Thursday, November 3, 2016

Thank You.

To our Readers: 

We started with a simple idea: to encourage people to think about their vote as an act of hope, to reach beyond ourselves and honor someone else.

Over 2.3 million reads later, we are astonished by the honesty, the resilience, the passion, and compassion of these dedications.

As soon as the dedications started pouring in, we felt entrusted with heartbreaking and transcendent stories. 

Bestselling literary powerhouses like Pam HoustonJodi Picoult, Pulitzer-prize-winner Richard Russo, National Book Award winner Jeanne Birdsall, New York Times bestseller Tracy Wolff, and award-winning poet Erin Belieu came on board early, offering us incredibly moving dedications. 

Ed Clark wrote about being haunted by two murders that rocked the black community of his childhood in the 70s; Chantel Acevedo gave a tribute to the America she loves; Heather Nicholson warned us about a reemerging racism; Adrienne Su revealed the racists bullies of her childhood and their echoes in the Trump campaign;  made our hearts swell; and Kerry Neville reminded us of the horrific history that accompanies calling a woman crazy.

A variety of voices joined in: 

A Peace Corp volunteer, a nurse, teachers, and a lawyer whose mother was the first mayor elected in the state of Rhode Island.

A revered actor and a seventy-one-year-old nun,

A novelist who gathered interviews for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Foundation.

The daughter of Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. 

A retired  lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Special Forces, a retired Master Sergeant, and a retired paratrooper.

We even have the voice of a white evangelical minister from Texas.  

And heres an anonymous dedication that will rip your heart out. 

One of the most unexpected aspects of this project is that it allowed for those whove passed away to have a presence in this election -- from Silas House's grandmother worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken alongside Colonel Sanders to Erika Meitner’s beautiful dedication to her Jewish ancestors who survived the Holocaust.  Their struggles and their dreams for all of us live on and here is the proof.

And then there are the wonderful riffs from Katherine Center and Katie Cortese and Sumita Chakraborty

In the end, we couldnt publish all the amazing dedications that came our way. Some moved straight to Facebook statuses that inspired others. Some were published at The Rumpus. And, of the one-hundred-and-seventy-five that we did post, this is just a small sampling. But each of the dedications opened our hearts and minds. This election has been an occasion for empathy. We hope that these glimpses into the lives of others have helped us to know each other a little bit better.

We opened up this space and you filled it -- as readers and writers -- with beauty and heartbreak and abundant hope.

We are thankful.

Sincerely,

Julianna & Dave
with special gratitude to Josh McCall
#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote






Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Melanie Thorne's Dedication

A few weeks before I cast my ballot in my first presidential election, my father told me this country went to shit after women earned the right to vote. I suppose he counted that among his justifications for beating his wives.

During the presidential debates, I shook as Donald used every abuse tactic he could manage without actually hitting Hillary and no one did anything. I felt as powerless in front of the screen as I had at five years old, singing to my little sister as my dad punched my mom in the other room.

But then Hillary laughed. She shimmied. She went high. She stood up to him like a boss.

My addict father lives in subsidized housing now after a state-funded stint in rehab; his disability checks buy his illegal drugs. He hasn’t had a job or paid taxes in years, but he’ll complain that the government doesn’t help the “working” man like him. If he votes, I imagine he will support the man who validates his reality in which nothing is ever his fault, and the game is rigged unless he’s winning.

It’s that same king-of-the-world fantasy Trump lives in, a perspective that requires hatred of others. If your whole life is built on the premise that failure can never be your fault, someone else must shoulder the blame. Women, children, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, every marginalized person. We are all at risk when a man in power sees us as expendable.

I was afraid in my home as a child. I am afraid again now, of what a man so like my father will do as a leader.

Maybe you are scared, too. Maybe there is a man in your life, who did—or does—pose a real threat to your freedom, your life, the safety of your children. If not you, someone you know, someone you love.

A Trump presidency will legitimize and embolden that man and thousands like him who express fear with their fists, validate their anger and give them permission to do further harm. Trump encourages the men who have guns to use them against women who do not obey, who do not shut up, who have the gall to be smarter or better prepared.

We should all be terrified.

