My boyfriend is running in the Philadelphia marathon this Sunday. We flew in earlier this afternoon and headed directly to our downtown hotel. Upon checking in, I dropped my luggage by the bed and wandered over to our window.
The view was stunning.
Looking past the glowing tips of the cathedral all the way to the Franklin Institute, I was reminded that this sprawling city once served as a haven for a group of political extremists. In fact, William Penn, the man who named this city the “City of Love,” believed that anyone should be able worship in a manner of his/her choosing. Penn, a Quaker, was no stranger to religious persecution, and he wanted to find some place — some safe place — for people to worship freely. It seems plenty of folks agreed with this crazy idea, so much so, that these radicals put quill to parchment and drew up a document that would one day guarantee things like “freedom of religion,” “freedom of the press,” and even the “right to bear arms.”
God damn, but I was so freaking proud of these guys.
I won’t pretend to be an avid student of U.S. History; but, I still recall quite vividly how I ran around with all the other kids in 2nd grade screaming, “the Redcoats are coming! the Redcoats are coming!” during recess; or how I got the “tingles” during social studies when we learned about this dude named Patrick Henry who said the coolest thing ever: “Give me liberty or give me death!”; or how I devoured all seven episodes of HBO’s John Adams and actually gave the Declaration of Indpendence a standing ovation, in the living room of my sleepy little suburban townhouse, sticky tears dripping off my chin. I still remember how my favorite professor in law school carried around a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket at all times and how I hero-worshipped him for it; how elated I was when I aced my First Amendment Law exam — not only because I rocked it but because I did so well in a subject that was so central to the men I spent almost my entire life looking up to:
The Founding Fathers of My Country.
You see, this history — this history was my history. And because it was my history, I took the good with the bad. I could not and did not disown the fact that my 3-bedroom townhouse was built on land that originally belonged to a people now nearly extinct; that My Country built its wealth on the backs of slaves; that it denied women the right to vote for over 100 years; that it “relocated” its own citizens into interment camps based exclusively on their race; that it even had the nerve to legislate the definition of love.
Notwithstanding the uglier chapters of my nation’s history, I still woke up every single morning believing that I lived in the greatest fucking country on the face of the earth.
That is, right up until the wee hours of November 9, 2016.
The thing is, President Trump, I have black hair. Jet black when I don’t dye it. My eyes — they’re dark, like my mother’s, and they don’t sink in, which means my eyelids are flat instead of round. I’m also what they call “petite” — I’m all of 5 feet tall. My first language? It wasn’t English. It was Korean, because that was the only language my grandmother spoke until she died, just a few months after gaining her U.S. citizenship. And there’s my skin — I’m no artist, but it’s definitely some shade of yellow, and most definitely not the same color as George Washington’s or Abraham Lincoln’s.
Up until November 9, 2016, I never let it matter.
And then, all of the sudden, on November 9, my country’s history wasn’t mine anymore.
It was like someone stole it from me.
I am writing this letter to you at 10:48 p.m. EST, in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Philadelphia.
My boyfriend is fast asleep in our hotel room. He’s white, like you and Governor Huckabee and your Chief Strategist Bannon and the vast majority of the people who voted for you, and now there’s a horrible aching space between me and my boyfriend, an emptiness that wasn’t there on November 8 2016.
Earlier this evening, I heard one of your supporters — Governor Huckabee — say that he wanted to “make America great again.” It’s something I’ve heard you say a lot in the past year.
You could start by returning what you took from me.