An Open Letter To President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Looking around, I see a country in which liberty is quashed in the name of security (even if said security won’t make us that much safer) and rational thought has been replaced by fear.

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Dear Mr. President,

Looking around, I see a country in which liberty is quashed in the name of security (even if said security won’t make us that much safer) and rational thought has been replaced by fear.  Though your health reforms did not go far enough, the bill was one of the few decisions that went against fear.

Unfortunately, too much of the “war on terror” is based on fear.  Fear that 9/11 will happen again, if we don’t account for every possibility.  Gone are the days when blunt objects, sharp objects, weapons, and explosive agents were the only things not allowed on planes.  Now bottled water is such a threat that it must be drunk before boarding. Other liquids are so hazardous that they must be placed in an indestructible plastic baggy, and only allowed through 3 oz at a time.  That includes my contact solution, toothpaste, and mouthwash.  Eye drops and liquid-based chapstick, too, but at least they come in small containers, as do my contact lens cases, filled with solution–and my contacts.   And forget gel insoles.  You might as well be bringing plastic explosives through security.

Unfortunately, the world has joined us in our insanity.  And now full body scans are being installed in airports.  Did anyone ask if Americans want to be protected in this way?  Remember the quote about freedom and safety that Benjamin Franklin (may have) made.  Our freedom is certainly being taken away, but how much safety are we gaining in return?  Enough to feel harassed and have to bring sandwich baggies with us on a plane for objects that do harm to no one?  Enough to have a nude image of us appear on a screen for a stranger to view, however brief?  Enough to have our health possibly compromised by the technology used to make the scan?

And if we refuse, then we are subject to a vigorous pat-down.  Are we entering an airplane, or a prison cell, Mr. President?  Targeting innocent civilians for such a security measure seems excessive, especially considering that the TSA is telling us that we can’t put certain things in our carry on bags that we used to be able to put in them, while most airlines are charging us for checked bags.  Wonder why we’re a little pissed off?   Civility is dying in this country, and customer service may already be dead.

Part of this problem is due to our reliance on air travel.  We have lagged far behind Europe, to say nothing of Asian nations like Japan, which have multiple and more efficient modes of public transportation, such as trains.  And not just trains, but trains that run at different speeds, depending on how far away your destination is.

Still, when we travel overseas, planes are much faster than boats.  So why, then, would you put security measures in place that make us want to fly less, which cost the airlines money, which they then take out on their remaining customers, who then decide they don’t want to fly anymore?

Fear has claimed other victims, too: prisoners are still being held in Guantanamo Bay, when that place should’ve been shut down years ago.  Your opponents used fear to stay your executive order.  That should have told you that your argument was just, and theirs was nonexistent.  The war in Afghanistan continues, costing us far too many lives, goodwill, and money to be sustained (even with the draw down of troops in 2011, we will be there for many years to come).

And then there’s tax cuts on the rich (driven more by toeing an imbecilic party line than by fear).  The rich aren’t suffering right now.  In fact, they hardly feel the effects of the bad economy, except that they’re making far more money than they deserve, or that any person should be entitled to.  I believe in upward mobility in this country, but money should never be the goal, and after a certain threshold is reached, the money would do better to leave the hands of the few, in order to benefit the lives of the many.

Consider this, Mr. President: the rich did pretty well under Eisenhower, when they paid much higher taxes (around 90%).  Hell, they did well under Clinton, and paid higher taxes–the tax rates, in fact, that they would return to if the Bush tax cuts expired.  I feel you should go further and increase them to the rates they were under Eisenhower, arguably the most prosperous time in American history.  And cap executive pay, so that net profits are shared among the workers, not just the guys at the top.  After all, does it make sense that most of these men make more than you do as leader of this country, Mr. President?

Recently, Jon Stewart held a Rally to Restore Sanity.  I think it would be wise if the federal government returned to sane ways of dealing with our nation’s very real problems, instead of trying to get re-elected. Democrats being voted out of power in the House doesn’t mean that the American people want you to show less spine on issues, or that they believe that the Republicans have the answers they’re looking for. We, as a nation, are looking to people who can get things done.  Sadly, neither party seems to be interested in getting things done right now.

But getting back to airport security: I think this speaks to a larger problem in this country than just fear, a problem that you said you would fight, Mr. President, but apparently have forgotten about. The problem has to do with powerful interests being invested in the governmental power structure, on both sides of the aisle. There’s lots of money to be made in fear, in insecurity, in war, and these invested interests are profiting at the expense of the Republic.  At the expense of our freedom. At the expense, even, of our security.

Your mistake, early on, was in not holding these forces accountable.  There have been no investigations into wrongdoings by the last administration, no investigations into criminal activity (or, at least, reckless behavior) by the companies that caused the economy to collapse, and no accountability attached to the millions of dollars that were shoveled at them (unlike, say, the strings attached to car companies that received federal funding).  The way that we turn the page, Mr. President, is by seeing that justice is done, that past wrongs are corrected when it is still possible to do so.  Not by acting as if nothing happened.  Not by sending a message to future administrations that they can engage in criminal activity, so long as they prevent any investigations from happening while they are in power, since none will happen when they are out of power.

