Yesterday the United States took part in it’s quad-annual secular celebration of its democracy and saw the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, be sworn in for his second term. For me, the Inauguration of an American President is one of the few truly sacred events that this country celebrates – not only is it often a symbolic peaceful transition of power, it’s a collective renewal in the American devotion to a flawed-but-beautiful system.
The Inauguration also gives us moments like this, which is just delightful.
Inauguration Day is a day to celebrate the American system, the American spirit, and the American devotion to keeping this grand democratic experiment alive. But Inauguration Day is behind us. The party is over, and now the work begins anew. Like most citizens of the United States, I have my own laundry list of things that I would like to see accomplished by our President. I’ve outlined a few in the letter below, which I have no doubt will reach the eyes of the President…s Social Media Manager…s assistant…s secretary… maybe.
Dear Mr. President,
First of all, let me congratulate you on your reelection. I’m sure that nobody is happier that the election is over than you and your family, but I assure you that the rest of us aren’t far behind. I’m glad to see you in office for another four years, and I was very happy to hear you embrace so many of the progressive ideals that liberals wanted to see from you back in 2008. I may not agree with everything you want to do, but I do believe that the people deserve the candidate they voted for. We heard that man during his Inauguration speech, and I hope to hear more from him in the next four years.
While you have your own agenda, I do have a few requests to make of you. Some of these you’ve already touched on during your campaign and during your inauguration, but all the same I feel that they need to be addressed. These need to be hammered home until something is actually done about them, and to be quiet about it is to be as guilty as those who have actively let these injustices happen.
So if it isn’t too much to ask, I’d like to present my grievances…
- Legalize Gay Marriage: I have no personal stake in this, other than the fact that I want to see the same rights that I’m allowed given to all citizens. If this were a simple matter of religious ideology, I would roll my eyes and move on, but this is more than that. This is being denied legal rights; not because they lack citizenship, or they broke the law, but because they had the audacity to love.
Marriage is a legal institution. For as much as people who hide behind their bibles as a scapegoat for their own bigoted views will cry that letting homosexuals marry will defile the “sanctity” of marriage, this is not about being recognized by their God. This is about being recognized by their government. Letting homosexuals marry isn’t about being able to rent out a church, it’s about allowing them the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital, or make medical decisions when their spouse cannot. This is about allowing gays the right to crime victim recovery benefits if their spouse is robbed, assaulted, or worse. This is about allowing them the right to adopt a child. This is about the right to take bereavement leave from work when your partner dies.
This is about basic, common-sense rights that are currently being denied to an entire sect of the American population because of centuries-old ideologies that simply no longer hold weight.Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal then surely the love we commit to one another should be equal as well.
I couldn’t have summed it up better myself. I sincerely hope you live up to that man’s lofty pledge.
- Help Our Homeless Veterans: I find it disgraceful that a country as powerful and affluent as ours gives so little to the men and women who have volunteered to protect our citizens. This is not about whether or not we should have invaded Afghanistan or Iraq – that was not their decision (it wasn’t yours either, Mr. President). Their only crime is taking an oath to serve, protect and defend the United States of America from its enemies.
Many of them have died, and we mourn their loss and honor their sacrifice. But thousands more return home and are forever changed by their experiences. They are broken; incomplete. They’ve given so much of themselves to their brothers in arms, and part of them is left behind in whatever unfathomable shithole they’ve been sent to. They struggle to readjust to civilian life, and far too many are allowed to slip through the cracks with no net of emotional, psychological or financial support to catch them.
Allow me to be as perfectly clear as I can: A bronze star recipient should not be forced to beg for change in order to survive.
Some dismiss them as drunks or druggies who are too lazy to work. While this is true in some isolated cases, I’m sure, this dismissal does nothing to address the problem – it merely lumps our veterans into one vague and unfair stereotype and condemns them for turning to the only escape from their illness. Our veterans – our heroes in uniform – deserve whatever treatment they may need, whether it’s medication, psychiatric care, or placement within the workforce. It’s the absolute least the government for which they fought for can do for them.
