And, in the end – January 20, 2021

Dear Mr. Pence,

I know I didn’t stick it out for four years, but I felt I owed this a last message.

A few weeks ago, I started writing a long, drawn out goodbye. Then I watched January 6th. I digested the depth of hurt your administration has caused this country — a country that was already hurting, and needed someone to light the fuse. The fuse has been lit. I can only hope we can prevent the flame, somehow, from reaching its destination and causing sheer catastrophe.

Last night, I watched as now President Joe Biden and now Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to the 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID. That number is staggering. I am past being able to comprehend what it means. What I do know is that this trauma will impact the rest of our lives. At a time when we needed guidance most of all, when we needed a federal response to unimaginable tragedy, we were abandoned to die, or to watch our family, friends, and neighbors suffer that fate. That blood is on your hands. You have robbed myself and my child of precious time with our family members, time we won’t ever get back. Blame is also laid at your door for that.

When I started writing to you four years ago, I could never have imagined the extent of the tragedy that would be brought by your administration. I didn’t expect to close out four years terrified of a global pandemic and a white nationalist uprising. (To be fair, I was terrified of white nationalism and all that it has wrought and continues to cause in our country — but I cannot say I thought it would get to the inner chambers of the Capitol in the form of an angry mob. Of course, it has always been there in the form of racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic elected officials.)

And while I am under no pretense that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will solve all our problems — they are too deep and cemented into our country’s legacy for two people and four years to fix — at least I can sleep tonight knowing that when things go wrong, there are people in charge who understand the threats facing us, and want to work towards solutions.

Mr. Pence, you are not the reasonable alternative to Donald Trump. You are, instead, the enabler that allowed him to get this far. You cannot ever be forgiven for that, no matter what you do next. Should you choose to run in 2024, it will be my life mission to remind everyone of this true nature.

Devon

January 11, 2021

Dear Mr. VP,

CC: Mr. Vice President, I’m checking in about a CNN article I just read…I want to quote part of it to you:

“On Monday, after an extended period of silence, Trump and Pence spoke for the first time after a deadly riot of Trump supporters…A senior administration official told CNN they met in the Oval Office, had what was described as a good conversation, and discussed the week ahead while reflecting on the last four years of the administration’s work and accomplishments.”

Sir, I don’t know if you, um, fully understand what happened on Wednesday, but this man, he sent an angry mob to kill you. An angry mob armed with Molotov cocktails and a gallows. And so, I too have struggled with leaving relationships when I should have, but an angry mob sent to kill you is probably the right time. It’s the time to go.

D

The Turner Diaries: January 8, 2021

Dear Mr. VP,

I bet you haven’t read The Turner Diaries. It’s a terrible piece of shit, but I’ve already taken the L and read it so you don’t have to. One can’t overstate its importance to the white nationalist and far right. It gets sold at gun shows. Timothy McVeigh had a copy in his car when he was stopped by a police officer after the OKC bombing. It imagines a white nationalist coup against a government these racists see as run by Jews and intent on white genocide via a program of anti-racism and multiculturalism.

In the book, the white nationalists attack the Capitol. There is no intention for mass casualty, but rather they hope to put people on notice that the sacred symbols we believe secure are, in fact, very easily breached. Later in the book, through a series of other attacks, the coup is successful and white nationalists run the entire world.

Here’s a direct quote from the book, describing the attack on the Capitol:

“All in all, it has been a busy day for the Organization! I am greatly invigorated by these demonstrations of our capability for launching multiple, simultaneous strikes against the System, and I am sure that the same is true of all our comrades. Despite all the noise and smoke and wreckage caused by our attack on the Capitol, only 61 persons were killed, we learned from later news reports. Among these are two Congressmen, one subcabinet official, and four or five senior Congressional staffers. But, the real value of all our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties. For one thing, our efforts against the System gained immeasurably in credibility. More important, though, is what we taught the politicians and the bureaucrats. They learned this afternoon that not one of them is beyond our reach. They can huddle behind barbed wire and tanks in the city, or they can hide behind the concrete walls and alarm systems of their country estates, but we can still find them and kill them. All the armed guards and bulletproof limousines in America cannot guarantee their safety. That is a lesson they will not forget. Now they are all raging at us and solemnly promising the public that they will stamp us out, but after they have had a chance to think about it some of them will be ready to consider “buying insurance.” The great weakness of the System is its utter moral corruption. They have us vastly outmanned and outgunned, but not one of their leaders is motivated by anything other than selfinterest. They are ready to betray the System the instant they can see an advantage in doing so. For now, we mustn’t let them know that they are all inevitably headed for the gallows.”


