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
December 21, 2012
Mr. President: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! was the cry of the masses in the French
Revolution. The founding fathers concentrated on the first as the last two held within
the embarrassment of their wealth and slave ownership. Present-day inequality in the
U.S. is the worst among industrialized countries and even worse than developing
countries like India and Pakistan according to the Gini Index. And the white
neighborhoods, with a sprinkling of Asians, around me evidence the limits of
fraternity. But now 'liberty' too is under attack. The National Defense Authorization
Act passed by the Senate this week and sent to the House permits the President to
hold anyone suspected of links to terrorism in indefinite detention. With your name
Mr. President, I would be a little careful on that one. As it is, you might have difficulty
with Homeland Security at the airport.
It's all in a name. After torturing German citizen Khaled al-Masri, we denied him
compensation. Now Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi has been paid 2.2 million pounds
by the British for their role in a joint CIA/MI6 operation renditioning him to Libya where
he was tortured by the Gadaffi regime. We are not paying him anything. Again,
Britain is paying compensation to Iraqis wrongfully held and tortured in the Iraq war;
we are not despite Abu Ghraib. Power is never having to say you are sorry.
That seems also to be the motto of the gunmen who shoot up a facility or workplace
almost weekly. This week there was one such shooting. Last week, two including the
heartrending one at Newtown primary school. The talk turned immediately to the
banning of assault weapons as if that would solve the problem. A pump shotgun
would be even more deadly at close quarters and there are pistols, one of the experts
last week informed everyone, which fire body armor-piercing bullets. It's not the
weaponry; it's the mindset. I have been to Switzerland many times but in 1965, I went
to work there. Visiting the homes of friends I made, I was surprised to discover an
assault rifle in almost every home. It turns out each adult male is conscripted in their
all volunteer army, supplied a weapon, and required to participate in annual military
training exercises. Yet, one seldom hears of a mass shooting.
Next week is Christmas. There is something magical about a decorated and lit
Christmas tree; there are friends to visit and hear from; Christmas carols; the smell of
baking, cakes, cookies, gifts ... It's all there -- it just depends on the lessons we
choose to learn.