Open Letter to Louise Linton About Angels and Humanity
Dear Ms. Linton,
This has undoubtedly been a difficult couple of days for you, both as a person and as the wife of the United States Treasury Secretary.
Nobody enjoys the sudden onrush of hostile attention that comes when something they’ve said goes viral, and not in a good way. Your public record, and even your recent infamous post, suggests you want to be a good person – or, at the very least, that you’d like to be seen as one.
That’s not how people are seeing you at the moment, and that has to be rough.
Perhaps it would help if someone explained why you’ve received so much negative attention in the last 48 hours.
Simply put: You live in a bubble. That’s not your fault. It’s just the way it is. According to the Internet – the same Internet that has turned on you with such ferocity – you were born into a wealthy Scottish family and educated at the prestigious St George’s School for Girls and Fettes College.
Your family owns a real-life, honest to God castle, for God’s sake.
A little self-awareness is therefore in order: Your experience is not like that of most people. Some people are born into privilege and make a dedicated effort to see life from other people’s point of view. That does not seem to have been the case with you.
Out of Africa
The controversy about your “memoir” of life as a volunteer teenager in Zambia suggests that you didn’t see the people of Zambia at all. The country itself seems to have passed you by. There are, for example, no 12-inch spiders there.
You portrayed Zambia as a savage, untamed place where wild animals roamed the street. You also imagined they saw you as an idealized, almost heavenly figure: a skinny foreigner “with long angel hair.”
Here’s a tip: Zambia is not a wild land, and you were not the first blonde that the people there had ever seen. They have many foreign visitors. They are also familiar with European and American magazines, television, and film.
The only “angel hair” spoken of in the capital city of Lusaka, in fact, is served at one of the city’s many Italian restaurants: here’s a listing of the top five, courtesy of TripAdvisor. Casa Portico has good pasta dishes, we’re told, while Frescobar is praised for its “great food and vibe.”
See the People
You apparently do not appear to see the people of this country, either. In the United States, the wealthiest nation in human history, 45 million people live in poverty. That’s unjust. Most of us have endured decades of wage stagnation, a dying middle class, rising deaths of despair, mass incarceration, and other ordeals undreamed of in your rarefied world.
That might help explain why you received a rather unfriendly response when you posted a picture of yourself exiting a U.S. government plane with your husband, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with the following comment:
Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #beautiful #countryside #rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa
You were shown exiting an aircraft that is paid for and bears the symbolic markings of the American people, while wearing – and boasting about – your very expensive clothing. You ended your hashtag string with the name of the country itself, as if this nation – suffering and struggling as it is – was nothing more than another accessory, a bauble to be worn around your wrist or finger or ankle or neck.
An Expensive Bauble
But then, that’s how the entire billionaire-heavy Trump administration, from the President and your husband on down, has treated this country: as a personal trinket to be used for personal enrichment or glorification.
That’s undoubtedly why an Instagram user named Jenni M responded, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable”
You certainly didn’t empathize with Jenni, did you? Here’s what you wrote:
@Jennimiller29 cute!….Aw!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day “trip” than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch. Thanks for the passive aggressive nasty comment. Your kids look very cute. Your life looks cute. I know you’re mad but deep down you’re really nice and so am I. Sending me passive aggressive Instagram comments isn’t going to make life feel better. Maybe a nice message, one filled with wisdom and hunanity [SIC] would get more traction. Have a pleasant evening. Go chill out and watch the new game of thrones. It’s fab!
Have You Given More?
Oh, Louise. You got that so wrong. There’s no room to list all your grievous mistakes, but here are some highlights:
“Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband?”
I don’t need to know anything about Jenni M to know that, in fact, she has been better for the economy than your husband.
There’s no kind way to put this: Your husband was involved in some very bad business. He literally foreclosed on a widow over a 27-cent error.
Investigators in the California Attorney General’s office concluded that his bank had engaged in “widespread violations,” identified over a thousand illegal actions, and wanted to file charges.
Most people find that behavior even creepier than… well, than a 12-inch spider.
Mortgage holders, especially elderly widows, are not something to be used and then discarded like last year’s Hermes scarves.
Your husband’s reputation wasn’t helped when reports emerged alleging that he had perjured himself before Congress. He was once required to run his bank under the supervision of an independent monitor – by an agency he now oversees. Maybe that can help explain why people are a little touchy about the flaunting of your family’s wealth in a government aircraft.
Your husband hasn’t “given” anything to the economy. He and his fellow bankers nearly crashed the global economy, in fact, and the recession they caused has robbed the U.S. economy of trillions of dollars.
It’s more than a little ironic that you and your husband were in Kentucky to tour Fort Knox, that target of James Bond villains where the nation’s gold bullion is stored. He and his fellow bankers robbed the economy of much more money than Fort Knox could ever hold.
Your wealth isn’t the product of personal virtue. You, along with other billionaire families, have benefited from government policies that created levels of economic inequality unseen since the Roaring Twenties of the last century.
You should not have as much as you do, and that which you do possess should be taxed appropriately to restore economic balance.
What’s more, paying taxes isn’t a “sacrifice.” It’s a reciprocal obligation, a chance to repay the nation that has allowed people like you to become so wealthy. It’s an opportunity for gratitude. What’s more, given the way tax laws work in this country, there is every possibility that Jenni M has paid a greater percentage of income in taxes than you or your husband have.
In all likelihood, your ordeal is ending as I write these words. You’ve apologized for your comments through your publicist, and that’s good.
Most of us have to apologize directly, because we don’t have publicists, but any apology is appreciated. Your social media account is now private. If you’re not prepared to grow and change, that’s undoubtedly a good decision.
In any case, I hope this has been “a nice message, one filled with wisdom and hunanity.”
I know it’s been harsh in places, but sometimes the kindest thing we can do is be honest. I hope that the next time you’re tempted to speak out publicly, you will do so with humility and compassion.
Oh, and here’s one last hint about life here in the ordinary world: We identify angels by looking at their hearts, not their hair.