On Facebook and elsewhere there has been this letter followed by the accompanying image, which has been making the rounds (again).
“Dear President Obama,
My name is Harold Estes, approaching 95 on December 13 of this year. People meeting me for the first time don’t believe my age because I remain wrinkle free and pretty much mentally alert.
I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1934 and served proudly before, during and after WW II retiring as a Master Chief Bos’n Mate. Now I live in a “rest home” located on the western end of Pearl Harbor, allowing me to keep alive the memories of 23 years of service to my country.
One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct even to the head man.
So here goes.
I am amazed, angry and determined not to see my country die before I do, but you seem hell bent not to grant me that wish. I can’t figure out what country you are the president of.
You fly around the world telling our friends and enemies despicable lies like:
”We’re no longer a Christian nation”
”America is arrogant”
– (Your wife even announced to the world,” America is mean-spirited. ” Please tell her to try preaching that nonsense to 23 generations of our war dead buried all over the globe who died for no other reason than to free a whole lot of strangers from tyranny and hopelessness.)
I’d say shame on the both of you, but I don’t think you like America, nor do I see an ounce of gratefulness in anything you do, for the obvious gifts this country has given you. To be without shame or gratefulness is a dangerous thing for a man sitting in the White House.
After 9/11 you said,” America hasn’t lived up to her ideals.”
Which ones did you mean? Was it the notion of personal liberty that 11,000 farmers and shopkeepers died for to win independence from the British? Or maybe the ideal that no man should be a slave to another man, that 500,000 men died for in the Civil War? I hope you didn’t mean the ideal 470,000 fathers, brothers, husbands, and a lot of fellas I knew personally died for in WWII, because we felt real strongly about not letting any nation push us around, because we stand for freedom.
I don’t think you mean the ideal that says equality is better than discrimination. You know the one that a whole lot of white people understood when they helped to get you elected.
Take a little advice from a very old geezer, young man.
Shape up and start acting like an American. If you don’t, I’ll do what I can to see you get shipped out of that fancy rental on Pennsylvania Avenue . You were elected to lead not to bow, apologize and kiss the hands of murderers and corrupt leaders who still treat their people like slaves.
And just who do you think you are telling the American people not to jump to conclusions and condemn that Muslim major who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded dozens more. You mean you don’t want us to do what you did when that white cop used force to subdue that black college professor in Massachusetts , who was putting up a fight? You don’t mind offending the police calling them stupid but you don’t want us to offend Muslim fanatics by calling them what they are, terrorists.
One more thing. I realize you never served in the military and never had to defend your country with your life, but you’re the Commander-in-Chief now, son. Do your job. When your battle-hardened field General asks you for 40,000 more troops to complete the mission, give them to him. But if you’re not in this fight to win, then get out. The life of one American soldier is not worth the best political strategy you’re thinking of.
You could be our greatest president because you face the greatest challenge ever presented to any president.
You’re not going to restore American greatness by bringing back our bloated economy. That’s not our greatest threat. Losing the heart and soul of who we are as Americans is our big fight now.
And I sure as hell don’t want to think my president is the enemy in this final battle…
Harold B. Estes”
Now, doing a bit of research, I found that Harold B. Estes died in 2011. Here’s his obituary. First, I should say that Harold B. Estes has my gratitude for his service to the country I am proud to be a citizen of. More than this, however, without his services, and the services like others who experienced Pearl Harbor and fought in the subsequent wars following, such as both of my grandfathers, I would not have the honor of meeting my lovely Japanese wife. With the lasting peace that was created in the post-war era, we are ever truly grateful.
This said, however, there are some things that strike me with a sense of regret and shock with regard to the above letter. Needless to say, the letter is somewhat dated. It was written prior to 2011 (update; circa 2009), and reflects a time of political change in America. It was only the 2nd year of Obama holding office and people were still becoming comfortable with the idea of a black man as president (well, some people, most of us were just fine with it). In the wake of Obama’s election there were many attempts to slander the President, not only by taking his words grossly out of context at every available chance, but also by creating out and out lies about him. The greatest offenders being Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, naturally.
