Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dear President-elect Obama...

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“We always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs.”

~ Will Rogers
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Dear President-elect Obama...

Congratulations. You have accomplished a milestone that is among the most significant in our nation's history. Becoming the first black male to be elected to the office of President of the United States is not something I thought I would ever see in my lifetime. I am sure Martin Luther King was doing beyond-the-grave handstands and backflips. He probably also smiled a whole bunch...

I thought I might see a woman President but dude, you turned the world on its ear.

Now understand, please, that I am a cynic when it comes to politics. With all my heart I hope you are that person so many of us are hoping you are... a free man, beholding to no man or group of men. My cynicism is no rarity these days. There are plenty like me. But on election night when that point was reached where it was certain you were our next President and TV news cameras turned to the faces of black America... I loved our country and our citizens like I never had. The tears and smiles, the pride... which was the point of Rev Wright's much maligned sermon... well, sir, you have inherited a heavy load with a lot of people counting on you. You also received a great gift in the opportunity to be in a position where you not only can make a difference but will -- for good or bad -- make a difference. At this point in humanity's existence we truly need for the difference you make to be for good and what is right for the people...

... not for the corporations...

... not for the lords of war...

... but for the billions of human beings teeming our world who see their leaders squandering the finite resources of a planet that is held in common by us all. We can no longer allow tens of thousands of human beings anywhere in the world to die each day from starvation and malnutrition. There is no excuse for there to be any community, anywhere, that does not have access to potable water. In an age when we can send vehicles to Mars and are a culture that worships and flaunts opulence, how do we allow children to die slow, painful deaths for lack of even minimal nutrition? Certainly sir, if we can afford to manufacture weapons that are great destroyers of life, we can afford to feed a hungry babe and save a life? Feed all the hungry babes? Perhaps the time has come when we shall spend as much on food as we do for bombs and bullets?

Even here in the United States we allow too many to do with too little. While we don't have starvation we do have too many who are hungry, who are cold, who live with no roof, no medical services...

There is a need for not just retooling the automakers and "bailing out" the self-anointed lords of finance, but for refitting our thinking. It is inexcusable that the people living in the areas of the south so ravaged by Hurricane Katrina's destruction still have not seen the assistance and comprehensive rebuilding necessary for them to resume life as whole and vital communities. When nature breaks our communities down, we need to rebuild them better than they were. Surely Mr. Obama, a mobile home venting formaldehyde gas and poisoning its inhabitants is not a suitable substitute for the solid, earth-as-foundation, framed homes with yards and gardens and neighbors that so many of our fellow Gulf Coast citizens had to flee because of Hurricane Katrina? Surely sir, when fires scorch the arid west, when floods inundate low lying communities along our great rivers in the Midwest, our National Guard citizen-soldiers should be home defending against flood, fire and then aiding those in need after disaster's devastation?

In fact sir, many of us here on the streets, here in our communities, believe - and rightly so - that our government representatives have become part of our collective woes! With billion dollar earmarks attached like blowflies to essential legislation and elected representatives voting themselves a raise when so many of us here on the streets are losing jobs and homes, how can those we elect be so stupidly greedy? We have eyes! We know many among the elected are good people eager to serve effectively and efficiently and whose time in government is marked by honesty and integrity. But we are so very aware that Mammon has far too many followers in the halls of Congress directing the disbursements from our collective purse.

Mr. Obama, yours is an unique opportunity. Your election has drawn on not just loyal Democrats, but has also drawn greatly from that 15 - 20% of us who are staunch independents. Making you our choice was a cooperative plea for a real man, not a politician, but someone who has grown up without a silver spoon, to represent us.

Please, Mr. Obama, listen to those working class citizens around you who worked with you in Illinois. Listen to our voices. Voices like that of our dear and late mutual friend, nurse, mother, wife and grandmother, Beth Wehrman, who are desperately seeking an ear that will hear our pleas for an end to the drug wars -- Prohibition II -- which do nothing to solve the crisis Prohibition is wreaking a second time upon our cities. None of us who advocate for drug legalization and (or at least) a critical investigation of our failing drug policies denies drugs can and do cause harm. What we are saying (and it is a point supported by history's examples) is that Prohibition ends none of those woes, but makes them all exponentially worse.

Please, Mr. Obama, hear us when we say our children need quality education. Education that prepares them with the skills they will need when they are ready to set out upon their own adult lives. We cannot recover from our current plight with a population increasingly illiterate. If we can read with comprehension our understanding of any field we study grows. If we can read with understanding all other skills follow.

I too shed tears that evening of your election. Knowing that Black America's head now rose proudly, saying to all "yes, by god, we can, we now have" gained an equal seat at the table, was a crowning moment for us as a nation.

Please sir, be real. Of all the elements that make a man a leader, the one that now matters most is that you be real. A real human being, being human.

Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

Respectfully,

Allan Erickson
Eugene, Oregon
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