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@BarackObama Or Dear, Mr. President,

December 20, 2012

I thank you for taking the time to read this. In my imagination you are reading this. In reality I’m sure you are busy and won’t ever know I have written this but in my little portion of Internetlandia, my imagination rules the day. So I imagine you are reading this and I would like to tell you a story.

My mother’s name is Linda. Her maiden name was Overholt. She’s had a couple of surnames since then, but let’s go with that one for simplicity. She grew up in a town in Pennsylvania called Easton. It was a lower working class upbringing. My Grandfather worked at Mack Truck. My Grandmother worked at Mack Printing. I’ve got an Uncle and a cousin who still work at Mack Truck.

I’m sure, if you ask Vice President Biden he could tell you stories about the kind of people we are.

Mom grew up a fighter. She learned early that the world is not easy and during her life, while raising two mixed race children, she learned that it can be cruel.

We didn’t have a lot of money and there were times, especially in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s when we were on welfare. Even after we no longer received assistance, things were hard for us, both financially and personally but my mother made it work. She did the things that mothers do; worked two jobs so my brother and I could have nice-ish clothes and not feel bad compared to our friends who were the children of doctors and lawyers. Convinced us she “wasn’t hungry,” or insisted she “had a big lunch,” so he and I could eat.

My brother and I has our lunches and after school care subsidized. But we also grew up with the same middle class values your mother instilled in you. Work hard. Do the right thing. Stand up for yourself and for other people.

She trained me to be a fighter too. She also taught me to fight for others. As a white woman with mixed race children, beginning in the late 1960s she was, perforce, a civil rights warrior. Large and small, my mother was on the front lines.

She stepped up to help people register to vote in the late 1960s. She never let a racist remark or action pass without comment or correction. Every moment of her life, she modeled that to every person who interacted with her.

I’m sure you recognize the story I’m telling you, Mr. President. I’m sure you saw the very same things growing up. My mother could be your mother.

In December of 2007 Mom, who has become so disillusioned with the state of the government that she has not voted in almost a decade, started to call me her “Obama source”, and began to phone me to ask about your policies. On one of these calls she causally informed me that she was “fired up,” to vote for you in the Pennsylvania primary, which was the closest thing to an endorsement I thought I would get from her.

I was wrong.

By the night of the 2008 Texas primary she was spending all of her time in the campaign office, making calls, directing volunteers, and doing all of those small, essential tasks that lead to victory.

When we lost that night and lost it big, I was disillusioned, to say the least.

This is part of the email she sent me in response to my complaints about the results.

When I was a teenager, society was called upon. We were called upon to make changes that were necessary. We were called upon to stand up and be counted. We were called upon to work for justice, for equality, for rights and for the soul of our nation. I rode a bus down into the south, helped people to vote and learned what it really means to be an American and a citizen. I’ve done my best throughout your life to teach you the things I learned then. When you went into the military I was proud that you would be taking those teachings out into the world with you but this is the the moment that I hoped would come for you. Now is the time for you to continue the work that we started.

Be upset tonight. Cry if you have to but get up tomorrow and get to work.

I repeated that quote to everyone. I printed it out. We taped it to the wall of the campaign office I was volunteering at. It because the header on the forum of one of the groups I am a member of online, Knitters for Obama. Many of us returned to it regularly for inspiration. She let us feel our feelings, and then she got us back to work. She did what mothers do. And we kept working, for her, for ourselves, for you. We did what we could. We gave as much as possible and that meant different things to all of us.

For Mom, it was giving up her birthday month of vacation to work for you in our home state of PA and giving up her traditional birthday “all about me” day, to drive strangers to the polls.

And we got there. We got you the nomination. We did it for you. We did it for all of us. I had the extreme pleasure of watch your convention speech while on the phone with Mom. There was some crying. OK maybe there was a lot of crying, especially when you talked about Dr. King’s dream and my Mom, who I have heard cry maybe three times in my life, started sobbing and said “Look what we did! In living memory, look what we have accomplished! Your turn.”

I love it how she manages to combine a poignant moment and a kick in the ass at the same time.

The night of the general election she called me, informed me that she had delivered Pennsylvania for you and she expected me and the rest of the youth to finish the work now that she had carried our water for us.

The day of the inauguration she sent me this

Our country began with a promise. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I taught that to you when you were a little girl and even as I said it I knew it was a lie because it wasn’t self-evident, not if your skin wasn’t White or you weren’t male. And now, finally, every kid in the United States will know, not just believe the promise our nation made to its citizens at its inception has been fulfilled. Now, at least as far as skin color is concerned we all know that it is true. You did that. I’m so proud of you.

I marvel at the fact that she gave me so much credit. Recall, SHE deliver PA for you on election day.

That’s who she was. Vital, brilliant, funny, fearless, always learning, always teaching. My mother is, and always will be the standard to which I hold myself as a person.

In May she had a stroke and she’s not that person anymore. She’s still dealing with the after effects. She can’t work anymore. She has trouble walking. She relies on Social Security to survive. She relies on you and the promises you made to protect her.

Everyone knows that the term Chained CPI is cutting Social Security under another name.

No one is fooled.

Mr. President, you campaigned on protecting Social Security from cuts. We elected you, in no small part, because you promised us that you would not cut Social Security. Sir, you won. That means the majority of the nation is against Social Security cuts.

Explain to me please, why you are now touting cuts to Social Security as if they are a victory.

Explain to me please, to me how it is that you have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and do the one thing that is certain to both cause direct harm to the people you serve and enrage the people who supported you to the extent that you pretty much assure the nation of another election like 2010.

Explain to me please, after my mother and so many other people like her devoted themselves to helping you reach your current position, including your own mother, how it is you are prepared to take away the benefits they require for survival.

Explain to me please, how it is that those who will in the future, suffer the greatest need, be left to suffer.

I need you to explain this, sir because we both know that it is unnecessary. There are myriad other options, including but not limited to, removing the payroll cap in whole or in part.

That’s another thing my mother taught me, don’t just complain about a problem, offer a solution.

You do not need to strike a like this deal. You can easily let the “fiscal cliff” come and go and propose a tax cut on the first day of the new congressional session. I’m sure you are aware of at least twenty other ways in which you do not have to do this. I’m sure you are also aware of the harm will be visited on our elders now and in the future if you do.

For them, for my mother, I implore you not to accept chained CPI and a part of any deal.

Your mother is gone and mine is slowly slipping away. Her mind, that razor sharp mind which learned so much and taught so many sometimes cannot retain so much as the day of the week. There are days when she doesn’t know who I am anymore; when she can’t follow a conversation and tells me the same news over and over but no matter what, she still believes in you.

She has so little now, sir. Please do not take her faith in you too. It would be such a great loss and for so little reason.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. NightRythm permalink
    December 20, 2012 4:02 PM

    Beautifully written.

  2. December 21, 2012 12:02 AM

    When I clicked over to read the link on chained CPI, I had a deja vu moment. Last year, when I was still working (before I got laid off due to the economy) I wrote a few stories for some websites in the UK about what they were doing over there to cut payouts from public pensions and how private pension schemes were trying to follow suit to cut their payouts as well, by doing the same sort of thing the link outlines. I thought it stank (stunk? I’ve never been able to figure out that conjugation) to high heaven for them, and I think it stinks here, too.

    • December 21, 2012 12:10 AM

      It’s maddening, largely because it’s totally unnecessary. There are significantly better solutions out there which could work and cause much less harm.

  3. December 21, 2012 1:35 PM

    Such a touching letter with just the right amount of fire. I am at a loss of words as I agree that so much can be done but it is yet to happen. All the best to you and your mom.

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