Dear President Obama,
Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Hugging After Re-Election
You’ve won. Congratulations. Honestly. As an independent, I had no initial horse in this race, but as a Afro-Latino, I’m proud that you’ve once again managed to claim the White House as yours, in a country where the bones, blood, and sweat of African slaves and Native Americans sit under the House you now occupy. Your re-election came at a high cost, specifically your dreams of a bi-partisan transcendence. If anything, it solidified that the country civilly lives in three spheres: one that wants to push its party a little farther right, one that wishes its party would push a lot farther left, and one that sits square in the middle, lukewarm to the politics of the current day.
My family and I watched your sincerest video to date a few hours ago, awed at the humanity you showed in victory, inspiring those of us who do work in the public sector for those less fortunate and / or privileged. Our son will never know a world where a person of color can’t reach the highest post in our government, and the personal sacrifices you made to make that happen might have brought a weaker man to his knees.
But, your work is far from done.
We thought you would bring fair trials to the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and close it in your first year. The gates remain open.
We thought you would bring about actual peace in the Middle East. You might have killed Osama bin Laden, but you are equally responsible for the drones dropping on innocent civilians there, and the perpetuation of the Green Zone in Baghdad while babies die right outside its gates.
We thought you would reverse the reprehensible education policies set by your predecessor George W. Bush, and, instead, you may have enhanced the testing machine in many ways, even as you speak against it.
We thought you would push for a single payer piece in a more comprehensive universal health care bill instead of what turned out to be the health care reform we ended up seeing. It’s saved thousands, and most of the bill’s effects will hit in 2014, but our medical bills hurt now. Sadly.
We thought you would pass the DREAM Act, giving a clearer path of citizenship for those children whose parents came to this country for an opportunity, just like so many other parents have over the last few centuries. A simple memo won’t satisfy Jan Brewer nor Joe Arpaio in Arizona, so it won’t satisfy us either.
We thought you would walk with us when our unions came under attack in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and in so many other states. I even laid out one of my most comfortable pair since we wear around the same size. Alas, you never came to pick them up.
We get that politicians generally don’t fulfill their campaign promises in full, and compromise constitutes our imperfect union as much as the general public despises compromise. Yet, those of us who see these glaring issues will hold you accountable. We need to set a more progressive agenda, one that places more importance on the poor and working class in this country than the wealthy. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work because if it did, the income gap wouldn’t keep spreading the rich and poor apart ever so slightly every second of every working and non-working hour.
Without the risk of losing the presidency four years from now, you have another opportunity to do what’s right. Again. But this time, your base won’t wait or hope. We will continue pushing for a better America, one that pushed for candidates who promoted marriage equality, women’s rights, and a truer sense of democracy. While your administration contemplates nuclear weapons in Iran and war in Syria, I worry that some of your current policies will only push the term “Democrat” into right-center.
We can’t afford that.
So I’m hoping you receive this with the knowledge that, yes, I do have some obligation to call out the racist and bigots. You are Black despite people’s misgivings about what Black ancestry means here, and you don’t have to show your transcript to irrelevant losers. You do have a cool factor that affords you the right to mention Jay-Z and Abraham Lincoln without skipping a beat.
You don’t have to listen to people who say that you were only elected by people who prefer government handouts. As demonstrated by your bailouts in the early part of your tenure, the very rich like their handouts as well. As a person, I admire the love you and your family have for each other, and the image of a popular person of color embracing the idea of “family” symbolically for the country, and that I do think Michelle, Sasha, and Malia rock in their own ways.
However, as an educator and father, I want to see you leave this country better than it currently stands for years from now. Too many people all over the country are suffering, and some of that falls squarely on your shoulders.
By the time my son has the wisdom to ask me about you, I’d love to say, with context, “Mr. Obama did right by us …” I won’t be quiet about everything else, but, as demonstrated by your re-election, this is far from over. For either of us.
Thanks in advance,