Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama

I have a confession to make. I did not knock on any doors or make any phone calls on your behalf. When I received phone calls to volunteer for your campaign I politely declined. Instead I spent the last days of this election harvesting the remainder of this summer's crop on our small family farm, planting my winter garden, and caring for the livestock that promise meat, eggs, and milk for my family. You see, over the last eight years I have become so frustrated, disappointed, and angry with the direction of this country that I saw little reason to spend any more time holding signs, writing letters, and making phone calls.

After 9/11 my husband and I, with the support of our families, decided to move onto his father's 10 acre family farm and build a sustainable home. We were terribly concerned about the grossly unbalanced consumption of resources that occurs here in America, the effect that consumption has on our planet, and the future we were creating for our children. We hatched a plan to build our own energy efficient home of straw bales and earthen plaster, using recycled and reclaimed materials whenever possible. We planned to grow the majority of our own food without the use of harmful chemicals and fertilizers. We resolved to raise our own animals for meat, outdoors with plenty of space, and to slaughter them humanely. We installed solar panels instead of connecting to the electrical grid, choosing instead to be mindful of our energy consumption. We planned carefully to conserve water. We planted trees and berries, reclaimed pastures for sheep and cows, and learned how to grow and preserve our own food. This all took an enormous amount of work and sacrifice, and there were many times we wanted to give up. We didn't give up because we felt strongly that what we were doing was the right thing to do and it was our responsibility as citizens of this planet.

Meanwhile, all around us we saw further destruction of our planet and nation, abuse and pillage of our precious resources, more and bigger houses being built, larger and more consumptive cars on the roads, the illegal war that asked us to sacrifice our most precious resource of all, stolen elections, torture, and a government and a people who seemed unable, unwilling, or too distracted to do anything about it. We saw the price of fossil fuels, building materials, and food skyrocket, and we soon realized that what began as the right thing to do was becoming a matter of great financial importance to our family. We doubled our efforts and worked harder than ever to develop our homestead with a renewed sense of urgency. We became much more selfish with our time, choosing to put everything we had into our mission of sustainability. With any time we could spare we shared what we have learned with others. Rather than volunteer for campaigns, we strengthened our bonds with family, friends, and neighbors. In short, we moved away from politics and towards community building. We were no longer primarily motivated by what was the right thing to do. In fact, by the end of October 2008 we were motivated by sheer survival.

Yesterday we contributed to your campaign in the only way we felt we could spare. We voted. And something started to shift. Through all the disillusionment and cynicism I started to feel something strange welling up inside my chest. Was it, could it be.....hope? I hardly dared to believe it, but there it was. I felt hopeful that maybe we as a nation could change after all. I found myself glued to the television, watching the returns come in and reminding myself that I have been disappointed so many times before. I watched the disgust on our local news anchor's face as he announced a Democratic sweep of our state and marveled at how anyone could want things to stay the same. And when it was finally announced that you would be our next president I was overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing that crowd in Grant Park in my hometown of Chicago just blew me away. You have shown us that politics and community building can be one and the same. If nothing else, your election is evidence that we can change.

So I implore you now--please, please don't waste this opportunity. Unlike your predecessor, you seem to have the ability and the desire to understand the great problems that we face. Please don't let your party fall back into politics as usual. Please learn all you can about peak oil and our economy that is utterly dependent on cheap and abundant oil. Help those of us who are taking steps toward a new, local economy rather than helping big business try to obliterate us through unfair legislation that hurts small businesses and farms and gives breaks to the big ones. Unwind all the red tape that your party likes to entangle us in so that small farmers can sell their products directly to consumers in their neighborhoods. Make it easier for people to build their own homes out of alternative materials without fighting the building and zoning office. Restore the rail system in this country. Help us to rebuild our communities, our mom and pop stores, our local infrastructure, and ask us all to grow tomatoes on our balconies, shop at the farmer's market, or keep a few backyard chickens. Make it not only legal to do so but make that the new patriotism. Be a new kind of Democrat and a new kind of leader. Ask us to help. We are willing. I might even start writing letters to my representatives and knocking on doors again.


Alan Post said...

I cried reading this, thank you.

Derek said...


