Thursday, January 26

Letter sent 1.26.12

Dear President Obama,
I hope your holidays were enjoyable! I’m writing this too soon to tell you about mine though but I have high hopes that things will be fine.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying “The good is the enemy of the great”?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about, when pondering some of the issues facing our country. Mostly, sad to say, how we as a nation seem to be settling for good and what good is defined as seems to be sliding towards the negative, wherever it can slide.

When I read about how your Justice Department fails to go after the people who broke (or likely broke) laws governing Wall Street so that our financial markets remain secure, or how people or corporations who were brought to trial were imposed paltry fines, I feel like we have merely accepted what is good, instead of what is great.

My brain drug up that saying, “The good is the enemy of the great”, after watching a piece on 60 Minutes, the one asking why nobody was being prosecuted for corruption on Wall Street, as a result of the housing crisis. During that broadcast, a woman charged with following up on reports of corruption at Countrywide said that she was told by a broker (I’m paraphrasing here) “I’m not paid by the quality of the mortgages I bring in.” That statement alone says much about what we are OK with as Americans, now.

It took about two days before I remembered a report I read on food in this country and why farmers are reluctant to switch to practices that are less harmful to the planet and provide better tasting food but will give them a lower yield. Again, I’ll have to paraphrase: “I am not paid by the quality of the tomato, but by how many tons I ship.”

On a personal level, I see this all the time: people ordering Pabst Blue Ribbon at a pub instead of an excellent microbrew, when the difference can be as little as seventy-five cents because they want more, not better.

Mr. President, if I want volume I’ll listen to Metallica. The 80’s stuff: I can’t stand anything done between 1990 and 2002.

In great societies, justice is something that comes to everyone, regardless of their station in life. Is pursued with appropriate vigor and more importantly, is celebrated. A society that recognizes and settles for the powerful doing what they want, regardless of the rules, is one that has settled for the good.

Neither of us is foolish enough to believe that the powerful will never find themselves in situations where they are untouched by the consequences of the law but to use that as an excuse to do nothing misses the entire point of having a society where one of the defining characteristics is that everyone is equal under the law, entirely because they are NOT equal (and in some cases cannot be equal) in many other places.
Yet here we are as a nation, in a situation where Americans don’t think that they are getting treated fairly in comparison to the wealthy. In many cases, they can demonstrate how this is true, pointing to situations both social and legal where a wealthy person had power they should not have. The proof is right there in front of their eyes and most are not in a position to change this.

To extend this to the farming world; the groceries I am able to purchase that are made with corn subsidies are significantly cheaper. I can get more of that food, but they are terrible for me in volume. Every respected study demonstrates this. Yet what is emphasized is more, instead of the quality of the food and the ability to feed ourselves as a nation and beyond, into the future.

Now, I don’t know how to address that mindset, precisely, but I do know that the consequences of relentless greed in our country have been more than adequately demonstrated and because we have decided to accept the good instead of strive for the great, those people who instigated this set of circumstances are not investigated nor prosecuted. That fact eats at us, as though we are being fed unhealthy food, especially when we see that your Administration has gone after government whistleblowers with a vengeance or that people responsible for our current woes as a nation, especially fiscally, are being put in positions of power in the government.

I don’t know how we become great until we expect greatness and that expectation has to come from the top as well as the bottom, Mr. President. I think we can be great; give us the circumstances to do so.

In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to try Sam Adams’ Mighty Oak ale, I recommend it. Solid malty brew with a hint of vanilla. I just don’t want to end on a down note, you know?


P.S. Nice State of the Union address. Maybe I’ll talk about that next time.

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