President Donald Trump is stoking racial tensions and dismantling environmental protections, and State Department Science Envoy Daniel Kammen has decided he just can’t take it anymore. In a letter to Trump first reported by BuzzFeed News on Wednesday, Kammen—a renewable energy scientist at the University of California, Berkeley—became the latest administration official to resign in protest from his government position. Kammen’s letter was powerful; it not only blasted Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville as in line with a “broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism,” but called out Trump’s “destructive pattern” of policy decisions, like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and defunding climate research.
But Kammen’s letter did more than denounce the president’s behavior. It also subliminally called for Trump’s removal from office—by spelling out, with the first letter of each paragraph, the word “IMPEACH.”
If this sounds familiar, it’s because basically the same thing happened last week. All 17 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned following Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville. They penned a strongly worded letter that doubled as an acrostic poem. The message was “RESIST.”
I can understand why the arts and humanities people would do it; poems, even bad ones, are their thing. It makes less sense coming from a renewable energy scientist, but I’m tempted to give him a pass as well. We all know what it takes to get the media to cover anything related to climate change.
Still, for at least three reasons, this gimmick should not become a trend. One: These resignation letters are unprecedented and important on their own, shining light on how the president’s destructive nature makes it impossible for public servants to do their jobs. Two: The acrostics are a distraction, overshadowing the letters’ primary message. Three: Acrostic poems should never, ever be allowed to escape the drab beige walls of our nation’s middle-school classrooms. The tactic appears childish, and gives Trump loyalists fodder to claim that the authors are merely seeking attention and self-promotion. Your resignation is serious—why stoop to the president’s level by going back to middle school?
If you’re considering resigning from the Trump administration, let your principles speak for themselves. And if you think the president should be impeached, or that the public should resist, shout it from the rooftops.
UPDATE: There is one situation where resignation letter acrostics are acceptable.