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 25, 2015
Mr. President: Merry Christmas. It is a holiday relied upon by our retail industry and
watched over carefully by economists, in which we all do our part to keep the
economic system going -- with a not insignificant portion of the profits going to China,
the willing producer of our "baubles."
To the extent this country and its laws permit the least public religious intrusion of
almost any other (despite our fervent, bubbling Christian evangelist sects) there is
little of what could be termed the Christmas spirit in the fervid transactional
atmosphere of the malls and department stores. Just as well for the original co-opted
celebration marked the winter solstice, the happy certainty the days were at last going
to become longer -- a north European festival, of little concern in the latitudes of the
prophets, latitudes also where the Islamic injunction to fast from sunrise to sunset was
eminently suitable in an era sans quartz timepiece or the beeping cellphone. Of the
three major prophets, only Mohammad's birth date is recorded, as is his place of
burial. No one knows when Jesus was born.
And contrary to belief, there is no historical record of a Moses. The assiduous
scribes of Egypt afford no mention -- not even of the cataclysm of an Egyptian army
led by the Pharaoh being swallowed up by the Red Sea, while it parted conveniently
But why quibble -- a holiday is a holiday is a holiday. Let's enjoy it. The Christmas
tree dressed in a copious variety of ornaments, twinkling, spreads cheer. Its aroma of
pine, evoking Christmas memories in the young. The overflowing, colorful presents
arranged below await the end of a sumptuous breakfast for that became the custom
in this household.
The news in the outside world continues to shock. A leading British newspaper, The
Guardian, has a video of Jewish extremists in Israel. It shows them dancing with guns
and stabbing the picture of Ali Dawabshe, a toddler burned to death in a recent arson
attack. Many of these extremists live in settlements, illegal under international law,
and funded by supporters in this country -- including well-known politically active
In the last dozen years, our policies under both Democratic and Republican
administrations have been antithetical to peace in the region. They have damaged
and irritated its molecular structure until a cancerous growth has sprouted and the
cancer has metastasized. Call it al-Qaeda or ISIS, neither represent Islam or 99
percent and more of its adherents. They are political movements using that religion
in a selective pernicious way to their advantage.
One way to stop a cancer is to stop feeding it by atrophying the blood vessels
providing nourishment; another is direct attack by chemotherapy. We have been
engaged weakly in the latter, when in this particular case the former has greater
likelihood of success.
Let us hope the new year brings wiser counsel.