But there is so much hope in my feeds these days, in my conversations with women. Hillary shows us, time and time again, that she will not be bullied and we don’t have to be either.  

So I dedicate my No-Trump vote to my mom, who found the courage to leave my father; to all the women and children who have lived with domestic abuse; to all the women who have ever been afraid of a man. Isn’t that all of us?

Women are tougher than we think, more powerful than we’re told. Together, we can stand up to this abuser, this man who champions hate, because love is always, always, stronger than fear.  

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here 

MELANIE THORNE is the author of the debut novel Hand Me Down, named a Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2012. She was awarded the Maurice Prize in Fiction, a Hedgebrook residency, The Florida Review Editor's Prize, and fellowships to the Tomales Bay Writers’ Workshops and the Virginia Quarterly Review Conference. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis, and was a 2014 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices mentor. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. Find her online at www.MelanieThorne.com.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Melanie Sumner's Dedication

I live in Rome, Georgia, a small town north of Atlanta that supports Donald Trump. In 2016, the KKK marched again in Rome, and I watched history rewind. I grew up here in the ’70s when racism wasn’t an issue; it was a fact. It was inescapable. Today, the cashier at Walmart (white) will tell you the Klu Klux Klan wasn’t that bad. They did good things, he will explain, like beat up men who were raping their daughters. He will say that life was better in those days.

When I was six years old, I asked why the black maid sat in the back seat of the car, leaving the front passenger seat empty. I was told that she would be uncomfortable in the front. 

When I was eight years old, I was told that I could not invite an African American friend to my birthday party because everyone would be uncomfortable. 

By the time I was nine, I understood “uncomfortable.” My aunt jokingly gave me a black doll for Christmas. I thanked her politely and then privately beat the doll up. Then I hid her from my friends. I didn’t know what to do with this joke-doll until the opportunity arrived to give her to an African American child in my class whose house had burned down. Today I can tell you why that house burned, why that family didn’t have insurance, and why the story didn’t make the newspaper. At the time, I only knew the relief of unburdening myself from something terrible.

Over the years, I have cherished our country’s advances towards equality of race and gender. My children, growing up with friends of all colors and all religions, shrug off the bigotry of their grandparents “because they are old.” The college students I teach respond to themes of racism and sexism in literature with satisfied remarks about how things used to be that way in the United States. No one thinks it could happen again.

What does it really mean to vote for Donald Trump? It means that we are rolling back the clock to a time not so long ago when women had no rights, homosexuality was a sin, and people of any color other than white or any religion other than Christian were purged from society. 

The old devils have new pretty names:  “Family Values” means Caucasian Christian heterosexual family, “All Lives Matter” means KKK, and “Make America Great Again,” means the undoing of the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Liberation. 

How do I know this? Last week, my son came home with a confederate flag. He hid it.


#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here 

Melanie Sumner is the author of How to Write a Novel, The Ghost of Milagro Creek, The School of Beauty and Charm, and Polite Society.  She teaches English and Creative Writing at Kennesaw State University. melanie-sumner.com


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mara Buck's Dedication

There is a woman, lives in the trailer park down that side road by the lightening-blasted oak, beyond the Shell station. She has a Trump sign in front of her trailer and her trailer is festooned with forever Christmas lights. Some still light up; most don’t. She is anxious about a lot of things so she smokes generic filters and she has how many kids and her nose looks like it’s been broken more than once.

I’ve seen her sweeping up at night at the Walmart in town. I doubt she earns back her cigarette money, but she can use her employee discount for the kids’ clothes. She needs Hillary’s presidency more than you or I, but the saddest thing is, she doesn’t know it, may never know it. She’s afraid Hillary will come and take that Taurus handgun right out from under her pillow. She ordered it online, liked that the name was the same as her birth sign. If she loses the gun, how can she sleep at night? Then what’ll she do if her husband comes back? She’s got a restraining order but that never stopped him before. Then it’ll be Hillary’s fault, just like Mr. Trump says. Hillary will take away her job and give it to some damn immigrant. Hillary will take her food stamps and give them to some Muslims who will rape her in her trailer while she watches her stories, and she won’t have her gun because Hillary will have taken it. Mr. Trump will fix it all. She’ll be secure with Mr. Trump. He’s promised.

