact, you and your family would be devastated, that you would be frightened, just as I was when I received the news. The idea of death has shaken me to my core and caused me to tremble with a level of fear I never imagined I could experience. If you were in my place, you probably would have gathered your children, your wife, and maybe your brothers and sisters to share the news. That is exactly what I did—after a fashion. I am a single man, and because I live only with my dog, Leonardo, I invited my eight siblings, five of whom are in Europe, to a Skype meeting, during which I announced my diagnosis.
During that Skype meeting, I saw my siblings cry, and then I became silent for a long time as they expressed their disbelief, anger, shock, sadness, loss, and more. We had moments of despair, when all I heard was sobbing and all I saw were tears. If you had my cancer, you and your family would probably do the same thing. I am certain it would be a painful and dreadful moment for you. I would feel really sorry for you. My cancer is painful, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, and I don’t wish it on you.
After that call, as I reflected on my condition, I thought about you, and you helped me come closer to accepting my fate. I would like to thank you for that. But before I explain how you did it, I want to share how I came to know you.
Unlike you, I have been in school my entire life. I am a family physician and a university professor. I am also in a PhD program working toward a degree in education. For me to practice medicine and to care for others, I had to undergo laborious training. Since I also teach clinical medicine and believe that people should strive to become better teachers, I have pursued more training in education so I can better understand students and patients. I believe people should cultivate their skills in the fields in which they desire to practice. That’s why when I learned you were running for president I was shocked. I could not understand what made you want to do something for which you have no training or experience. I thought you were brave, because it would take a lot of courage for me to step out of my comfort zone like that, but I also thought you were ignorant, because I would feel ignorant if I made claims and talked about things about which I knew little or nothing.
Unlike your power, which is a mere show with no truth to it, my power is authentic. The truth of my power lies in my weakness and in my vulnerability.
Just like you, I am not a politician. I would not have known how to answer many of the questions you were asked in the debates. I wondered what went through your mind back then. I put myself in your position and felt confused and puzzled. I imagined that if I were you, I would have felt stressed and may have even sweated a little. Over time, I probably would have gotten over my anxiety and started answering the questions with whatever came to mind. If I were you and I did what you did, saying the first thing that came to mind, I would have felt extremely authentic and true to myself. To say whatever I wanted and to let my story flow would have been a thrill like no other. I would have acted authentically based on what I felt was right at that moment. Then I would have seen the consequences of my words and actions. Later, I would seek to make sense of it as I saw how other people reacted to me.
If I were you, I would feel proud for having beaten Hillary and the rest of the traditional politicians who competed against you. I would regard them with scorn, because they don’t understand the game. They are still playing by the old rules: People should not lie if they don’t have to. If I were you, I would feel confident knowing that I understand the rules of the game way better than everyone else, and I would feel entitled to use my success as objective evidence to support my claim. The only fixed rule in this game is change. The only known is the uncertainty of what you will do and say. The only truth about the story is the fact it is unfolding. I would be proud of my ability to live in the flux. I would feel no resistance, because I would be saying and doing exactly what the people wanted me to say and do even before they knew they wanted me to say and do it. I would have admired myself for opening my soul to the other and being permeable to them, except I know, in your case, it is not a genuine openness and that you are permeable only to a point. Your genuineness and permeability are determined by your desire for power.
Like you, I am also powerful. My power, however, is legitimate, because my powers have been given with consent. As a doctor, I always told my patients that they knew more than I did and that I was only there to present the knowledge I had cultivated so they could learn how to manage their health and choose to do what they wished. I treated my patients like they were the true experts on their health and I was the student. As a professor, the first thing I told my student was never to trust what I taught and never to look at me as someone who knew more than they did. I told them I was there to learn from them rather than the other way around. Finally, as a cancer patient, I demanded that my doctors treat me as an equal. I am following my health-management plan in partnership with them rather than in compliance with their orders. I always know what will happen next before the doctor herself decides or even thinks things through. I dictate my treatment plan, because I know my cancer best.
I can’t speak a lot about your path to power. I see only money and fame. In my values, those two things are pure vanity. You can’t buy my soul with your money, and I find your fame superfluous. I think you feel the same way. I can imagine that after all these years of having tons of money and fame, you’re still thirsty for something more. I can imagine you thinking, “I have it all, but I still feel empty and shallow.” If I were in your position, I would probably wonder, what else can I have? I need more; more of everything: more money, more fame, more people to admire me, and, more importantly, more people beneath me. If I were you, I would have found in the President’s position a great source of satisfaction in terms of my hunger for power. What can be more powerful than the President of the United States? What is more glorious than executive orders that take people’s lives with one scribble and give them back with another? If I were you, I would probably come up with all sorts of malicious orders to enslave people, and then I would be merciful and allow a few exceptions. People would fear my might and hope for my forgiveness.
