This is me. First thing in the morning. No makeup, no coffee, even. I want to put my tired, aging face right out there with no attempt to make it pretty or make you think I'm something other than who and what I am.
I want you to do the same. I want us to introduce ourselves to each other. Because it appears we don't know each other at all.
You'll consider me a a progressive liberal, or you'll think I'm an East Coast elitist. You'll be partially right, either way, and partially wrong. Black and white doesn't tell the whole story. Never does.
My name is Susan. I'm 59. I live on the East Coast. I grew up here, I went to college here, I worked here, had my two children here, and will probably die here. Not because it's better than anywhere else. It's just where my life happened.
I love the Midwest. It's where my mother grew up and where I went to visit every summer. I loved the flat farmland, the way they talked, the fact that everything they ate tested better than what we had at home. I think that huge expanses of farmland are beautiful in the same way the ocean is beautiful. It cuts us down to size, puts us in perspective.
My dad was an East Coast native and my mom's family wasn't keen on him. Likewise, my dad's family toward my mom.
So I understand that "them and us" thing that rose up and gave us Donald Trump as our next president. I get it.
As an only child, I never felt like I fit anywhere. Maybe that makes me the right person to start this attempt at a conversation. Bear with me. I'll explain.
First, let me tell you who I am. I used to be a television news anchor and that was a pretty big deal in a pretty small city, but that was a long time ago. I've done radio news. I even worked for an NPR station (and if you don't like liberals that's probably really going to tick you off).
I've also taught high school English, I've worked in a retail store, I've been a secretary - and a very poor one, I must admit. I did a temp accounting job for a big corporation. I've been unemployed. I even got fired once.
These days, I sell real estate. I write. I've got novels the world has never seen. Maybe they never will. I did get my short stories published once. You'll probably never find the book. It's okay. I have written for newspapers and magazines. I love to write.
I was raised Catholic. I left it behind when my mother died. It was a crisis of faith and I lost.
I have two grown children who are the most amazing people on the planet. Really. I believe they are.
I'm divorced. It was a hard, sad time a long time ago and we both share the blame.
I met a nice man and I refuse to get married again. So you might tell me I am living in sin.
I pay more than $500 a month for my insurance with Obamacare, but before that, I had none at all. Real estate doesn't offer benefits.
My son and his girlfriend are getting married soon. I'm hoping it's my year for going to happy weddings - another of my favorite couples plans to get married, too - but it wasn't legal for them to marry until not too long ago.
I believe every human being has the same rights. I don't care what color they are, what gender, who they love, where they live, what or who they worship: humans are humans and as such, they deserve equal respect, equal rights, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunities.
I supported Bernie Sanders. I wasn't rabid about it, but I believed, and still do, that he was the liberal answer to the "outsider" we were yearning for. I agreed with his platform. I reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton because I could not vote for Donald Trump. But I wish I had had another choice. She was an insider in a system I believe has failed. And now it's collapsed.
Why not Trump? Here's what I ask you to understand, if you can: I believe what he said on the campaign trail. I believed it when he expressed racist, sexist, homophobic, discriminatory views. I believed it when he encouraged violence.
I do not think he is stupid. Far from it. I think he crafted the perfect expression of what a massive block of angry voters wished they could say, but couldn't.
The fact that he said it, out loud, on the campaign trail for the country's most important job, told me he is irresponsible. He erased that line that, until now, we didn't dare cross. And that has made a few truly angry, truly hate-filled people brave enough to begin expressing their rage at other people.
I'm hearing about gays being beaten, school kids making their black classmates move to the back of the bus, women grabbed. Is it just hysteria? I do not know. But no one ever wants to hear this might be happening. Not here. Not in America.
We are beyond that. Aren't we?
I believe he will support big business and the middle class will continue to suffer. I don't think he'll help the poor. I think he's a bad businessman and I see no evidence he won't be a very, very bad president.
He doesn't care about anything I care about.
Gun violence is an epidemic in this country. I want strict controls on who can have a gun and what kind of gun it can be. My dad was a hunter. He was responsible. But no one needs an assault weapon.
Factory farming scares me on a lot of levels. The food isn't healthy, many farmers have been put out of business. I try to be a vegetarian. My vegan friends will be horrified to learn that sometimes I fail. But mostly I succeed. It's better for the environment, it's better for my health, but more importantly it means a few less animals are tortured and killed just so I can eat.
I worry about the environment. I know the weather has changed and it makes no sense to me that we have no impact on the climate. With all the roads, the cars, the businesses...it just has to be connected. And science is clear that it does.
I believe science when it's conclusive. But I know sometimes scientists make mistakes, too.
I don't think I'm a snob. But I know education is really important, and I think everyone should have access to it. I don't think kids and their parents should go into massive debt to pay for it.
If a student wants to learn a trade instead, I think it's important that those jobs and those opportunities exist. And in many trades, there's the opportunity to open your own business. There should be government programs to help them make that happen, in lieu of support for their college education.
I support what we now call single payer health care. I think good health care should be the right of every citizen.
Maybe that's socialism. So be it, then. That label isn't frightening to me.
My America isn't Trump's America. Trump's America scares me. He's let loose something that may destroy us.
What is frightening is a country that is full of hate. I don't want to be afraid for my children's future. I don't want you to be afraid for your children's future.
We haven't been talking to each other. We don't know each other.
Let's talk. Introduce yourself. Let's make a start. And let's build a political system that listens to us, and responds to our concerns. Because it's a sure bet that we haven't had that. And I think we can agree on that.
Yes, there will likely be some nasty troll comments if this thing catches on. Ignore the noise. Let's try to build up some kind of trust again by getting to know each other.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story. I'll post it here and link to it on FB and Instagram and Twitter. And don't forget we're all Americans.