The woman has no name because she’s a stereotype, but she’s real enough. I live in rural Maine where there are many women like this, women without a future, whose kids trudge down the same muddy road to the same trailer they’ll inherit one day. I’m her friend, but she’ll never know that.

I myself am just a shout away from that trailer. I live below the poverty line because I spent my life savings saving my life from cancer, despite insurance, so I have to shop at the Walmart even though I hate it and wish I could boycott it. I don’t smoke and I don’t have kids, but I admit there are times when a gun under the pillow might make me sleep easier. Maybe not. Probably not. I’m much better educated, but I’m not far away from this woman. And I would guess many of us live closer to her than we’d like to admit.

So I dedicate my no-Trump vote to her and to all those women in all those trailers, in all those cheap rental units, and in all those houses with the peeling paint and the mismatched siding. To all those without the education to crawl out of their holes. To all those who’ve pinned the hopes of a lifetime onto a shifty con-man who sells the snake-oil of hate, who promises to make the future great for himself and his kind, who waves the gilded carrot of prosperity—while the woman in the trailer sinks deeper into the surrounding mud, while her Christmas lights flicker out one by one.    


#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here 

MARA BUCK writes, paints, and rants in a self-constructed hideaway in the Maine woods. She hopes to leave someday. Awarded/short-listed by the Faulkner/Wisdom Society, Hackney Awards and others, with work in numerous literary magazines and print anthologies. Current projects include a novel and a collection of strange stories of Maine.


Sheila Grace Stuewe's Dedication

I have worked for many wealthy men (including two billionaires).  I flew in their unnamed planes and helped them raise money for the charities they supported—Boys and Girls Clubs, ballets, museums, cancer support communities, and food banks. As an investor relations professional, I explained their vision and leadership to the investment community. I was proud to do so because they were well-respected by their employees, the company’s vendors, and the investment community.

After the final presidential debate, Donald Trump, Jr. said that becoming the President of the United States would be a step down for his father. The only way that would be a true is if the job was being solely evaluated on its salary. But how can the presidency be evaluated on monetary terms? Could you imagine Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama in it for the money? I can’t. 

But it doesn’t surprise me that money is the most important criteria in the Trump organization; after all, it is a profit seeking private company. As such, it has the right to buy steel and aluminum from China. It can manufacture its ties in China and its shirts in Bangladesh. It can choose to use a tax loss carryforward to avoid paying federal taxes. It can even withhold payments to architects, contractor, and vendors. It can mistreat employees who are trying to unionize. As its leader, Donald Trump can walk into dressing rooms filled with young women. As its leader, he can become a reality TV star who is best known for saying the words, “You’re fired.” To Donald Trump’s credit, the Trump organization rose from bankruptcies and huge amounts of debt into a Trump-brand-driven conglomerate by laser-focusing on profits. 

Generating a profit is key to running a successful business. Investors need to be rewarded with returns. But there aren’t investors in our country, there are citizens. Citizens need healthcare, schools, roads, bridges, protection, and opportunities. Decisions are not made on returns alone. Presidents need empathy, compassion, strength, kindness, understanding, vision, leadership, a steady hand, and the ability to inspire not just one group of citizens, but all of us. 

Our next President will inherit a tremendous deficit, but more importantly that person will have the opportunity to lead this country and make sure that every citizen has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It isn’t about money. It is about so much more. I want to dedicate my No Trump vote to those who care more about doing what is right for this country than making money. I want my vote to go for a woman who has dedicated her career to public service, not money.




#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here  

SHEILA GRACE STUEWE grew up in Chicago, earned an MBA in Nashville and has been trying to find a home ever since. After three decades of manipulating numbers as a finance executive, she came to her senses and earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her essay “Residual Value” essay won an Association of Writers and Writing Programs Intro Journals Prize for Nonfiction was published in Artful Dodge. Her essays have also appeared in Hunger Mountain, Hippocampus Magazine, and drafthorse.



Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sonya Lea's Dedication

When we had been married for twenty-three years, my husband went into surgery to remove a rare cancer, nearly lost his life, and emerged with no memory, short or long-term. We learned that Richard had experienced an anoxic insult, a brain injury, one that left him with difficulty in expressing himself through language. A neuropsychologist indicated that Richard had acquired a permanent disability.

