Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Letter Intended for Millions

Today, I got an encouraging reply from President Obama in response to a letter I wrote after he left office. I printed it and showed Nick as he came out of his room holding a Nerf gun he was going to donate to the thrift store.

"I got a letter from President Obama. It's probably a form letter," I told him.

"Nope. It's real. He doesn't have people writing for him any more. He'd have to pay them himself." I smiled at my son.

"It's a nice letter, no matter who wrote it," I said.

"I'm telling you, President Obama wrote it. He has time now." I didn't even raise my eyebrows. How many letters does Obama get in a week? Probably thousands. When he was still in office, he received tens of thousands of letters every day according to the New York Times. Even then, he replied to some personally.

Part of me wanted to believe it was true, that this was a unique letter that hadn't also been sent to thousands of other concerned citizens who mourned the end of Obama's presidency. Part of me wanted this to be my very own letter from a man who deserved the utmost respect for the service he and his family gave to our country, for the serious and moral way he attended to his job, for the warmth with which he met ordinary people, especially children.

And then I reread his message.

President Obama said that our country keeps taking two steps forward despite one step back, that the course we take doesn't depend on the actions of one person alone, that democracy is only truly threatened when we take it for granted, and that he and his family will stand alongside us toward that end. That's a good message.

So what if my letter has been sent to thousands of people?

It's a message that thousands of us, millions of us, need desperately to hear. It's hard to realize that it is working, that pink-hat protests, letters to the editor, faxes to representatives, and even snappy science T-shirts are working.

Look at the ACA, still kicking because of everything a bunch of ordinary and a few extraordinary people in wheelchairs did to fight for it. Look at the investigation of collusion with Russia over disrupting our election, still happening even though Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, and James Comey were fired for seeking the truth. Look at racism and religious freedom, still being defended by heroes like Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, both of whom died, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who was seriously injured, when they protected a Muslim and a black girl from a racist attack in Portland, Oregon.

It is working.

"You can kill a man," Medgar Evers once said, "but you can't kill an idea."

And President Obama's ideas have survived despite the new administration and some Congressional representatives that have attempted to kill them.

That's a good message for thousands of weary citizens who continue to fight for true democracy and the balance of power; true freedom for everyone regardless of their color, their gender, their orientation, or their religion; and our right to protect vulnerable people with our own taxes.

Just a few minutes ago, Mike walked into the room carrying his work backpack and lunch bag. Nick showed him the pile of things he's decided to donate to clear his room. I reached up to kiss Mike before I picked up my letter and handed it to him.

"I got a message from President Obama today," I said.

"Nice," he said, putting his bags down and scanning the letter. "You know this is a form letter, don't you?"

"I know, right?" I said a little too enthusiastically.

Thank you for listening, jb

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