International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: US Politics
Change and the Missing Conversation
I was in a local espresso cafe this afternoon--short single shot
latte for myself, an Americano for my dad, and a big cookie to share--when
the tee-shirt on the young barista took my breath away, and momentarily,
my ability to order some mid-afternoon caffeine. He was wearing
Shepherd Fairey's iconic design-a poster shirt on which a headshot
of President Obama's face is rendered in red/white/blue. "CHANGE,"
I said. We smiled broadly at each other--the local boy and the local
60-year old. I wanted to talk, but my coffee was getting cold, and my
dad was waiting for me in his condo two blocks up the hill, and my dog
was tied outside looking in need of a bush sometime real soon. I hurried
on, but hours later I'm still missing that conversation.
I wanted to ask him, "So how do you think he's doing?" I look
at him: young, maybe his first time voting. Blue eyes, short blond hair,
probably working his way through college on free caffeine and minimum
wage plus tips. At least he has a job; at least I still have $5.00 for
designer coffee and a cookie-and change for the tip jar.
I know Obama inherited an incredible mess surrounded by labyrinthine
complexities designed to make solution nearly impossible. At first I
said, "He's got to feed the lions, and then he can turn his attention
to systemic change in the Empire." Months go by. I am busy, he
is busy. I read Bill Moyers, Chris Hedges, Paul Klugman, Naomi Klein,
Amy Goodman. I read Newsweek, and skim the New York Times
and Washington Post. Now I say, "Please don't let him be
swallowed into the bowels of this powerful and deceitful dragon."
How are you Barack Obama? What are you reading? Who are you listening
to? Remember all those people who stood in Grant Park on a warm November
night, and on the national Mall on a cold January day? Remember how
the world stopped to watch you step into this office? These people--
and I among them-- are willing to help you slay the dragon, and we cannot
slay it if you are consumed by it or protecting it! Just so you know:
I'm done shopping. I'm gardening. I'm saving money in my local bank.
I'm practicing how little to spend and how small my energy consumption
can be. I'm looking to you and Congress to reshape my country for its
next phase of world leadership. I imagine a country dedicating itself
to sustainable uses of energy and natural resources, retooling its economy
for green jobs in a green future, reskilling the American workforce;
a country weaning itself from consumerism, a country of diplomacy and
foreign aid rather than ill-defined warring in a suffering world, a
country with universal health care and decent public education, for
I am emailing and writing and signing e-petitions and am frustrated
at all the rings of protection that surround him now. Last week I got
a letter from my President. He paid for the stamp, I noticed, nice touch.
I imagine somewhere a room full of young people like the café
latte boy, opening letters, glancing at them and sorting them into stacks
for reply: concerned about economy, health care, the war... Then someone
inputs my name and address and my acknowledgement is on its way. Minimum
wage: no tips.
The President thanked me for my "perspective on the economy,"
though he didn't mention the Bill Moyers article I had stapled to my
correspondence. He addressed me by my first name; he signed it "Sincerely,"
with his name-- a computer generated signature mark, no title-like I'd
know who it was, nice touch. Only he never saw it. So what would happen
if we all wrote-all at once? He needs to hear from his people. He needs
thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of greetings streaming
in all at once. Let's write-- in support, in concern, in celebration,
in prayers for peace, in standing with HOPE, willing to believe in significant
and radical CHANGE.
Let's all write. The postal service needs the money. We need to be counted.
Buy a card or make a card; send drawings from your kids, a photo. Let's
get personal. Wish him well, wish him wisdom, wish him courage-and tell
him we're willing to come along. "When the people lead, the leaders
will follow." He needs us-he needs feedback that is not filtered
through a dozen advisors with a thousand interest groups yelling in
their ears. I know no postman drives up to the White House doors. Our
cards will be taken to the sorting room and run through security, but
the impact of a hundred thousand cards is registered somewhere. And
maybe after they've been safety checked they'll actually let him take
stack out to Camp David where he can drink iced tea with Michelle on
a cold October afternoon, watch the girls play with the dog, and hold
the heart of the people in his hands.
"Dearest Sir, Thank you for being President at this time. Remember
what Alice Walker wrote you about finding the joy in this and not turning
old and grey-skinned with burden? Let us help you. Let us tell each
other the truth as it keeps evolving. I hope your garden is ready for
harvest. Aren't those peas sweet when they come out of the pod? And
ripe tomatoes-- wow. Did you see the Star Trek movie yet? Wasn't that
a great scene where the young Spock and the old Spock are talking with
each other? The moment made me think of you-go to that old man, the
former President, and ask him for advice. May you live long and help
us all prosper.
Love, Christina Freeland, WA"
About the Author: Christina Baldwin is a writer, teacher, and resilient
believer in democracy. She tends two gardens, a sustainable house, and
continues to pray we will come to our senses in time. She can be reached
through her websites: www.peerspirit.com
Please forward, share, Facebook, Twitter and tweet this idea on---and
send that card!
Baldwin is the author of the following books and
Storycatcher, Making Sense of our Lives through the Power and Practice
of Story (New World Library, 2005)
Lifelines, How Personal Writing Can Save Your Life (Sounds True, 2005)
The Seven Whispers: Spiritual Practice for Times Like These (New World
Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture (Bantam: 1998)
Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice (Bantam: 1990
& rev. 2007)
One to One: Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing (M. Evans: 1977,
*Send a note to
Rush Limbaugh whilst you're at it and ask him to leave America for North
Korea - a place that might just have enough guns to keep him happy.
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