This big, newly gentle man lost his identity and history, but he didn’t lose the people who loved him. Luckily, we were taken in by our community—including those who had been through their own trials—few of whom had any idea about who we ought to be, or how we ought to express ourselves. Over those years, the loss of Richard’s memory made us more alert to transgressions against those whose gifts remain unseen.

When, last November, we watched the news to see Donald Trump mocking the disability of a Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, we were furious. No one can forget the sight of Trump as he launched into a seeming impression of the reporter, who has a rare congenital condition that affects his joints. The callous candidate flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle.

When the media confronted Trump about the incident, he lied and said he couldn’t have mimicked him because he’d never met the reporter. Kovaleski had interviewed Trump in person over a dozen times. The candidate went on to accuse Kovaleski of “using his disability to grandstand.” Trump said, “I didn’t know he was disabled,” instead claiming that he was mocking Kovaleski for “groveling.”

This is typical of Trump-style hate, using derision for his personal gain, and prompting his followers to despise both the marginalized, and the media. Over the next months, we would watch in horror as Trump degraded everyone who wasn’t a white male. His cruelty was evident in his speeches against Mexican and Latino people, black people, LGBTQ people, women, refugees, Muslims, uneducated people, American prisoners of war, and people with disabilities.

We turned toward each other in bed many nights, talking about things we were privileged to never before have to speak—how we might keep our children and loved ones safe in a hate-filled America.

Those nights we lie awake in the dark speaking about this country, and its proclivity to write into law its prejudice against marginalized communities. We read each other stories and watched films about this country’s roots in colonization and slavery, and its current day mass incarceration and refugee prisons. We learned that before Hitler, America led the world in forced sterilizations for the mentally ill and physically disabled. Trump’s racism and xenophobia, backed by Republican compliance, was already manifesting into brutality at his rallies. Whatever forces had built Trump were made of fear, and the sense that a scapegoat is required to ensure our safety.

The effect of a brain injury on my husband was to make him tender, undefended, without guile—the opposite of Trump. Every day for most of this year I watched Richard cry when he saw someone ridiculed, and too, when he witnessed people who were overcoming their limited circumstances. For a long time I grieved the loss of my former gregarious, commanding partner, but I no longer see something absent when I look up at his blue eyes. His difference (like mine, like yours) is not a failing—it is the very thing that knits our world together in remarkable, beautiful diversity.

I dedicate my No Trump Vote to my husband, and to everyone who has felt other, an outlier, at the edge.

Though my husband sometimes still forgets our mutual history, he is teaching me what it is to live here now, in the remarkable present.

Now, the ballots are coming.

Now, you can vote to include all of the others, all of the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.


#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here  


SONYA LEAs memoir, Wondering Who You Are was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, and has garnered praise in Oprah Magazine, People, and the BBC, who named it a “top ten book.” Her essays have appeared in Salon, The Southern Review, Brevity, Guernica, The Los Angeles Book Review, The Rumpus, and more. Lea teaches at Hugo House in Seattle, and to women veterans through the Red Badge Project. Find her at www.wonderingwhoyouare.com.


She is a proud Hillary Clinton Delegate.

Kristina Lear's Dedication

I am 9 years old. I am walking to meet my mother and brother after school. 

A man stops and asked me if I want a ride. I say “No, thank you.” I explain that I’m only going up the hill.

He grabs my coat and tells me to get in. He explains that it’s cold outside. 

A minute later he passes where I’m going and seconds after that sticks his hand down my shirt. I held my breath. 

I don’t know what happened next, how I got out of the car or reconnected with my family.  

It was 9 more years before I mentioned this incident to anyone. 

I dedicate my vote to the time in any person’s life that has been spent holding on, wondering if, doubting, and abandoning yourself because of the words, the eyes, or the hands of someone else. 

#DedicateYourNoTrumpVote
To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here  

KRISTINA LEAR is a writer, director, and actor who lives in Los Angeles, California and central Vermont. She is a co-creator of ActOut, a writing and acting program for incarcerated youth in CA, an alumnus of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women, and a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. She and her work have appeared in theaters and on screens (large and small) throughout the country and the world.