Saturday, September 19, 2009

Letter to the President

It's too long. He won't read it. But I wrote it before Ramadan was over, and I'm happy about that. I'm going to send it through the mail on Monday. Anyone want to recommend lines to ditch? I'd love to get it shorter.

Dear President Obama,

Alice Walker wrote you a letter early on. I’ll bet you read that one.
I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that will get my letter noticed.
But I’ve got to try.

Progressive leaders tell us you can’t do it alone.
You need us to pressure you.
Well, this is the most pressure I can offer.
I’m a single parent, working full-time and more, etc etc
No time for meetings with organizations to plan actions.
But I support Code Pink, in their protests of every war being conducted by the U.S. or its proxies,
Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine, are there more?
And I support whoever is working for single-payer health insurance for all,
Including undocumented workers.
I support anyone who is telling you you’re not quite there yet in your understanding of education issues.
(You might want to listen to Deborah Meier,
Founder of a small public school in Harlem that has made a big difference in children’s lives,
Author of The Power of Their Ideas, a book about that school.)
I support whoever is pushing you to get serious about global warming,
Perhaps more important than any of my other (small? human) concerns.

And I support you, the most intelligent, well-spoken president I’ve ever had
In my 52 years as a citizen of this country.
I am deeply sorry that people of color are being subjected to such vicious racism lately.
On its surface it’s pointed at you, but it hurts millions.
You knew what you might face, and are strong enough to look beyond this.
My students do not have the resources you do.
Each sign that belittles you is a slap in their faces.
I am angry.

This letter is mostly about wars and peace,
About how democracy and empire don’t sit well together,
About how Greg Mortenson’s work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan will reduce terrorism,
Where U.S. bombs are likely to increase it.
But it’s also about health care and education, about racism and the health of the planet,
Because, on the small chance I’ve managed to catch your ear,
It’s all connected for me.
Racism keeps people divided, keeps the fear level high, fear is what feeds militarism, along with terrorism.
Those soldiers who’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan need better health care, just like the rest of us.
Young people whose education doesn’t numb them, who follow their natural desire to learn learn learn,
Will be smart enough to stay away from the military.
And of course, we can only stop global warming if we’re working together all over the planet.
We need to stop warring to do that.

You know these wars aren’t really about terrorism,
But more about oil and empire.
Please realize that it’s too expensive to keep trying to control half the planet, or more.
The expense isn’t only the billions or trillions being spent on weapons and soldiers.
There is also the goodwill lost, a huge expense.
Are we the world’s cop, the world’s biggest bully?
Or can we be a beacon of something good,
Of a country that can (sometimes) live up to its ideals?

Three years ago I had 6 Muslim women in my beginning algebra class.
When they talked about Ramadan, I asked them to explain.
I decided to fast in solidarity with Muslims,
Because there was too much hatred toward them,
And the wars…
Last year, I hoped I might be able to stop fasting each year.
I hoped you might stop the warring. Was that a silly hope?
President Barack Obama, I will continue to hope that your moral compass will steer you out of these wars.

Respectfully Yours,

Sue VanHattum

P.S. #1:
I know you got lots of money from insurance companies in your campaign.
Just about everyone who’s ever been elected to high office has.
But now, if you want to be able to hold your head up, you need to do what’s right,
Even if that makes them turn against you. Haven’t they already?
Everyone needs health care,
And it can’t come through the greedy insurance companies,
It needs to come through taxes.
This nonsense about being fined for not having insurance sure sounds unconstitutional to me,
Not to mention blaming the victim.

Mostly, I loved your first day of school education speech.
But it’s almost completely a Puritan work ethic sort of thing.
And really, we learn best when our learning is playful and passionate.
A good learning challenge sucks you in so that you want to work hard (really hard) to 'get it'.
I wish you would have addressed that.
I also wish you would have talked about how good it feels to accomplish something you've worked hard at. And my third wish is that you would have addressed what it means to think for yourself.
Learning should not be only about learning facts, figures, and procedures.
It should be about learning how to think about issues deeply.
My success has come more through following my heart than through the hard work you mentioned.
I suppose I work hard, but I’m having so much fun with my work that I hardly notice.
You said, “You won’t love every subject you study.”
I do think we should be able to love everything we study.
And I think homework should be inspiring.
(Doesn't have to be relevant, if the kid wants to do it anyway.
And if they don’t… Homework can mess with family time, badly.)
I like the message that we need to work hard.
But I want kids to work hard because they love it, not just for some future gain.

I’m a lesbian, and I’d like my people to have the same marriage rights straight people do.


  1. Sent yesterday, on the International Day of Peace.

  2. never give up
    never give up
    never give up

  3. hee hee.

    (I saw this comment in my google reader and thought it was on your own blog. I'm glad I found it.)

    I am glad to be done with the fasting. I don't know whether I'll do it next year. Maybe I'll just try to post a blog a day about the wars the U.S. is conducting in Muslim countries.