ericamerylthomas [at] gmail [dot] com

an apology

Added on by Erica Thomas.

Dear Mme. Rodham Clinton,

I'd like to begin by apologizing for my delay in writing this. Through my Wednesday morning despair, friends urged me to watch your concession speech. It was exceptionally brave and inspiring, It will make you feel better, they said. I planned to write this letter the moment you conceded, but I hope you will forgive me for taking nearly a week to muster the strength to watch. I wasn’t ready to feel better. I needed some time to process my profound grief, and steel myself to the prospect of four more years of continuous heartbreak. Like the beginning of this letter, and as many women before us have, you also began your concession with an apology. Ever gracious, even in defeat. I only, tragically, can recognize in hindsight your experience with concessions as yet one more accolade that would have served you and all of us well in the office of the presidency.

At 3am on Election Day I woke from a terrible nightmare, that I now see as a premonitory vision. I had dreamed that I was being held captive in a cavernous, dank, underground warehouse. Filthy water dripped from the oppressively low ceiling into black pools on the cement floor. My wrists were shackled to a support pillar in heavy, metal chains. My clothes were torn and I couldn't remember how I had gotten here. I felt the cold, rough floor beneath my knees rubbing them raw. I could hear muffled sounds arriving from scattered locations around the room, like echolocation for suffering. Women were being tortured, crying out, struggling, and though I couldn't make out the looming figures of our captors, I knew that these men were enacting the singular vision of a much more evil figure, yet unseen. I managed to free my hands from the shackles while my captors were distracted and made a run for a tiny window, climbing up and out onto a deserted street. I knew I didn't have much time before I would be caught, so with haste and stealth I propelled past my fear to look for someone who could help me come back and free the others. I saw an open door and entered. There was a slight man standing in the small empty room. I started to tell him what had happened to me and with a flat expression he interrupted to ask if I knew who had done this to us. "No," I said. And he looked into my eyes and said, "It was me." When I woke I was beating scratching punching screaming kicking like a wild animal fighting for its life, hair on end, heart racing. Although I realized I was safe in that moment, in my bed, I felt no comfort. Because even when he doesn't show his face the man is still there all of the time, in my subconscious, and in all of our collective unconscious. I understand that I am not the only warrior for those women in my dream, and that women aren't the only ones who need me to stand up for them. Above all, however, I felt a renewed sense that I am needed in The Struggle. But that is another letter altogether.

Now as I sit here on another Tuesday, salty-eyed with perspective, I have a few things I'd like to say to you and one thing I'd like to ask. First, I owe you another apology. I am complicit in this shameful state of public affairs where we have all arrived. You faced criticisms for your wrongs from all sides. Nobody is perfect, but you were never the "lesser of two evils." You have always been great. I didn't protest the disparaging criticisms, the tone of the dialogue, the unreasonable weight they were given, loudly nor often enough. I tried to warn anyone who felt cocksure about your potential win, Don't be so sure! But really what did I personally do to reassure anyone that we need you? I didn't advocate. I didn't find allies and rally together. When a funny man said you were qualified for office in part because of your role as a mother, I protested, She is good enough on her credentials alone! And then like a gaslit survivor, I spent my days building my case in my head only to walk away from conversations or news stories with that same queasy feeling that I had done something wrong. I spoke about my support for you the way I practiced being a woman, by qualifying and excusing, apologizing, and then warning against him, but not speaking up for you. And so shone the light on this blind spot in my feminism. Is it more right to say that you were most qualified because of your resume, or your humanity? You were most qualified because of both. Not in spite of being a woman, but because you are a woman.

Being your electorate should have been one of the best honors of my life, but instead I, like many others, took you for granted and didn't do enough. This will be painful for many of us for a long time. For those it affects the most, those who are accustomed to heartbreak, it has come as no surprise.

I know no other way to respond to these feelings than with Art. My practice is centered on creating new models of radical love. The kind of love that emerges like weeds between the cracks in our infrastructure. The pre-verbal, instinctive love like you have for your parents when you are an infant. Love that cannot abide. Protest is love for our country. Art is love for our human potential. My humanity, and the humanity, existence, and personhood of my beautiful black and brown, LGBTQ, differnently-abled, feminist, non-Christian, kind, and decent loved ones were dismissed by the hateful white supremacist patriarchal capitalist power structure. Those who benefit from these structures seek to erase our personhood. Despite the fact that I will continue to protest, I can accept your request for peace and willingness to continue working within these systems. I admire you for it. But I do not accept this as a transfer of power. The power is exactly where it has always been. And so I lead you to my proposition.

I propose a true transfer of power. As a conceptual artist, I decide what my own reality is. It is how I dream, how I live, how I survive. You won my election, which to me is the only one that counts. I would like to ask, Madam President, if we may begin a direct dialogue, circumventing those people, structures, and monsters who wish to keep us apart, and begin a four year long conceptual presidency in which I am your citizen, your constituency. We can welcome others into our nation, if they wish. The only barriers for entry are rejection of any form of oppression and acceptance of all encompassing love. You like to say that we are stronger together, so here I am. I am with you. If you'll have me.


Erica M. Thomas