Dear Hillary Clinton
Written on a wet late overcrowded crosstown bus in New York City November 30th while reading on Facebook about the new Sec of the Treasury from Goldman Sachs and how Paul Ryan plans to cut food stamp assistance by 23 billion.
Dear Hillary Clinton:
I voted for you in the election. Before that I voted for you in the primary in New York City even though I believed in much of what Senator Sanders had to say. Deep down I wanted you to win and I feel you would have been a fine president. I understand that you must be physically and psychically exhausted. I have seen pictures of you and your husband out walking your dogs in the woods near your home. These are touching and they make me sad. But your service to the country has not ended nor has been precluded by the results of the election. You must act and you must act now. And by act I first mean appear and speak, you must break with the polite norms of what the loser in an election is supposed to do, which is disappear. Never has it been truer to say that you have nothing to lose by doing so.
You won the popular vote by a historic margin. That is a kind of a mandate. And now you must be a kind of a President. And that means acting in ways that do not accord to custom and politeness or even traditional ideas of dignity. Never has it been truer to say that you have nothing to lose by doing so.
Since November 9 every day brings new revelations of the damage to our democracy and to the world and to human civilization on Earth that a Trump presidency will bring. Every appointment he has made has been calculated to destroy the cabinet position to which the person has been appointed and most hurt the people the government has served and protected since the New Deal. I don't need to tell you, you know better than all of us who all these people are. The nomination of a Goldman Sachs executive to Treasury must be particularly galling. There are already so many things that promise horror, injustice, poverty, even death. For myself, as a first generation American, daughter of two Polish Jewish artists who fled Hitler and were able to find their way to America in December 1941, losing all their family and the dear friends of their youth, the naming of Stephen Bannon as Chief White House Strategist is a special horror. The rise in hate crimes of all kinds across the country, including anti-Semitic attacks on members of the press and on university professors, is a horror. Threats to the press are frightening. Threats to strip people of their citizenship if they protest, the possibility of naming someone to Director of Homeland Security who would declare anti-Trump protesters as terrorists with according treatment, including according to Trump's ravings on Twitter, deportation, this fills me with terror.
Everything is believable; anything can happen under a despot, good people do not have the ability to use brute power as effectively as any despot. Europe saw it under Hitler, we see it now in places like Turkey. Because we are facing a situation unprecedented in American history of no checks and balances, it is not exaggeration to already speak of despotism. We have been through very tough and trying times in the US in the past century, but this is beyond the beyond. My first political memories were of my parents watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on a borrowed television. Now it appears, a new Joe McCarthy is going to be President.
In addition to all the constitutionally protected civil rights under threat, there are also the very real threats to Medicare, Medicaid, and now to food stamps, it is the agenda of Dickens' Mr. Scrooge, the night before his visions of Christmases past, present, and future. People will die. I told my university students before the election that I believed that a Trump victory would shorten my life and I can already feel it in my bones, the way that the anxiety, the fear, the terror, eats away at your body and soul, at the same time as the support systems that have given some help to the elderly are under attack–attacks that may succeed this time, leaving millions in greater destitution.
So what do I think you must do? In one of your campaign videos, we were told that when you were a girl, your mother didn't let you hide at home and lick your wounds, she sent you back outside to fight back against a bully. This is what you must do now. Now, before the Electoral College vote, now, not in a polite interview in five years. To quote, as you once did, from Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," "Now, Now, Now." How, I don't know, you can figure it out: offer yourself up for an interview with a sympathetic person, have someone ask you to speak at a small college, don't worry about humiliation or about modesty of occasion. Every word will matter.
Last spring I told students in an art and feminism class that in a way I felt that you were a tragic figure because you always dressed for yesterday's weather. I am sorry that I was in some way right but now is the time for you to go out in the rain without a coat. The reason for it is not the dream of overcoming the election results, though millions of Americans wish that were possible. The reason is to speak for the issues you said you cared about and to be one of the voices that must be raised in this moment. Say to the American people, I am not a sore loser but I will not be a passive bystander. I really cared about the issues I campaigned on. Here is what I would be doing if I were President-elect. Here is who I would nominate, here were my plans. Over 2.3 million more people believed in these plans. That I failed in the Electoral College doesn't mean I was wrong about what I wanted to do. And you must tell the American people that you are with them, and that you will work for them, however you can. Say that starting in 2017 you will be doing volunteer legal work for refugees or for the undocumented or for women. Do not be proud and do not be pitiful. Be true to the Methodist values you claim to have upheld and act on them.
No one who has "lost" a campaign for Presidency has ever done what I am suggesting, but the current situation is not normal, there is and will be nothing normal about it, it should not be normalized. Every one has to do their part, and this is your part. Polite silence, private grief are not for this time. Presence and speech are your part.
Artist, writer and educator living in New York City
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