Dear Mr. Trump,
As a successful entrepreneur and business executive, you have shown the American public the power of branding. As a political candidate, you have touched on the concerns of Americans from all walks of life. Yes, we all know you’ve become a polarizing figure, but, we see that in our politicians, rock stars, and yes, even our Popes.
And that’s why I am writing you this letter. I think your relationship with Pope Francis got off to a needlessly rocky start. You and the current leader of the world’s one-and-a-quarter billion Catholics actually have quite a bit in common despite your obvious differences:
- The Pope is not afraid of speaking off-the-cuff. That’s honestly what got you into your exchange with the Holy Father. The Pope was asked a question with coded language (you know as well as I do that your name was never mentioned) and he responded in his honest, down-to-earth way. The Pope has frustrated a lot of believers for his willingness to simply answer questions without a filter, but it’s also a trait that has endeared him to millions. Obviously, this is a point of popularity where you and the Pope have a great deal in common.
- Both you and the Pope have attempted to reach out to generally-underserved communities in your respective organizations. Both of you have, in the past struck a conciliatory tone towards gays and lesbians. Both of you have challenged the status quo and the perceived “elites” in the institutional power structures of your organizations.
- Both of you have almost universal name and brand recognition. Taking the religious aspects out of the equation, the Pope has property and investments all across the world. I’d think the Catholic Church is represented in more countries than Trump hotels. From a purely marketing perspective, both of you are extraordinarily successful men.
- Both of you have made immigration a center point of your respective public lives. Now, the two of you might be as far apart as anyone about the rights of migrants and displaced peoples, but it could be a situation where dialogue could advance in the public forum.
- Both of you have proven yourselves to be skilled negotiators. The Pope recently was an integral part to the normalization of US relations with Cuba. Mr. Trump, your business acumen and “making deals” are critical to your appeal to the American people.
As a Presbyterian, you may not be aware of a strain of anti-Catholic rhetoric that sometimes rises up in American society. While Catholics in the United States have not suffered the persecution that Christians and Jews have and are experiencing in other parts of the world, “anti-Papist” sentiments are alive and well in parts of the United States.
A lot of folks think that you probably will never get along with Pope Francis. Not only do I think that this is a short-sighted write-off of a popular religious and political figure (Mr. Trump, I know that you make your decisions like a business executive: cutting off an important potential resource over misquotes in the media isn’t savvy business), but also it takes away your “only Nixon can go to China” moment.
In 1972, President Nixon visited China. A hardliner and anti-communist, Nixon’s “opening” of China was a political and foreign policy milestone. Nixon was largely considered unassailable in his staunch opposition to communism, so his decision to go to China could not be attacked as somehow capitulating to foreign interests.
Yesterday, you were quick to tweet out that the Vatican is “surrounded” by high, thick walls. The insinuation of the tweets was that the Pope is a hypocrite for living behind walls while telling nations that building walls to prevent immigration is not in the spirit of Christianity. As much as I would have preferred the Pope not to refer to someone’s political beliefs as being pro/anti-Christian, I doubt that you intend to imply that Vatican City, a place with a residential population of ~850 people (far fewer than the number of people living in Trump buildings worldwide) should have the same policies of a nation with over 300 million residents.
That being said, the fact is that “the Vatican” is actually not surrounded by walls. The Via della Conciliazione cuts right from St. Peter’s Square all the way to the Tiber. If you’re unfamiliar with the political demarcations, basically, the border of “Vatican City” and Italy isn’t a wall, but is embodied in a just thick white painted line.
I know as a successful business executive, you probably have had the chance to visit Rome in the past, but maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Vatican. Now, I might not be the best tour guide, but I did live a stones-throw away for a few months and I can tell you, “it’s yuuge, fabulous, and just great.” Let me tell you something: “Popes are great builders.”
If you ever want to go to Rome and then head to the Vatican, I’d be more than happy to take you around.
As a political leader, and, at least by most any metric these days, the likely Republican Presidential nominee (and, thereby basically a coin-toss for the Presidency), you have the unique opportunity to strike a conciliatory tone and work to expand your relationship with American Catholics. We may not all be supporters of everything that Pope Francis says or does, but, in the end, he’s still the Pope. I know that there are a lot of American Catholics who would consider supporting your campaign. So, in the spirit of the Year of Mercy, or, heck, in the spirit of the “Art of the Deal,” compromise could go a long way.
Disclaimer: The Author, Matt McDaniel is a candidate for Baltimore City Council. Mr. McDaniel has not endorsed any candidate nor has he received money or support from any candidate. The views expressed here are his own (and a bit satirical). If you’d like to know more about his campaign, you can visit www.ChooseMatt.com