Wow. You were right. We definitely differ in the arena of politics. I think the disagreement lies more in whether we think the Democrats have the answers rather than what the end result should look like. However, I see some pleasent similarities. We too are trying to get back to the land, grow our own organic food, and be more self-sufficient. We would LOVE to live "off the grid" and not have to rely of others for our well being. We're working toward that very goal. I applaud your hardwork and efforts on your farm and wish you best of luck and bumper crops in the future.

I didn't vote for either candidate because I didn't think either one of them had it right. Although I don't believe Obama or the Democrats have it right either, I do hope the best for President Obama and pray for our new Commander in Chief. I probably won't agree with much the man does over the next 4-8 years, but the American people want to give him a chance, and I can't agrue with that.

Jenny said...

I'm glad you liked it Alan.

Derek, unfortunately I do not believe the Democrats have the answers--not even close. I just feel that the Republicans are even further away. It will take some real guts to make the political decisions that are required to fix the mess we are in. But Obama's victory makes me hopeful for two reasons: First, because our country has elected an African American to the presidency. This is something that at one time was absolutely impossible to imagine. It's not about him at all in that case, just what his election represents. Now I can believe the impossible dream that maybe we will have a true democracy someday that isn't controlled by corporate interests and that includes candidates who reflect more than just the two barely distinguishable major party platforms.

Second, Obama seems to have a bit of common sense, something that is rarely seen in politics these days, which gives me hope for the environment and alternative energy investment, and therefore the economy to some extent.

Frankly, at this point our problems are so much bigger than abortion rights or gay rights or whatever the usual wedge issues are. That kind of stuff won't matter much when faced with global famine. I think we need to come together in an effort to solve the *real* problems of humanity. Obama seems to have more ability to work on that than anyone I've seen in office for some time. I want to give him a chance. Maybe he will surprise us!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Quite honestly, Jen. Obama terrifies me. He is not even technically an African American either.

He is actually the first Arab-American President, not the first black President. Barack Hussein Obama is 50% Caucasian from his mother's side and 43.75% Arabic and 6.25% African Negro from his father's side.

While Obama's father was from Kenya, his father's family was mainly Arabs.

Obama's father was only 12.5% African Negro and 87.5% Arab.

I pray that Obama doesn't let the United States down. And I pray that he truly makes a POSITIVE difference for our country.

We can hope right?


Jenny said...

Thanks for your comment, but this is exactly the kind of fear mongering that so disgusts me about the McCain campaign. I totally reject the implication that because Obama's middle name is Hussein or that he has some Arab ancestry that he is someone to be feared. My husband has quite a bit of German ancestry (I don't have the percentages like the fear mongerers seem to have put together for Obama, right down to the tenths) as well as a German name, but I am completely certain that he is not a Nazi.

Anonymous said...

Jen, I am so proud of you for writing this and proud of you and Chris for what together you have accomplished. A mother could not hope for more.


tygab said...

Thank you, this was some outstanding writing. I hope you seriously consider sending it to our President elect.

I followed and supported his candidacy for a long time, and believe he wants to hear from us, even now. While he can't address the needs of each of our 300 million strong country, I think he'll look for patterns and ways to link solutions to local, personal problems - help us find those problems ourselves, too.

For what it is worth, I had not voted for either major party candidate since 92.

Obama will have tough decisions given the scale of problems we face, there is no doubt of this. I won't agree with everything he decides, but I do think he knows the public needs to have some understanding of his thought process, and will keep us engaged in that.

Sylvia said...

I enjoyed reading this -- it's good to hear hope has returned for you. It's been a long, dark several years for us as a country, yet in so many everyday ways it's been a time of tremendous growth of awareness. Maybe the dark years were preparation we needed for what comes next.

I felt much more hopeful about Obama than I did voting for either Kerry or Gore. Both those elections were about voting against what I feared. I wonder how many McCain supporters were frightened into voting for him in much the same way?

It feels very good to have voted from a place of hoping for better rather than fear.

Hot Belly Mama - taking it all back said...

I really loved your post because I learned so much more about you and where you come from. I too voted for Obama and I too have such high hopes for him.

I am so tired of party lines and I really wish we would get back to the PEOPLE line.

What a great blog....

Woody said...

Nice post...

I too hope. I hope he will not be swallowed by the business as usual attitude of D.C.

I hope that this crisis is big enough to change those attitudes for the better.

I hope that all the fear that so many people seem to hold to turns to faith in a new direction for this great country.


Juli said...

aho !

well said :)