An Open Letter To Madam President From Someone Who Has Seen War

An Open Letter To Madam President From Someone Who Has Seen War
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Photos by Julia Diana Robertson

Madam President,

I’m afraid the “president not-elect” will tweet us into war. It seems no one in a position of power is doing anything to stop him. On the contrary, after taking part in a massive electoral heist, the president not-elect is getting off scot-free. In his latest January 2nd tweet, he’s double-dog dared North Korea to bomb us:

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”

Madam President, I’ve seen glimpses of war. I’ve seen what bad leadership can do to the walls and the buildings of a country. I’ve been swimming in one moment, only to see bombs dropping through the ocean, moving toward me in the next. Asleep in one moment, only to find myself running down eight flights of stairs in the next. The thing is, Madam President, I haven’t forgotten the stairwell. Nor have I forgotten the windows on each floor, or how they lit up in the night. I haven’t forgotten the feeling of my back against the wall as I watched and waited to run down to the next flight.

Madam President, The sound of explosions still resonate—an echo growing louder and louder with each day since November 8th. Closer and closer with every tweet that the president not-elect shoots off like a petulant child. As he threatens China and quotes Putin, attacks our 1st amendment rights, calls Americans his “enemies” on New Years Eve, my memory of the walls, pale and chalky, covered in bullet holes, and larger holes where bombs fell, and the people that live within those walls―they’re all closing in. I can’t unsee the destruction that bad leadership can cause, or forget the uniformed men on every street corner, holding long black guns, locked and loaded. I can’t forget the green-eyed twin girls, refugees, no older than six, walking barefoot on the unpaved streets, looking into the windows of slow moving cars, pleading for help. Their eyes haunt me still.

Photos by Julia Diana Robertson

Madam President, I’m afraid the president not-elect is about to make things even more dangerous for the “other”. No patriot should be complicit in their silence. An unfit leader is being forced upon us.

Madame President, I want a better America. An America for people who are afraid to pull over—because the color of their skin is reason enough for an officer to shoot. So I implore you to do something. Say something. No one is protecting us. Now is not the time to be polite and quiet. Now is not the time to respect tradition.

Madame President, I live with one foot in each world. Until someone sees my real last name, I can “pass”— I've been forced off of an airplane for having that name. Held in a room with no windows. Questioned by armed men. Flagged on a list. Madame President, I have something in common with Obama— He became "Barry” and I became "Robertson." No one should ever have to be less of who they are just to get a better chance. To be one thing, a person shouldn't have to deny the other. Long hair entitles me to friendliness, when I’m out on my own. When I’m out with my non-frilly wife, the bullies show their true colors. Passing can mean the difference between keeping a job and getting fired. No one should have to choose between integrity and survival.

Madame President, Can I still call you that? You won by nearly 3 million votes—More votes than any white man in American history. We elected you. You symbolized hope. He symbolizes despair and hate and treason. He’s unelected and illegitimate. We need a real leader. We haven't given up on you. Please don't give up on us. We're hanging off the edge of a cliff. Stand up and fight with us.


Someone who shouldn’t have to be anyone other than who I really am

Julia Diana Robertson is the author of the recently published novel Beyond the Screen Door. You can find her (and her fiction) at

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