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An open letter to President Obama: False Promises

26/05/2010

Mr. President:

I have followed your career since your rise as the junior Senator from Illinois, and I was pleased and excited about what you could offer this nation if we chose you to succeed to the highest office in the land. I told friends and family and everyone who would listen that under your leadership, we would finally emerge from the shadow of war and begin to make progress toward a solid position in the 21st century world. To those who claimed that you were too ambitious and too inexperienced, I shook my head and maintained that your youth and vigor, your plans and your hope, would more than make up for whatever deficiencies you possessed.

No matter when you gave a speech, I would watch and listen and read, and revel. You are blessed with the eloquence of centuries past, a brilliant grasp of the intricacies of language and an intuitive ability to shape words into the message people need to hear the most. I can only aspire to such oratorical heights.

But more and more, I am disillusioned with the promise for which I voted. I stood behind your quest for health care reform, and I still believe in it — if only I saw the benefits personally. Your foreign policy has been largely parallel to my own beliefs, though I remind you that we are still entrenched in two theatres of conflict. Now, with the environmental crisis spurred by BP’s oil spill you have demonstrated a timidity that is not becoming of the “leader of the free world”. If I was offered the opportunity to go back to 2008 and cast my ballot over, I must honestly tell you that I would have backed Secretary Clinton in the primary and, had you yet prevailed, I would have voted for a third-party candidate or not at all.

Let me call your attention to statements you made in your inaugural address, such a short time ago in months but so far removed in circumstance:

“[E]ach day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” This is a wonderfully apt statement, but how has your lack of approach to solving the oil spill done anything to change that approach? By letting the oil continue to spread and deferring to the self-interested BP to fix the problem, you have become part of the threat to our planet.

“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.” You took an oath to defend this country and its Constitution. How are you defending the people affected by the oil spill or, to look at another topic, the closeted LGBTQ community in uniform who actually do defend the freedoms that they themselves do not yet enjoy?

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.” Have you forgotten this?

“But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed.” Bold words; I’m sure BP and Wall Street executives are shaking in their overpriced shoes.

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.” I’m sure I speak for more than myself when I say it isn’t working – jobs at a decent wage are no easier to come by for the average person than they were before; care is still out of reach for millions of college students and graduates whose parents also cannot afford it, so there is no umbrella to which they can return; and retirement is increasingly becoming a pipe dream that those of my generation will never be able to achieve.

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world…”


Mr. President, we are failing.

There are still families with not enough to eat, who live every day under the cloud of uncertainty whether this meal might be the last they can afford, or whether the coming day will see them finally unable to keep the threads of their life from irreparably fraying. You don’t want to stand up to BP and their disinterest in doing the right thing, but by continuing to defer to them you are telling every man, woman and child whose life and livelihood has already been destroyed that your words are as empty as your critics claim.

You are shirking your duty to yourself (to live up to your promises), to your nation (to protect and defend our interests), and the world (to be a leader by example). When we the people fail to live up to our employers’ expectations, we lose our jobs. Sadly, the hope I had for you keeping yours beyond 2012 is feeble and far less than half-hearted.

I don’t know if you have time to salvage your reelection hopes, but those aren’t important right now. What is crucial is that you take true command of this nation and that you stand up for those you represent – you may still save your legacy. If you can finally demonstrate the leadership we need, you will once again be on the right side of history. If not, history will teach a very different lesson from the one you set out to establish — a tragic precedent from which we will be hard-pressed to recover.

Make the right decision, and the people will stand with you.

With hope, however diminished,

Shannon

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