Hi there Barry, may I call you Barry? That’s probably a rhetorical question since you’ll never see this, but in light of recent news, maybe it will somehow make it to your desk!
I remember being in NY in 2008 when you were elected into office. Hope was in the air. My wife, two children and myself were visiting from our adopted place of residence in France. We felt privileged to be in America at such an auspicious moment in time.
We took full advantage and hoped to soak ourselves in the feel-good factor and hopped on a train heading down to Harlem. The left over celebratory feelings from the preceding night, that infamous Tuesday in November when America elected its first African-American president, were palpable. I felt like I was in a futuristic film when such things are used to depict a far-off future. Walking through the streets of Harlem it was if the residents were floating on air and we were too. As we all ate our ‘Barrack Obama Special’ sandwiches in front of a small Deli on 110th street we nearly tasted a new beginning for America.
You and I are the same age, we graduated college the same year – 1983. Although Columbia University and C.U.N.Y. Lehman may seem worlds apart, we could have crossed paths many times. At that time I remember many a night passed in the West End Cafe. While having a beer I was thinking how cool it was to be possibly be sitting in the same chair as Jack Kerouac once had, but little did I know that at the same exact moment in time the future president of America might have been sitting right next to me, as Columbia University was just a few blocks away.
While embarking on your political career you took time out to search out family in Africa. Coupled with the Indonesian connection from your childhood, I was excited to think the American president was going to bring such a different perspective to the White House.
After college my travels led me out of the country of my birth but I still held a keen interest in America’s political climate because as they say if America sneezes, the world catches a cold. In 2008 I had faith in the possibility of change. You were a contemporary, and now in charge. Your platform for the first election was brilliant. Your ability to woo a crowd with your fine delivery of a speech was impeccable, especially in contrast to your predecessor!
I need to ask here. What happened?
While my travels of the world eventually brought me to the land you were raised in as a small child, and also the land of your ancestors my eyes were opened to the fact that America was just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. People enjoy being treated like human beings and no matter how dark a picture politicians or the media like to paint, you and I both saw close up that people are people and all deserve to be treated with respect no matter their race, color or creed.
After 9/11 much of the world was on America’s side, but G W Bush managed to turn that around in his eight year tenure by waging war, and being at the helm of a vengeful America killing others to satiate a blood-lust that seems to satisfy some base need for revenge. Worldwide (America included) we all breathed a sigh of relief when he finally left office and a president with so much talk of change was ushered in. You were even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the promise you represented.
That hopeful world vision slowly disintegrated over the years. While I know the battles got tougher and tougher in D.C. it seemed “The most powerful man on the planet” had his hands well and truly tied, or at least that was what I hoped, because the alternative was you never were what you sold to the public.
Yes you inherited a bit of a mess to clean up. The world economic situation I realize had nothing to do with you, but the billions handed over to Wall Street has just prolonged the inevitable. Modern-day unsustainable economic growth is an unfix-able system that will hopefully one day be abandoned, but that’s another story.
What about Guantanamo, Afghanistan, escalated drone attacks, giving Monsanto carte blanche on American soil, the crack down on unions and the list does go on? In short Barry your presidency isn’t such a great success. What about living up to the Nobel Peace Prize? I’m not sure signing kill lists on Tuesday nights for drone attacks is the act of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
I must say that in 2012 my Hollywood brainwashed self was waiting for you to do the most powerful thing you could have done in your shoes; stand up in front of the world and say that you were not going to run for a second term. The office of the president has his hands tied and is in a weakened position to institute any real change. Another four years will not make things better, but me stepping down from this post voluntarily will hopefully show the world once and for all what a futile position the American president is in.
Intellectually I knew that would never happen so I held out and thought your second term would show more of the true you. Not beholden to a re-election, you could maybe make good on some of those promises from 2008.
Oops wrong again, tar sands pipelines going through native American lands, the ongoing loss of free speech open journalism and innocent lives, multi-nationals such as Monsanto wielding unknown power the world over which has been some pretty bad PR for America overseas.
I have traveled, lived and worked abroad during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, G W Bush years and now yours. I must say that the negative feelings towards the world’s current superpower have never felt so low, I think it feels worse after so much high expectation. America is losing it’s face once again, and the world keeps on wondering what is happening over there?
Come on Barry come clean, separate yourself from those who preceded you. Do something interesting in your final term as president. Right now the bravest action I have witnessed was the person your administration has labeled a traitor. From where I sit I can see a definite traitor out there. I see a person who said one thing five years ago, but has done the opposite. Can you trade your morals, the actual fibre that makes you what you are and not think yourself a traitor not only to yourself, but the people who put their faith in you?
You can do it Barry, speak the truth the next time you address the American Public. Dig deep, find that you that I read about in your book. Your supporters are forced to grab onto little tidbits like a new health system you sort of almost got in place, and getting the troops out of Iraq (while quietly leaving a disaster in its wake).
Really come on, you could do better than that. The veggie garden on the front lawn of the White House is a nice touch, but let’s see the change we really wanted to see, not America once again slipping into an even worse international opinion than the Bush/Cheney years while things on the ground in America are not as rosy as the media spin. The sheer curtain is being looked through and it’s not a pretty sight.
A bit of honesty and integrity will go a long way. We need true creative leaders willing to put themselves on the line even if it means losing face or shattering false images. You still have time to swim against the flow of the political rivers. I realize that the political machine is a beast, but change is possible. A tough job yes, but you have done tough jobs before – being the first president of color elected to office – an historical coup I am glad to have witnessed in my lifetime.
Be that change you promised us all in 2008. Fancy words and speeches are sounding pretty hollow from where I sit lately.
Expect more from yourself. We all did.