Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 31, 2013
Mr. President: Thomas Mann, in an essay on the making of his famous post World
War I novel "The Magic Mountain", says the hero "before he is snatched downwards
from his heights into the European catastrophe ... does not find the Grail, yet he
divines it ... the idea of a human being, the conception of a future humanity that has
passed through and survived the profoundest knowledge of disease and death." A
recondite book quite readable as an entertaining novel, requires, according to the
author's recommendation, a second reading to penetrate "the symbolic and allusive
Well, what American president has the time to read a 700-page novel once, let alone
twice. But when one sees all the slaughter initiated in the last five years, and the
President of Burma in the White House while ethnic cleansing of Muslims and other
minorities continue there -- including the burning of shops, houses, and killings of
occupants just last week in the north -- then perhaps a look back is not a bad idea.
After all summer is upon us, and what could be better summer reading than a 90-year
old classic (from a Nobel Laureate in literature) with a message. Of course many
have read it, but then few read it twice. Some might say that is obvious given a
second European catastrophe, the Asian wars, the turbulent Indian subcontinent, the
turmoil in South America and the devastation in the Middle and Near East and North
Summer also means vacations except ... The U.S. is the only industrialized country
not mandating holiday time. Thus a Walmart employee stocking shelves gets zero
vacation time in in the U.S.; if he moves to Germany, Walmart allows 30 paid days. If
one listens to the Business Roundtable, it would appear our whole world would
collapse if vacation days were obligatory or the minimum wage raised another cent.
When Henry Ford said nearly a century ago, 'I pay my workers $5 a day so they can
afford to buy my cars', he was talking about a happy, productive workforce. We
instead want workers to be like a runner who runs forever without a break until he
Some business owners claim they would want their employees to have paid vacation
time, but doing so places them at a disadvantage with their competitors. Close to 25
percent of the workforce does not get any paid vacation time or sick leave. One
cannot doubt the popularity of any legislation, at least among the public, that would
allow them to do so. Why not help us join the civilized world?