This is an interesting (understatement) parallel that I hope we’ll take very seriously as we continue to explore the motives of the insurrectionists on January 6th and the need for a coordinated response to the gravest immediate threat our nation faces: white nationalist domestic terrorism. Five people died on Wednesday, including a Capitol police officer who was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher; if you think this is a terrible death toll, I’m here to tell you that that’s nothing compared to what it could have been, or could be in the future.

And they were coming for you, Mr. Pence. Credible news outlets — the AP for chrissakes — are reporting people in the mob were yelling “Hang Mike Pence!” Did you see the photos of insurrectionists with zip tie handcuffs, and the gallows erected on the Capitol grounds?

What in the world is keeping you from invoking the 25th Amendment?

-Devon

January 6, 2021

Dear Mr. VP,

It’s been awhile. I’ve been slowly working on a letter to send you on your last day in office, and you’ll get it fourteen days from now. But I could not let today go unmarked.

Today I watched in horror as our Capitol building was stormed by white supremacists intent on staging a coup. I cried as I watched men break the windows of the building, seemingly without ramification. I explained to my seven-year-old why I was sobbing in front of my laptop screen, taking a deep breath and saying, “You know how we’ve talked about Donald Trump’s lies about the election? These people believe them so much, they’re willing to do this.” Then I called my dad and we had the seven hundredth “calming Devon down” conversation of this presidency — the first took place the morning after of Trump’s election, and I’m sure today’s won’t be the last. Fourteen days.

If anyone was suddenly surprised by today, perhaps they have not been watching the last four years of edging between the GOP and white supremacist militias. Or perhaps they’ve been ignoring it because they think Republicans are better for their wallets. Or, perhaps, they are personally a white supremacist, though if they are they probably weren’t surprised by today — the writing has been all over the boogaloo chat walls for a long time, leaving me even more perplexed as to why there was no extra defense in D.C. today. Retroactively, I would like to go back and yell even louder at people who said things to me like, “Well, there are some good Republicans! You can’t paint all the Trump voters with the same paintbrush! I voted for a Republican and I’m not a jerk!”

In any case, this is not a surprise. The white supremacist threat grew exponentially during the presidency of Barack Obama, and then white Americans chose a president to protect their racial interests, and he has spent four years shouting — not dog whistling, shouting — to white supremacists. They have been activated, goaded on by the president, and assured by the fact that you and other GOP politicians refuse to condemn them. Perhaps you and these other politicians thought loyalty would save you, but knowing you were threatened with execution by the president’s own lawyer, and escorted out of the Capitol by armed guards today, only brought one phrase to mind: fuck around and find out. This authoritarian monster of a movement will turn on anyone who doesn’t offer complete fealty.

It seems this is the moment Republicans finally start condemning the president and his actions. We’re already seeing House and Senate members who originally noted they would object to the election results indicating they will no longer do so. I was gleeful today, before our Capitol fell, reading your statement about how you cannot change today’s result, imagining the feud between you and Trump. But don’t get it twisted: speaking out in the last two or three months was *too late.* Speaking out just today was unconscionable. Any politician who hasn’t spent the last four years forcefully and without mercy condemning the actions of Trump and his white supremacist base is complicit in the armed insurrection that is taking place today.

We cannot pretend you are more reasonable, or let you win us over with false concern; you’re gaslighting us. We will not let you forget, ever, that you allowed this to happen.

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself,” said Cicero.

You — you, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Kelly Loeffler…the list goes on and on — you are the traitors within our gates. It is my life mission to be sure that is not forgotten.

So many of us will spend the next two weeks terrified of what might happen — more than the next two weeks, because we know this threat doesn’t go away on January 20th. Our monstrous history is coming home to roost, and you have enabled it. It is the duty of any American with a conscience to excise any trace of Trump’s stain from our elected bodies. No matter what you say now, what you do now, that includes you.

– Devon

Container: May 13, 2019

Dear Mr. VP,

It’s been awhile. This letter has been percolating in my head for weeks. Today, I need a distraction from the nagging sense of unease manifesting in a stomach ache, and so I decided to finally write.

Let me start with a declaration, one which I think should be obvious, but apparently is not.

I am not a container.

Let me explain.

I assume at some point in your life you had a cabinet like this:

Empty and assorted containers, just waiting to be filled with leftovers or lunches. Their sole purpose is, if I can find the top, which is basically never in the same place as the actual container, to hold stuff. They have no other reason to exist.

