Dear Hillary, We Are Just Getting Started
I didn’t want to write this letter. Every time I started, I immediately stopped. Trying made me sadder than I already was. Everywhere I’ve gone since the election, anyone I talked to, women were crying, had just cried, or were trying not to cry. Even those who are well versed in the ways of this world, due to race or rape or religion or other life shaping realities. Writing anything seemed an empty gesture in the face of soul-crushing sorrow at what your loss represented to us all.
Then, this morning, I saw your name on a bumper sticker and I saw the woman driving the car and two children in the back seat. I felt, acutely, the weight of the sadness and disappointment and fear that they also be feeling. I understood the sanity-saving psychological negotiations of going through these dark days as a parent. Teaching children to be resilient, knowing they have to be sad but not wallow. That is is okay to be scared, but not feel hopeless, all without folding in on oneself. The bumper sticker was one of dozens that I saw within an hour, every time experiencing a ripple of shock, a wave of what I can only describe as humiliation — which was, after all, the intent of the national expression of nativist white male supremacy we were just subjected to.
Like millions of others, I am going through the stages of grief. I don’t believe I will make it through them all, having chosen, quite deliberately, to stay firmly in the stage of blinding white-hot anger. This anger isn’t the rash kind, or the loud kind, or the one that’s infused with contempt or hatred. It is patient, persistent, and bottomless. It’s not explosive, but slow and simmering. It’s the kind that I like to imagine you have channeled into decades of work, compromise, and — so very disturbing to so very many people — ambition. I haven’t always agreed with your policies and have thought deeply about their critiques, but your policies, love them or hate them, were not, in the end, actually that relevant. Your gender, on the other hand, history will clearly show, was.
I regularly remind myself that nothing so many of us are feeling, collectively but intimately, can remotely approximate what you have had to absorb over decades as a person.
During the course of this election, you were criticized for absolutely everything. Facts were irrelevant. Words were meaningless. Every day I explain, out loud, that Donald Trump, and all the violence and damage that will come with him, should not be the cost we have to pay for believing that a competent and experienced woman should be given a chance to lead. The only silver lining I can see in any of this is that the system that yielded our election’s absurd and dangerous result, blatantly and without shame, has shown exactly how thoroughly corrupted it is.
One day, we will no longer grow people who think that independent women who aspire to greatness as leaders should be brought down, put in their place, and portrayed as traitors, fair game for threats, pornification, ridicule, and death threats. In the end, you didn’t win this presidency because the presidency wasn’t worthy of your winning. What happened to you as a person, and as a politician, happens to so many of us, whose words and work and dignity are denigrated.
In the meantime, we will bound and rebound, and you can rest. Not quit, because you’ve taught us that that’s really not an option. There isn’t much that I can do or say to thank you for what you have endured trying to drag this sorry nation into the future, so my relentlessness and anger are my thanks. We are just getting started.
Lead image: flickr/Gage Skidmore