Dear Mr. President:
Let me open by saying this is not a letter of attack, nor is it a letter of unconditional praise. It is, in fact, a request, a request for leadership which I believe you have within your power to do for this country, leadership that is sorely needed in these troubled times.
I frankly had not been paying much attention to you or the political scene, until the moving speech you presented on September 9, on Health Care reform. I’m not sure why I listened, though health care is a personal concern, so I gave you an hour I normally wouldn’t give any politician.
Let me take a brief moment to give you some context: I was raised in a staunchly Republican household, and am attracted at times to some Libertarian thinking. With your speech, you successfully challenged me to open my mind to what your Presidency seeks to achieve.
Simply, your speech was brilliant. You defined the issue; delineated your expectations; challenged not just the assembled senators and representatives to work together on the issue, but all of us watching; reached across the aisle using your opponent in your Presidential race, John McCain, as a symbol of his party; and skillfully used the recent passing of Ted Kennedy for a final call to action built on an emotional appeal that only the most hardened heart would dismiss.
You even handled Representative Joe Wilson’s indiscretion with poise, and strength. For a time I was personally outraged by Wilson’s act, and felt strongly he should be expelled from his position in some manner. I applaud your commentary on the September 13 installment of 60 Minutes for downplaying the need for further censure of Representative Wilson. I say this because it can only fuel more division, something it is clear you understand.
This brings me to my point: division is a luxury we can no longer afford, because our country is tearing itself apart.
This is more than the economic crisis, this is more than health care, this is more than any number of issues.
As a people, we have become more concerned about creating division than creating unity, and it is clear our political leadership as a whole are as guilty of this as the rest of us. Possibly more.
The majority of Americans live by the judgments they make on others.
Because the other person is of a different political persuasion, the other person is in the wrong and deserves to be stonewalled and disenfranchised.
Because the other person is a different race, the other person is in the wrong, and deserves no mercy from our condemnation.
Because the other person holds different religious beliefs, the other person is in the wrong and deserves the torment of the ugliest Hell we can imagine.
We are not unique in the world in this regard, but we should be better than this, because we are Americans.
What did Gandhi say? “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
And to quote Martin Luther King: “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
Mr. President, I believe you are authentic when you speak of finding commonality and agreement.
What I would ask of you is to urge the fellow members of your party to do the same.
What I would ask of you is to continue to persuade your party to the best of your enviable ability to extend the olive branch across the aisle. To provoke your party to listen with a heart that seeks the best, unbiased answer. And, yes, to occasionally turn the other cheek.
By this example, your party might truly lead our nation.
I ask that you please consider this suggestion, offered by a curmudgeon who still finds himself leaning toward the Right side of the aisle.
— Daniel Brenton
Copyright © 2009, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.