I am free and strong because of my struggle with uncertainty and death.
The truth of our powers, however, are very different. Unlike your power, which is a mere show with no truth to it, my power is authentic. The truth of my power lies in my weakness and in my vulnerability. I was afraid of losing myself, and I am still uncertain if I will be alive in a few months. I was devastated when I lost my identity: I could no longer take care of patients, teach students, could no longer be what I was. More than losing myself, I was afraid of losing my power. But now that I have recreated myself not as a doctor but as a patient; not as a teacher but as a friend; not as a mighty person but as a person who has the strength to accept the care and love of others, now and only now am I truly powerful. However, even when you became the President, people did not even bother to come out to look at your show when it became reality. Instead, they came out to say how much they hate what you represent. You are lonely there and hated now more than ever.
Donald, I owe you a thank you. You actually saved my life—twice. First, in a moment of a despair, I told myself, “I don’t mind dying; the world has become an ugly place with Trump voted in as president.” I thought your election had exposed the ugliness of the people. At that time, I did not know how to ask the right questions, so I only wondered, how did we allow this to happen? How did our morality go so low that a person like you became our President? How did we award the presidency to someone who boasted about grabbing women by the pussy, spreading hate to gain power, and then using power only to exploit others? My cancer has shown me that people truly care and truly love. Our solidarity has taught me that I have nothing to fear. You no longer bother me, but you still give me a reason to fight what you represent: the devil in us.
Second, as I have seen you hurt others along the way, I have learned to look at my mistakes and apologize to the ones I have hurt. As I have seen you turn your back on people, I have learned to open my arms and to say “thank you.” Hence, I am writing to thank you, because you have made me a better person, a person who is worthy of living.
You should also know that while I am writing my story, I am still living my story and transcending it while it rewrites me. You, on the other hand, have been written.
In my imaginary dialogue with you, you became a figment of my story. I came to know you, and with that I defeated you. Now that you know me, you should also know that you can never defeat me. I am free and strong because of my struggle with uncertainty and death. Before defeating my cancer, I had to defeat death, uncertainty, and my fear of them both. You should also know that while I am writing my story, I am still living my story and transcending it while it rewrites me. You, on the other hand, have been written. You are imprisoned within your own narcissistic, xenophobic self. I am permeable to every other; thus, I am always learning and growing. Because you hate every other and you no longer need to fake permeability, you will always be the self-absorbed 4-year-old child with small hands.
You are legally a president, but you will never legitimately be “the President.” You did not get the majority of the votes. You are legal within our current electoral system, but you will never become legitimate, because you don’t represent the people. Most Americans have made it clear that they don’t want you to be the President. If I were in your situation, I would realize that, too. What you have said and done shows that you also know it—and fear it. To me, your obsession with proving your ungrounded claim about voter fraud is merely one example of your fear of the people and of the fact that people don’t see you as their legitimate President. We both know that you only represent the powerful, the rich, and the mighty. We both know that you could not care less for the poor and that you look with scorn even upon the very people who voted for you.
Once I became aware of these facts, if I were you, I would resign, along with my vice president and my cabinet. I would also allow representatives from every party and independent individuals to form a coalition to lead the country in the transition to the next President. This transition would return power to all people equally: one unit of power per person. I would also invite the great thinkers of our time to amend the Constitution to ensure enough checks and balances exist to prevent someone like you from being elected again. If you don’t respond to my advice, I believe the people should reclaim their power. However, that is just my opinion, and I am expressing it using my constitutional right to free speech. I can’t speak on behalf of the people; people choose to speak or remain silent, as they please.
Mr. Trump, you have become my cancer, and I will only live if you shrink down into a normal person. In two months, I have come to know cancer very well. I am fighting you with my own vulnerability, which is my strength. You, the person who has managed to hide every weakness and vulnerability with “alternative facts,” have no idea how people with cancer fight. Only the vulnerable can win. By the time you learn to be like us, you will vanish, and people will come to see you as who you really are: Trump, not a real President, not even a real man.
- Morhaf Al Achkar