I am so sorry for what you are going through. I know you are tough – my American friends tell me so, and you’ve probably had to be tough to thrive given some of the things you’ve lived through – but I want you to know there are women in Australia who see you as intelligent, experienced and capable, who understand that when something happens to you, it happens to all women and girls.
It seems there is not much the electorate finds to like in you. Toughness might be valued in men but not in women. Our first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard, was described as tough too, as an insult. It joined the others, heartless, barren, frumpy, empty-kitchened, weak, big-arsed, a bitch, a witch. Our opposition leader threatened her with jail, and one media commentator suggested they put her in a chaff bag and throw her in the sea.
I wish you had a better opponent, Ms Rodham Clinton, in every sense, someone civil and to your right who could put you on your mettle in those debates, who could engage you on the issues. Instead, you have the Jungian shadow on a world scale – hatred, anger and violence – and an individual willing to say and do anything for power, for ego, for self. It doesn’t seem fair that you must descend to the nadir of the world in order to run for high office.
I confess I’ve found it hard to engage with this particular US election after what we did to the first woman PM in Australia. But after the second debate – during which I found myself weeping unaccountably – I have tried to get to know you as a person. I do understand that politicians are created in our image and not really real. But I've done what I can. I've read the writers who call you a lying woman, the worst thing a woman can be, I’m guessing. I've read the ones who report gleefully the chants of Lock her up at rallies, who talk about your husband as if he’s you.
And then I read a piece by Karoli Kuns, a blogger who starts by saying she was not your fan until she read the first tranche of leaked emails. Kuns’s piece interested me because I’m a historical fiction writer. I know that when you read people’s letters, you get a sense of who they are. You get to know character, voice, what someone cares about. You can bring them to life on the page from there.
Kuns read 5000 emails, she said, and the character they described took her by surprise, a competent manager of people and one who takes time to write notes of condolence or congratulations to employees. Through all the emails, Kuns writes, concern for women and children is first and foremost in this person’s mind. It was this point, more than the rest, that made me think you must be a kind person, Ms Rodham Clinton, because only kind people put children first.
I also watched a video, albeit released by your campaign, about Shane, who met you when you were First Lady. Shane grew up in foster care and you took up his cause and made it easier for foster children to be adopted, he said. He made the point that there was nothing in it for you. Foster children were voiceless, he said, and you gave them a voice. You are a much higher quality person than they are describing when they chant Lock her up, just as Julia Gillard was a much higher quality person than the witch they wanted to ditch.
The fact it has taken publication of recorded bragging about sexual creepiness to change polling numbers for your opponent is astounding to me. In that second debate, you reminded me of what debating is, putting thoughtful argument gently, politely, wisely. But you were up against a pit fighter with a knack for nastiness. He lacks your experience, of course, but he lacks your compassion too, and nothing I have heard from him so far is kind.
I fear, Ms Rodham Clinton, that this will get nastier before it is done. We live in a strange time in history, where the internet is the Colosseum, all gladiatorial combat and lions, and the news cycle favours dumb hatred, with this US election the proof if we needed it. Julia Gillard, incidentally, found life beyond what she endured as a political leader. She has worked since leaving office as an ambassador for girls’ education worldwide. She has been an advocate for women in leadership roles. It is cause for hope, surely, that those who hate didn’t frighten her away altogether.