I’d like to remind you of one other thing you forgot. You forgot that an army of young and disenfranchised voters swept you to power.  These voters, myself included, wanted you to launch an investigation into the Bush administration’s misdeeds.  We wanted a public option for health care.  We wanted you to go after Wall Street, and the banks, and the CEOs making money for short term gain at the expense of long term stability.  We want you to root out these powerful interests.  Yet, time and time again, when the numbers were on your side (and the Democrats side), you (and the Democrats) caved in to Republican fear tactics.  What you need to remember, Mr. President, is that the same people who elected you are the same people who will give you the power to overcome Republican (and Democrat) opposition to your plans.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’d like to remind you that we are still out here, Mr. President. Waiting for you to rally us. Waiting for a leader to lead us.

Author: Greg Salvatore

Writer. Voice Actor. Humanist. Feminist.

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter To President Obama”

  1. You speak of individual freedom in the beginning of your post with regard to air travel and our willingness to relinquish our freedom for the illusion of safety. By the end of your post you are advocating the destruction of individual freedom in exchange for economic security. Like many in the progressive movement your opinion is inconsistent.

    You cannot have individual freedom without the right to keep what you earn, after all, your paycheck is only a representation of that part of your life, energy, mind and talent that you used to earn it. Fair value can only be determined by you and the person willing to pay you for your time and effort, not the government, not another individual nor a mob.

    That said, you are correct, we have a dire problem in America; government and business are co-opting true capitalism creating a corporatist state. Rather than higher taxes to be wasted on meaningless programs run by an inefficient bureaucracy, we need to create the Separation of Economy and State. Let the free market run its course with the government’s role simply that of arbiter of conflicts to ensure force and fraud in the system are found and eradicated.

    By the way, there have been no investigations into the causes of the economic collapse because the trail leads to as many or more Democrats, including the President, as it does to Republicans or the previous administration.

    The economic collapse was created by the notion that everyone has a RIGHT to own a home which started under the Carter administration. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were propped up to encourage lenders to make loans to unqualified borrowers. Those loans were sold and resold in an effort to hide and spread risk.

    While financial institutions made it worse by hiding the bad loans, the collapse was precipitated by politicians (on both sides) promising voters things that they had not earned and implementing bad policy and regulations to make it so…just sayin’.

    1. Some good points, Larry.

      As far as making money is concerned, I’m fine with it, so long as the money is there, and it is earned. Making millions of dollars by bankrupting your company, or getting paid a disproportionate amount of money in regards to other employees for a job that one could not do without the other, are attitudes that I don’t have much sympathy with.

      I also believe that if you make millions of dollars, you have a greater obligation to the have-nots around you. This is a humanistic argument, but what government can do is regulate companies so that ethical decisions make a profit, whereas unethical decisions do not (or at least lead to heavy fines, jail time, etc.). Those of you who argue for the free market forget that some of the products of the free market, back when there were no regulations, included child labor, unsafe working conditions, and overworked employees. The market’s only goal is to make money. To make sure it makes its money ethically is the role of government, since governments are set up to protect its citizens’ rights, and policies should be uniform within a country (I actually think they should be global, but that may be a trickier sell).

      Still, I thank you for your input, and for your civility. And you are right about one of the reasons for the lack of investigations, though, in a past age, some party members would’ve had the spine to stand up to wrongdoing, even within their own party.

  2. It is just the death of common sense. No more. No less. Fear is what run this country and those who started it all have taken their purses and have run off with it. Does not matter who is responsible. Blaming this one and that one will not replace the two most important things we have all lost:

    Humanity. Humility.

    Fantastic post.

    1. True, but I don’t believe you should forgive and forget unless the person asks for forgiveness. Plus, when people have no morality (or a twisted morality), only the threat of punishment (and following through on that threat) will prevent them from doing it again. Most of the businesses that caused the collapse have not even punished their CEOs for almost destroying them. They will not learn, unless we teach them the lesson through punishment.

      Glad you like the post. 🙂

  3. Seems to me that fear is still the same, all we have to fear is fear itself. Look what it’s doing to us as a nation. We’ve almost paralyzed ourselves with fear. There’s sombody showing a profit off the hysteria (corporate sponsored politicians, the military-industrial complex). Look at Iraq. We were lied to as a nation. Our brave young men and women believed they were chasing WMD’s and an evil man who was part of 9/11, and went and fought the war to preserve our freedom. And the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

    The conservative right wing still believes it’s every man for himself, and the liberal left wing still believes that we are our brother’s keeper, and we’re never going to agree.

    On a side note, allowing the markets to govern themselves (de-regulation) in the name of individual freedom and the goodness of capitalism is what got us the spreading of risk and the loans to people who could not afford them, not some policital promise/guarantee of the American Dream. Greed will always push the envelope on what’s moral, and what is a corporation these days except greed? It’s literally in the laws that a corporation must make money, or the shareholders can sue for instance because the board chose to make a little less and pay the help a little more. They have an obligation to their shareholders to employ little children overseas because they can make more money that way. When they passed the law allowing insurance companies and banks and investment companies to do each other’s business, the problem became institutionalized. We need to turn back the clock on that law, and unravel what deregulation created before it eats us alive.

    We’re walking through scanners that may be poisoning us (who really knows), but not checking luggage in the cargo hold. We’re not paying attention. We’re not any safer, and the only thing that’s being accomplished here is somebody’s making money on scanners. At least somebody’s “freedom” is being preserved, that’s the freedom to make money.

    We elected Obama by a huge majority because these things were going to be addressed. It was addressed in the House under Pelosi, or at least a lot of it was. It was shut down in the Senate because of the obstructionists. Our whole government has been brought to its knees by the Senate Rules. We have allowed our representative government to only represent the rich few.

    Maybe in 2012 the voters will pay attention to the facts, not what advertisements the corporations can buy in secret.

    LD: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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