obama-drawingNote: A while back I discovered Letters to a German Friend by Albert Camus. Published during the Nazi occupation of France and in Resistance newspapers, they are essays that argue against nationalism and fear and plead for justice and civil discourse. Living through these past eight years, those letters spoke to me. Whenever things seemed at their worst, I would break out my dog-eared Xerox copies and read them (replacing “German” with “Republican” in my head). I wrote this yesterday, while watching the inauguration, in the style of what I heard and thought in my head.

I remember when you said to me that, “they are either with us or against us,” and I said that maybe things are more complicated than that,-that we are dealing with people’s religion and culture and maybe we should err on the side of caution. “That’s unpatriotic,” you retorted.

You told me that Iraq possessed and/or was developing nuclear and biological weapons (you so cutely called them WMDs as if you were texting about it) and I was cautious, but I took you at your word. And when nothing was found, you just shrugged as if it was no big deal.

When I first saw the pictures of men forced naked and in pyramids and heard the phrases “water boarding,” “rendition,” and “secret military tribunal,” I said to you that these are tools of oppressive regimes that our fathers, grandfathers, and ancestors fought against—you told me that it was necessary to protect ourselves. “No,” I said, “I don’t believe that we should ever sacrifice the values which our government was founded on under any circumstances.” To which you replied, “Then you are aiding the terrorists.”

I will never forget when I read in the New York Times that my own government was secretly listening to my phone calls. “This is unbelievable,” I said. “I know,” you replied, “They shouldn’t have printed this story—it’s a violation of national security.” And I watched in amazement as you ran out the door to protest the first amendment.

For the past eight years, I’ve watched you proudly proclaim your opposition to gay marriage, a position which can only be defended with the “logic” of prejudice and intolerance. I’ve heard you praise a free market system and denounce industry regulators while financial scandals hit daily and the economy crumbled. You even managed to infect the English language, when, just as the estate tax became the “death tax,” global warming became “climate change.” You openly mocked science, the pinnacle of reason, by calling evolution “a theory” and demanding that creationism be given equal consideration in public education. It seems to me that you’re wrong about most things, most of the time.

During this election your arrogance and your ignorance were painfully apparent. The hypocrisy of your fervor for Sarah Palin while criticizing Barack Obama as being “inexperienced” was jaw dropping. When you sent me the e-mails filled with conspiracy theories that showed just how Obama’s “otherness” scared you, when you suggested that a man who’d served in public office for years and had even written an autobiography was a foreign-born Muslim sleeper agent, I rolled my eyes. And after the election, when you said to me that Obama only won (and thus I only voted for him) because of his race, I almost punched you.

And so the Obama administration has finally arrived. I just wanted to tell you a few things:

You are still my friend. I won’t use this opportunity to sink into partisan attacks. I won’t be like you. There’s too much work to be done and not enough time. You taught me to always be vigilant against those that cling to dogmatic political principles, who use fear, bullying, and an “us against them” principle to lead—even when they are my own political allies. I cannot promise that others will follow my lead, but I promise you that I will do everything I can to listen to you when we disagree and never dismiss your thoughts and ideas as “un-American.” I won’t do to you what you did to me. I believe that we can still fix things. I believe there is still hope. Let’s get to work.