20 January 2017
Dear Mr President,
You don’t know how hard that was to type. Since you first announced your candidacy 18 months ago, I have spent countless hours protesting your policies and writing scathing essays against you in both the US and the UK. I mourned your election, one I do feel is tainted (if not outright illegitimate) by voter suppression in states like Wisconsin, interference by Russian propagandists and hackers, and a partisan FBI director. But nothing I could do was going to stop you from taking the oath of office today. And now, whether I like it or not, you are the President of the United States of America.
I cannot wish you success, though, Mr President, because your success would come at the expense of too many people I love and too many values I cherish. But I do pray you open your eyes and your mind and your heart. I do pray that you realise the error of your ways. I do pray that you rise to the moment and the office you now occupy.
You are the leader of the nation, beholden unto all of us. After your victory in the Electoral College, you said you would be a president for all Americans. In the two months since then, you’ve been petty, vindictive, and thin-skinned. I hope to God that changes — today. I implore you to be not just for the red hats who voted for you and cheered you on, but a president for people like me, a gay left-wing urban Democrat who didn’t vote for.
Mr President, I’m scared. I’m scared you’ll roll back the advances in equality I’ve seen over the last eight years. I’m scared you’ll deport the parents of American citizens, or children who grew up here and call this country home. I’m scared you will over-police inner-cities, exasperating the tensions between cops and communities. I’m scared you will hurt the economy by starting a trade war and imposing burdensome tariffs. I’m scared you will start an actual war, or that you won’t defend our allies. Mr President, I’m utterly terrified of you.
Yet, as I said, you are the President. That is a fact I cannot change. I accept it. But you are not my president. You are not my president because you have made clear that I am not your countryman. You have made it clear that you do not intend to have my interests in mind when you make policy. You have shown an utter contempt for my continued reticence and fear. As the winner of the Electoral College, and now the President of the United States, it is your responsibility to reach out to those of us who opposed you. So far you haven’t, nor have you indicated you have any desire to. You will govern for the minority of Americans who voted for you and them alone.
So we resist you. We protest you. We reject your authority. Until you can show you are a president for all Americans, all decent Americans will show that you are no president of ours.
If you can’t, Mr President, we will meet you where you are and we will defeat you. We will defeat you when you try to ban Muslims from entering the United States. We will defeat you when you try to round up and deport our neighbours. We will defeat you when you choose Putin over our allies. We will defeat you in the streets. We will defeat you in the Congress. We will defeat you in 2018. And we will defeat you in 2020.
To quote a musical you think is mean and overrated, history has its eyes on you. Your legacy begins today. How will you be remembered? As the man who tweeted us into civil discord or the man who bridged our bitter divides?
Have you felt the burden of leadership on your shoulders? Have you felt the weight of history in your heart? Your speech today tells me you haven’t. There was no olive branch to your opponents. There was no hope offered for the future. Instead your speech painted America not as a land of freedom and opportunity, but as a dark, dystopian land.
I understand that kind of rhetoric got you elected, but it isn’t presidential. And it isn’t doing you any favours. Look at your approval ratings (and no, they’re not fake numbers); the American people are not happy with your performance and you’ve only been president for a couple hours. We want a man who meets the seriousness of the moment and the respect the office commands.
Go forward with a servant’s heart, Mr President, and listen to those of us who fear you. Only then can we get on with the healing this country needs.
Until then, I will see you in the streets.
Skylar Baker-Jordan is an essayist and journalist based in Chicago. His work has appeared at the Independent, the Daily Dot, Salon, the Advocate, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a visa to immigrate to the United Kingdom.