Dear Hillary, Dear America (with Love)

“Learn the shape of yourself.” -Mary Karr

This year, on a personal level, I’ve been thinking about feminism, femininity, women’s rights (human rights), and my identity as a woman (human) in a way I never have before.

Many voices, stories, and inspirations–podcasts like Fresh Air, Call Your Girlfriend; interviews with rad ladies like Gloria Steinem, Emma Watson, Toni Morrison; Hillary’s campaign, her class and toughness; the speech she gave at Ohio State’s rally (while I waved my Love Trumps Hate sign); and, largely, the shared personal experiences of the women I’m blessed to know–have spurred me on in continually defining my own beliefs and values. And all of it has been a gift. So thank you: Hillary, these writers I have learned from, these women I know and love–keep speaking your truths. Keep changing and rewriting the ways of the world. It matters greatly; now more than ever.


Until this morning, I’d confidently imagined saying “Madam President” with pride as I continued in my own journey, hoping to find my role in the evolution of women- and humankind, in 2016 and beyond. I believed we were on the cusp of a sweeping change, a historical moment of celebration. The reality left me feeling bereft, disillusioned. I probably won’t understand it fully for a long time, if ever. But if anything, my values are ever more ignited. And since I believe that our evolution happens in small moments, too–in my everyday life, in my community, and in my sphere of loved ones–I can live them and honor them, here and now.

Because here’s the thing: now we need it–love–more than ever.


This morning, I walked into the kitchen to ask my husband how he was doing. He had volunteered at the polls yesterday in our neighborhood, starting before six a.m. and finally coming home around ten at night. I’d been waiting, anxious and alternating the news report with Mary Tyler Moore reruns (incidentally, I’ve decided to watch every episode of every season, from the beginning, just beacause). But this morning I could hardly speak in my groggy, blinding sadness. I cried instead.

But I didn’t feel fragile about it, in need of comfort, protection. I felt strong, and wronged. Like I was grieving with a friend. Both of us mourning an opportunity lost, a hymn to narrow thinking that should have been an ode to inclusion.

In Susan Sontag’s essay, featured in Annie Leibovitz’s “Women,” she mentions (among a myriad of other brilliant, and brilliantly written, insights), that women have long been a minority. This is something I thought I understood, maybe inherently, since girlhood, but now I am awakening to it, and there’s no going back, no walking away from the immediate need to contribute to a new future. For women. For men. For daughters, and sons. For everyone who is “different” in terms of gender, religion, origin, sexuality, race.

We must be stronger (than ever) together. Undoubtedly, we have work to do. Ground to stand. Dialogue to start. But our initiatives have to be rooted in love, fierce and unyielding and boundary-defying love that keeps pushing for what is fundamentally right for women and men and children in every broken cranny of this country.

I’m not sure what my contribution looks like, exactly, and I think that’s okay for now, because I do know it begins with love and listening. I don’t know how this chapter will unfold, and the healing will take time, prayer, work, change. It will be hard. But love will always trump hate in the end. I believe that, even in the darkness of today. I will keep believing it, and because I believe it I will strive in my own way to practice it.

Because–I’ll take it from Mary, today, in a gesture of hope: Love is all around. If we don’t waste it, we will do more than make it after all.


With love,
Emily Jean


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