[Scene: bungalow apartment in Santa Cruz, CA, season finale of WW Sn.6 just finishing on the television, quiet girl on lime green couch. Chilly, mid-November night, 2009]
16 November 2009
Dear President Barack Obama,
I will begin by saying this is the most ineloquent letter I have ever written, and surprisingly for my age, I have written many letters. Recently having moved away from everything that had grown familiar, writing letters is a way for me to stay connected with that part of my life while trying to create a new one. I have my first serious pen-pals at 23, and now you, Mr. President are joining the ranks.
I wish I could say I’m writing to you for one clear reason, but nothing is that simple, as you understand more than anyone else in the nation. This being my first letter to you, I won’t send a long list but I’ll start with the reason that is urgent, but we mustn’t forget about all of the reasons that are merely important.
Let me lay out a narrative. As a community organizer, you know that telling the story is a way to get your foot in the door and build trust. Here is today’s story: I’m 23 years old and a believer–a believer in equality, justice, democracy. I hope not only with my spirit but with my feet and my hands and careful rhetoric. Formally a straight-A student, I gave it up in college for an education I thought to be of greater value, one that could mobilize people to stand up for what they believe in, to conquer fear and silence in the hope of a better world. After plenty of distractions, I finished school, handed my diploma to my parents to put on their wall and headed towards the urgent–work that called my name even through the recession. I took a job as a labor organizer because I believe in respect for all people and a place at the table for all to voice their concerns with our nation–and unions always need an organizer or two. Now, nearly three months in, I’ve seen why our nation is static, complacent, unwilling to sacrifice comfort for truth.
I would say 85% of what I’m doing is important for the greater good, yet it is the other 15% that distracts me and becomes the priority when it comes to my supervisor and keeping my job. It is the games, the politics, the struggle for power and praise that I cannot take, not solely because it is irrelevant, but because it is so narrowly focused. The struggle for power should be against those that are holding back progress, not someone in the office or down the street. The right hand needs to know what the left is doing so we can use both hands to dig in and not let ourselves tie one behind our back–we have no time to waste. It seems easy to lose hope for a better tomorrow when the goal of each day is to just get through it, forget about demanding things to get done. I myself sometimes can’t wait to leave work, so I can get home and ignore it. I hate those days, being burnt out is too selfish for me at 23 or the United States at 233. My coworkers said “it gets easier once you’ve lost hope of really changing things.” Lose hope? Mr. President, do they give you this same advice?
The business of change was not meant for everyone, but if nothing else it requires great hope. Today, sitting at my desk helpless to do anything that would really change the status of the workers in our union, I grew desperate for some inspiration–not for myself, but for those setting my priorities, priorities that are crushing the only real gift I can give to the world–my hope, my spirit, my soul that believes that one day our words will match our actions so that we’ll have no more need to keep talking, we’ll just do and be.
We need no more distraction, or intimidation, we need real strategies for making changes but first we need the vision and the inspiration to get there.
You sir, were that inspiration for many people just one year ago, myself included. And still, thought I can get riled up like the rest of them who are tired of standing still, I’ll still go knocking on whatever doors you need me to–but while you’re working on alternative fuels and fixing our environment you should know too, that I’m running on empty looking for a sustainable way of filling up on hope.
This is where the narrative gets a little fuzzy, there is no final “ask” because I don’t know today what it is I really need.
A pen-pal will do for now. And while I don’t expect a response, the idea that my words have been released from my clenched teeth, is of great relief.
I’ll write more soon.
P.S. And no, you will not get out of having to discuss Afghanistan with me either so prep some new talking points.