#5: an open letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

It is probably important at the moment to make some things clear.

First, this will be filled with complaining and whining, I’m sure, because that’s how these things go. I am a relatively privileged white dude nearing 30, the son of divorced parents who remarried so I grew up with a teacher, a lawyer, a minister, and a nurse as parents and step-parents. I was never without, in terms of necessities, and, for the most part, in terms of desires; of course, I often fail[ed] to recognize this because I take my role as consumer quite seriously and am often on the hunt for better, bigger, newer, shinier, louder, etc., etc., etc. I have an undergraduate degree and graduate degree, one that is technically considered terminal, although it’s not a PhD, so it’s not really terminal at all. I have had the privilege of pursuing the degrees I was most interested in, without much regard for how they would help me secure an actual career. This was made possible by a combination of parents who allowed me to pursue such things and a type of, I guess the word would be innocence, about what my pursuits would actually lead to–you know, the sort of innocence bred from a shallow arrogance that I would somehow, despite the numbers to the contrary, be able to rise above all the other creative writing MFAs and actually accomplish something. My current place in life is of my own doing, and I acknowledge that.

Second, I did not vote for you last election. I did not vote for your opponent either. In fact, I have never voted. I don’t believe in voting when I don’t see people worth voting for, no offense. I understand why people saw you as someone to vote for, especially people in my age group. I am fully aware that such non-involvement in the voting process runs counter to what we consider to be American, and, thus, eliminates my right to complain about the country. I have long agreed with such considerations, and, therefore, did my best to not give a fuck whatsoever about politics. I never saw the point, mostly (entirely) because I was young, dumb, and convinced that life would, in some capacity, work out. I also thought I would somehow be able to live on a tropical island free from cares, so take such thinking for what it’s worth. Here’s the thing, though, about voting now or about American politics in general, and I say this knowing that it is rife with ignorance simply because I have only recently started paying attention to what people in politics are saying, reading a variety of political sources, and watching some news, and, therefore, come at this with an incompleteness that I know will make some of my arguments appear too generalized or too underinformed: there is nobody worth voting for, sir, and not because there aren’t good people in our country, but because at this point, all I can see are dollar signs when it comes to voting. It takes so much money to run for any position that those voted in are the ones with the money, not the knowledge, and that raising that money requires people to strike deals and those deals often have nothing to do with the person sitting on his couch seeing an advertisement for a candidate, but instead have to do with specific interests. I don’t know much, but I’m fairly confident lobbyists don’t give a shit about me. So, my question is, sir, what is the point of voting for people who are looking only to secure the money to run for election, who have to say the proper things to maintain their proper political affiliation, who have to make sure the donors to their election are happy? I am not a large contributor to a politician; I’m just a dude recently graduated with no real job outlook who has to figure out how the hell I’m going to pay back my student loans and rent and food and bills and all that. I mean, again, I pursued these degrees; I’m well aware that I have put myself into this job plight. I ask for nothing from you on that. I ask only, sir, for you to explain how it is that Wall Street can dictate so much of what our country does and how regulation is so slow and how the hell can you claim to want regulation and then put people who are from Wall Street companies on your financial board? Again, I don’t get all this stuff because I’m pretty average at math, but, fuck, dude, that really doesn’t make sense. How can judges with investments in oil and energy be allowed to make rulings about oil and energy? How the hell can I read about how much money we are in debt as a country and then immediately read about how some government programs waste millions of dollars without any oversight, like, they don’t know what the money is going to? Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to be aware of every single dollar, at all times, no matter the effort? How is it that the Pentagon doesn’t want some new jet or jet engine or something like that, but congress is voting to give them money for it? Do any of you people talk to each other? Or is it just shouting and always, no matter what, making sure to denounce the opposing political party?

Third, I suppose I should at least reveal my political affiliations, such as they are. I am, I suppose, a socialist of sorts, in that I believe socialism can be a successful type of government. However, I don’t think socialism will ever work in the United States. I think we are self-centric society, looking for ways not to make our country better but ways to make only ourselves better. I know I am, despite my claims of leaning toward socialism. I mean, part of the country would clamor with ungodly fury at the notion of such taxes and government, and I know, on the other hand, plenty of people would take advantage of it so as to do nothing and still get something. This frustrates me. Taxes and government equal infrastructure, security, international relations, and whatever else. Our infrastructure–roads, bridges, levees, electrical grid, etc.,–is, according to things I’ve read and seen on reports and documentaries, fucking horrible, that billions and billions of dollars are needed to upgrade all of this in order for, you know, things like that bridge in Minnesota collapsing that killed lots of people who were only just driving along, to not happen. I suppose that money will come from donations. Or maybe we should invest into a pimped out ferry to replace each bridge or something. I just read on Politico, according to Rep. Jeffery Nadler, that we need $2 trillion “to make basic repairs to our critical infrastructure.” He also says for every  $1 billion spent on infrastructure, 47,500 jobs are created. The thing is, though, I don’t quite trust that because I don’t, in fact, trust my government to actually spend the money properly, even if such sums were granted, and I fear that there will be corruption and abuse and money will just sort of disappear into the ether known as ‘somebody’s pocket.’

