Sorry, I try not to deluge people with my ramblings. But I had to write
this and, having written it, had to send it. Even though I don't know
anyone I can send it to (without alienating my Republican in-laws, who
are the only "middle country" people I know.)
I am writing this letter to the people in the red states in the middle
of the country –- the people who voted for George W. Bush. I am writing
this letter because I don't think we know each other.
So I'll make an introduction. I am a New Yorker who voted for John
Kerry. I used to live in California, and if I still lived there, I would
vote for Kerry. I used to live in Washington, DC, and if I still lived
there, I would vote for Kerry. Kerry won in all three of those regions.
Maybe you want to know more about me. Or maybe not; maybe you think you
know me already. You think I am some anti-American anarchist because I
dislike George W. Bush. You think that I am immoral and anti-family,
because I support women's reproductive freedom and gay rights. You think
that I am dangerous, and even evil, because I do not abide by your
Maybe you are content to think that, to write me off as a "liberal" –-
the dreaded "L" word –- and rejoice that your candidate has triumphed
over evil, immoral, anti-American, anti-family people like me. But maybe
you are still curious. So here goes: this is who I am.
I am a New Yorker. I was here, in my apartment downtown, on September
11th. I watched the Towers burn from the roof of my building. I went
inside so that I couldn't see them when they fell. I had friends who were
inside. I have a friend who still has nightmares about watching people
jump and fall from the Towers. He will never be the same. How many people
like him do you know? People that can't sit in a restaurant without
plotting an escape route, in case it blows up?
I am a worker. I work across the street from the Citigroup Center, which
the government told us is a "target" of terrorism. Later, we found out
they were relaying very old information, but it was already too late.
They had given me bad dreams again. The subway stop near my office was
crowded with bomb-sniffing dogs, policemen in heavy protective gear,
soldiers. Now, every time I enter or exit my office, all of my
possessions are X-rayed to make sure I don't have any weapons. How often
are you stopped by a soldier with a bomb-sniffing dog outside your
I am a neighbor. I have a neighbor who is a 9/11 widow. She has two
children. My husband does odd jobs for her now, like building
bookshelves. Things her husband should do. He uses her husband's tools,
and the two little girls tell him, "Those are our daddy's tools." How
many 9/11 widows and orphans do you know? How often do you fill in for
their dead loved ones?
I am a taxpayer. I worked my butt off to get where I did, and so did my
parents. My parents saved and borrowed and sent me to college. I worked
my way through graduate school. I won a full tuition scholarship to law
school. All for the privilege of working 2,600 hours last year. That
works out to a 50 hour week, every week, without any vacation days at
all. I get to work by 9 am and rarely leave before 9 pm. I eat dinner at
my office much more often than I eat dinner at home. My husband and I
paid over $70,000 in federal income tax last year.
At some point in the future, we will have to pay much more –- once this
country faces its deficit and the impossible burden of Social Security.
In fact, the areas of the country that supported Kerry –- New York,
California, Illinois, Massachusetts –- they are the financial centers of
the nation. They are the tax base of this country. How much did you pay,
Kansas? How much did you contribute to this government you support,
Alabama? How much of this war in Iraq did you pay for?
I am a liberal. The funny part is, liberals have this reputation for
living in Never-Neverland, being idealists, not being sensible. But let
me tell you how I see the world:
I see America as one nation in a world of nations. Therefore, I think we
should try to get along with other nations. I see that gay people exist.
Therefore, I think they should be allowed to exist, and be treated the
same as other people. I see ways in which women are not allowed to
control their own bodies. Therefore, I think we should give women more
control over their bodies. I see that people have awful diseases.
Therefore, I think we should enable scientists to try to cure them. I see
that we have a Constitution. Therefore, I think it should be upheld. I
see that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Therefore, I
think that Iraq was not an imminent danger to me. It seems so pragmatic
to me. How do you see the world? Do you really think voting against gay
marriage will keep people from being gay? Would you really prefer that
people continue to die from Parkinson's disease? Do you really not care
about the Constitutional rights of political detainees? Would you really
have supported the war if you knew the truth, or would you have wanted to
spend more of our money on health care, job training, terrorism
I am an American. I have an American flag flying outside my home. I love
my home more than anything. I love that I grew up right outside New York
City. I first went to the Statue of Liberty with my 5th grade class, and
my mom and dad took me to the Empire State Building when I was 8. I love
taking the subway to Yankee Stadium. I loved living in Washington DC and
going on dates to the Lincoln Memorial. It is because I love this country
so much that I argue with my political opponents as much I do.
I am not safe. I never feel safe. My in-laws live in a small town in
Ohio, and that town has received more federal funding, per capita, for
terrorism preparedness than New York City has. I take subways and buses
every day. I work in a skyscraper across the street from a "target." I
have emergency supplies and a spare pair of sneakers in my desk, in case
something happens while I'm at work. Do you? How many times a month do
you worry that your subway is going to blow up? When you hear sirens on
the street, do you run to the window to make sure everything is okay?
When you hear an airplane, do you flinch? Do you dread beautiful,
blue-skied September days? I don't know a single New Yorker who doesn't
spend the month of September on tip-toes, superstitiously praying for
rain so we don't have to relive that beautiful, blue-skied day.
I am lonely. I feel that we, as a nation, have alienated all our friends
and further provoked our enemies. I feel unprotected. Most of all I feel
alienated from my fellow citizens, because I don't understand what you
are thinking. You voted for a man who started a war in Iraq for no
reason, against the wishes of the entire world. You voted for a man whose
lack of foresight and inability to plan has led to massive insurgencies
in Iraq, where weapons are disappearing into the hands of terrorists. You
voted for a man who let Osama Bin Laden escape into the hills of
Afghanistan so that he could start that war in Iraq. You voted for a man
who doesn't want to let people love who they want to love; doesn't want
to let doctors cure their patients; doesn't want to let women rule their
destinies. I don't understand why you voted for this man. For me, it is
not enough that he is personable; it is not enough that he seems like one
of the guys. Why did you vote for him? Why did you elect a man that lied
to us in order to convince us to go to war? (Ten years ago you were
incensed when our president lied about his sex life; you thought it was
an impeachable offense.) Why did you elect a leader who thinks that
strength cannot include diplomacy or international cooperation? Why did
you elect a man who did nothing except run away and hide on September 11?
Most of all, I am terrified. I mean daily, I am afraid that I will not
survive this. I am afraid that I will lose my husband, that I will never
have children, that I will never grow old and watch the sunset in a
backyard of my own. I am afraid that my career –- which should end with a
triumphant and good-natured roast at a retirement party in 2035 –- will
be cut short by an attack on me and my colleagues, as we sit sending
emails and making phone calls one ordinary afternoon. Is your life at
stake? Are you terrified?
I don't think you are. I don't think you realize what you have done. And
if anything happens to me or the people I love, I blame you. I wanted you
to know that.