I, on the other hand, have a multitude of reasons to exist: a kid to parent to the best of my ability, family and friends to be in community with, jobs at which I do good work with young people as they navigate their way to adulthood, the world to see as much of as I can, and an attempt to make my loved ones feel, well, as loved as I can make them feel. Oh, and the ongoing mission to love and take care of myself, and maybe find some fulfillment in my time on Earth, too.

So, I hope you can agree that I have many reasons to exist; I’m not just sitting around in a cupboard waiting to be filled. I am not a container. You cannot purchase me at an MLM party.

Recent legislation in Georgia makes me feel like lawmakers, including yourself, might NOT agree with this pretty basic truth. You know what I’m talking about: the “heartbeat” bill that seeks to ban abortion at six weeks, criminalizes doctors who perform the procedure, and could force people who miscarry to prove they miscarried “naturally” and not because of their own behavior or as the result of an illegal abortion.

What this bill is asking us to do is live every moment of our reproductive lives as if we could, at that very second, be pregnant. What if I’m six weeks pregnant, don’t know about it, and use a sauna or a hot tub? Go out drinking? Eat a ham sandwich? Or unpasteurized cheese? Get a massage? Have an Americano with an extra shot of espresso? Work out vigorously with a very elevated heart rate? Go on a roller coaster? There’s a whole list of things you aren’t supposed to do while you’re pregnant – that’s just a sample.

Then I miscarry, and I seek medical attention for the miscarriage. I’m opening myself up to an investigation into why my pregnancy ended. Let’s say I note that, yeah – last Tuesday, I did all of the things on the list above. (I like to keep myself busy, after all.)

Am I at fault for my pregnancy ending? Am I a criminal?

Should I live my whole life as if I *might* be pregnant? Like I’m just a container, waiting in the cupboard, desperate to fulfill my ultimate destiny? Avoiding listeria tainted cold cuts for all eternity, or at least until menopause?

You’ll say something like “well, we would NEVER take it that far. That would NEVER happen. What an EXTREME.”

Pardon me for not wanting to leave this particular issue up to the interpretation of lawmakers who think you can take an egg that improperly implanted in a Fallopian tube and just stick it in a uterus with good result. Nope: don’t trust y’all.

Imagine if we asked cis white men to live their entire lives as if their bodies were not their own. “Put down the vape pen and the craft beer, bro! Don’t lift so much! Something might be using you as a host!” Can you imagine the uproar? Men don’t expect to be told they are empty containers; that particular dehumanization is reserved for people who own a uterus.

To misquote a movie I’ve never seen, which was quoted by a show I HAVE seen, I am not a container. I am a human being.

Damnit.

D

Still fighting, still resisting: February 27, 2019

Dear Mr. VP,

I know. It’s been awhile.

Let’s say I’ve been in the weeds, and when I looked at my days and where my limited mental energy was being expended, writing to an old white dude who likely hates me because of my identity didn’t make the “must do” list.

So I sat back and thought, take a break, collect yourself, and re-envision this project.

I thought about just ghosting you altogether, but my experiences with online dating and ghosting make it clear that’s not the cool thing to do. We’ve hung out for long enough that you would deserve a goodbye and an explanation. (It’s not me, it’s definitely you.)

I thought about ditching the project completely (with an explanation letter to you) but that didn’t seem right either. This was my baby for a long time, and you don’t just abandon your baby (despite what you might think wacky progressive women want to be able to do).

Frankly, I’ve found that not writing doesn’t seem to be helping my anxiety at all. In fact, it’s been at an all-time high in the past month, and I wonder if having this place to let out a primal scream about what’s wrong in the world might be a good coping mechanism. Maybe lecturing you means I can settle more comfortably into my real relationships with all the people around me, something I’ve been finding difficult lately.

So where does that leave us? I think that leaves us with less frequent, but perhaps longer and more well researched, posts. I don’t have the time to put together a well written and well argued letter every day. You’ve heard all the reasons why before, so I won’t reiterate here other than to say when I’m having a dance party with my kid before bed, I want to be focused on that, not on what I’m going to write to you after he goes to sleep. I do, however, feel like without pressure to do it every day, I could do some good work.

It’s always been hard for me not to get things perfect. I like to do things 100% all the time, and so if I feel like I’m failing, I anxiously quit whatever it is. (See: basketball in elementary school, knitting, any number of abandoned writing projects.) But here, I’m going to give myself some grace, and reimagine what this space could be.

Still fighting, still resisting,

D