[The thing about such a letter, sir, is that it is never actually finished.]

Here’s my point, I think, or at least one of them: it seems that few actually care about America; instead they care about being ‘American.’ People here all want to  make lots of money, they want the manufacturing jobs brought back, they want to earn more than a living wage, yet they also want to pay as little as possible for goods. It is impossible to bring back manufacturing jobs and maintain low prices, in terms of how corporate profit is understood at this point. Now I understand that profit leads to research & development and furthering of a corporation’s long term goals. What I don’t understand are CEOs having record annual salaries and an explosion between upper tier workers and the average worker. What I don’t understand are record profits and pitiful taxes. Things have to give in both directions: people need to realize that if they want jobs brought back, there will be an increase price in our goods; corporations need to realize that investment, by way of taxes and jobs, will, in the end, help maintain the purchasing base that they need in order to be a profitable company. Perhaps our corporate tax rate should be reduced to something that would be a compromise between what the country needs financially and what the corporations will accept. This greed shit is ridiculous, and the fact that decisions about laws and regulation are being left up to the greediest is horrendous.

I, of course, am simplifying things. I also have a pretty screwed up world view, in general. I am sick of law suits. I think people should grow a set of balls and accept responsibility. I think cutting corners is for chumps. I think lobbyists should be banned. I’m also debating whether or not Wall Street should be banned.

I’m okay with paying more taxes, sir. I don’t like the idea, but I’m pretty good at adapting. More taxes means a change in what I can buy, which means I need to spend less. This will not be easy for a spender like me, but I can adjust. What I don’t want, however, is my tax dollars wasted. I want strong and severe oversight of government spending; for people to be fucking realistic about what we need, not what their donors want; for regulation to be enacted that recognizes the possibility that our generation will not, in fact, be the last in the U.S., because everyone seems to vote for the immediate without any realization that the future is what we’re risking; for people voted into Congress and as President to actually govern instead of spending their time raising money for re-election–the fact that, in 2010, people were already raising money for 2012 is fucking nuts, I mean, seriously, that implies that for the rest of this year and into next, nobody is actually governing, they are only fucking finding ways to raise money to try to get placed back into a position in order to do the same shit over and over again, when do you actually do anything that doesn’t involve donors and lobbyists?; and, finally, for somebody to start paying attention to the fact that our education system is crippled, that by convincing everyone that we all need a college education that we have inflated the price of college to extraordinary levels, that we have told people that they can all live happily ever after with their dream jobs, that we have relegated a college degree to something without any prestige, and that we have basically eliminated apprenticeships and other labor-intensive jobs that actually form a backbone of our country because kids now see those jobs as beneath them. Work is work, dude, and this shit is nuts.

I say that but then I have a conversation with my stepfather about the gas industry in Pennsylvania doing fracking and all that and how he talks to employers who complain that they can’t hire enough people and that the people they do hire stop showing up because they don’t like to actually work. This is the America I know. I disagree with fracking because there is more than substantial proof that it is dangerous for the environment and the regulations to control such dangers are obviously not being enforced. But I need a job, so is that a possibility? And the answer from me is No. Mostly because I disagree with it but also because I don’t want to live in Pennsylvania. Now, I’m aware that in actuality I should go where jobs are available and that I’m putting pressure on myself by picking location before job and I’m doing that because I’m pursuing my ‘happiness’ and the reason I’m pursuing my happiness is because I have always pursued my happiness. I am not making sound decisions, and I have, therefore, put myself into this position. This is also the America I know. This is what I have grown up with: work should be something that you do that makes you happy. This is a relatively new concept. Try to imagine a teenager now going to a factory job simply because it is available and it will pay him and cover his bills. People clamor for the return of manufacturing jobs, but who the hell is going to work in them? Everyone is going to college; everyone wants to work a dream job; everyone thinks s/he is special. The highest paying job I had was in a warehouse, and I was unhappy because it was ‘beneath me’ and didn’t ‘challenge’ me enough. I don’t even know what that means. So, I quit and returned to get my MFA. In graduate school, I have been ‘challenged’ but I have no job prospects to show for it. Yes, I’m frustrated and a bit nervous and I really want to blame other people or entities for this, but, in the end, I made these decisions. Do I wish some jobs that I may not have specific skills for would give me a chance because I’m pretty intelligent, able to learn quickly, etc.? Of course, but why would any company want to waste time paying to train me when they can get somebody trained?

I guess, in the end, what I realize is that Americans are pampered, not in that we are given everything we need but that we consider ourselves so deserving of the things we want, and we believe in that pampering as a given right, and that as long as we believe that, our politicians will do what they can to maintain that in order to be / stay elected. All this shit about cutting the budget doesn’t mean dick. If there weren’t people clamoring for it, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We are not doing things because it is what’s best for our country, we are making decisions because it appeases the people who donate money to politicians, and because we can continue to live up to what is assumed to be political party ideals. Well, fuck your parties. And give me a damn job so I can pay back all those loans I borrowed from the government to get my damn graduate degree.

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