- Curb College/University Costs: I have no idea how in the hell you’d manage this (this is why YOU’RE the President here, not me), but this has long been a problem that is now starting to drift from a hefty financial burden to just being counter-productive. The cost of pursuing a “higher education” is already astronomical, and tuition costs are continuing to climb. The problem with this is we’re seeing more and more people fall under the poverty line to the point where their life-defining decision comes down to “do I throw myself into thirty years of financial ruin as I pay off my loans, or do I allow myself to be left behind by an ever-evolving world and be forced to work menial jobs for the rest of my life?”
How is this a national issue deserving of the attention of the President of the United States? In short, we’re entering a new age of technological advancement, where more and more jobs are going to require a specified education – an education that is simply out of the financial reach of most people, despite their brilliance. This weakens the workforce, and it weakens the economy, and it weakens the American ability to lead the world into the future with cutting-edge technology.
How you’d manage this is, again, out of my realm of knowledge. But maybe start by looking at how much of a university’s budget is committed to athletics?
- Leave the Internet Alone: I’m not trying to imply that you’re out to destroy the Internet or keep it behind lock and key – but some others in the American political system kinda, sorta are. I’m sure you recall H.R. 3261, known as the poorly-researched, dreadfully-written Stop Online Piracy Act bill. It failed to gather much traction (in part because the White House aka YOU said it wouldn’t support it), but this doesn’t change the fact that there are people out there who want to control what we, the people, can see and say online.
This isn’t to say that the Internet should be allowed to run rampant – far from it. Unlike some other, louder voices, I understand that the “wild west” days of the ‘net are in the past, but the flow of information – of knowledge, of news, and of ideas, should never be silenced by any government body. Bills like SOPA, or PIPA, or laws like DMCA (which actually passed in 1998), hurt the Internet and people’s ability to unlock it’s full beneficial potential. Don’t let the Internet run wild unsupervised, of course, but don’t let men who are older than broadcast television determine the fate of the future, either.
You can (and should) still send federal agents after child molesters, though.
- Give NASA a Real Budget, and a Real Mission: On August 6th, 2012, NASA landed a robotic Mini Cooper on Mars. They accomplished this on what amounts to a shoestring budget. This is a remarkable feat that should remind us of what
Americanhuman ingenuity is capable of.
Imagine what NASA could accomplish if we gave them a grand mission.
In the 1960s, President Kennedy challenged us to set foot on the surface of the moon. In nine years, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins piloted 252,000 miles through the vacuum of space in what amounted to a giant tin can strapped to a rocket engine, and met the challenge. And they did this using a computer system that, today, is put to shame by my phone. A phone that would not exist if not for the technology that was birthed from the Apollo program.
Look at the world of today, and see how many of the items that we take for granted can be traced back to the Apollo program. Look at the world of today, and imagine what tomorrow could be if we gave NASA a new mission, and a new mandate. We could be on the cusp of a new age of medical, technological, and scientific breakthroughs – but we’ll never see the fruits of their labor if that labor isn’t supported, in this case through funding and resources.
But more than that, NASA needs a mission like the one that they first embarked on 50 years ago. A mission that will rally the world, and unite people in a moment of triumph – not of NASA’s triumph or of American triumph, but of the triumph of the human spirit. Send NASA back to the Moon, and allow NASA to set the stage to send human beings to Mars. Give us something for today’s children to be inspired by, so that tomorrow’s adults can look back at this moment as the catalyst for when they said “I want to be a scientist”, or “I want to be an engineer.”
I could go on – about firearm control, climate change, social security, etc., but you’re a busy man with his own agenda – which I respect. I know that you have a lot that you want to accomplish, and we both know that you don’t have a whole lot of time to do it in. Sure, we elected you to a four-year term, but let’s face facts – you have a year, maybe a year and a half, to be truly effective. It’s not your fault, mind you – in a year or so the already inept and ineffective House of Representatives will begin to focus on their reelection bids. Shortly after you’ll have one – maybe two – high profile members of your cabinet on the campaign trail (Joe Biden, John Kerry) and the swirling winds of the 2016 Election will blow away any attempt to pass anything truly meaningful.
As I said earlier – our system, while beautiful, is flawed.
But I hope you’re able to accomplish what you set out to. I may not agree with everything you believe, but you’re the man the people elected – and I respect that. Thank you for your time.
James B. Jones (A registered Republican)