But even though it is old, the letter has resurfaced and is, once again, making the rounds. Probably, I suspect, due to the aftershock of Obama’s triumphant re-election. Now what used to be Obama’s staunchest critics, many of them so drastic in their disdain for the president that they demonize him to the point of labeling him the Antichrist, now have become bona fide Obama-phobes.
It is no surprise then that those critical of the president, but not overly critical minded themselves, are once again cranking hard on the slander-wheel, attempting to resurrect age-old libel and anything which “attacks” President Obama or his office.
As such, I will break it down and respond to the key points of Harold B. Estes letter, even though it’s been done a dozen times before. Before I begin, however, I should point out that the (supplied) image is misleading. Harold B. Estes doesn’t actually claim to have been at Pearl Harbor during the attack anywhere in the above letter. This information is simply unfounded supposition at this time. All Mr. Estes actually says is that he retired in Hawaii. Lucky for him, that he may live out his remaining days in good weather and good company.
Now onto my first criticism.
According to Mr. Estes, President Obama is bound and determined to see America destroyed. He immediately cites two reasons to back up this claim:
1. Obama purportedly said: “We are no longer a Christian nation.”
2. Obama purportedly said: “America is arrogant.”
My first criticism is of the American education system, since it obviously failed Mr. Estes and anyone who believes, like him, that America was ever a “Christian” nation. It never was, nor ever will be, since it is written into the very Constitution that America is founded upon that there must ALWAYS and FOREVER be a separation of church and state.
This means, no matter what Mr. Estes thinks, America has been, and WILL always be, an entirely SECULAR nation. This reveals a right wing bias, as many such are under the impression (wrongly so, I might add) that America was founded as a Christian nation and that the founding fathers were God-fearing Christians. This, however, is in gross ignorance of the historic truth of the matter.
Most of the founding fathers were Deists, and in the case of Jefferson and Thomas Paine, anti-Christian deists at that. I’ve written on this in detail before.
So Obama, if what he said is accurate, isn’t wrong. America isn’t a Christian nation, and it never was.
As for the second statement, that America is arrogant, well this is obvious. America has started numerous wars in the Middle East for extremely vague reasons, or no reason at all, and this cannot be considered anything other than the arrogance of Empire Building.
If you’re just talking about general American culture, well that’s fairly arrogant too. It’s always funny to me how the Hollywood box office is always shocked when a big American blockbuster flounders overseas. Or that sports afficianados actually believe the World Series of Major League Baseball is actual a “world” event. Or that anyone outside America gives a fig about American football, e.g. the NFL, which nobody does.
It’s also funny that people who like to claim America is the best do not ever think of themselves guilty of being arrogant, but are continually the ones who like to complain when companies like Apple outsource all their labor to China, or when the Japanese car company Toyota, for example, usurps the American auto companies as the number one car manufacturer worldwide. America isn’t arrogant they’ll remind us, but these countries are “stealing” our jobs.
It’s nearly always a shock to these people whenever they find out America isn’t number one in everything–and that goes for our education system too–which is all too sadly reflected in comments like these.
Now, let me make something clear. Not all Americans are so conceited Most of the cultured and sophisticated Americans I have met abroad are always respectful to other cultures and peoples. But these are almost always a leftist leaning liberal variety of open minded minority of Americans who give their time and energy to trying to increase multicultural awareness and understanding, and this often is in opposition to the right-wing variety of more insular and narrow minded conservative forms of right-wing political ideology.
But to claim American mentality is not at all egotistical or arrogant, especially in the eyes of the rest of the world, is simply not to be aware of how the rest of the world perceives America and its people.
The blogger Citizen Tom does a good job of tracking down all the quotes which Harold B. Estes supposedly referenced in his letter. Most of them, as suspected, are taken out of context. But read it for yourself.
My second big criticism is that neither of these points that Mr. Estes has raised do anything to show that Obama is in anyway responsible for the hasting of America’s demise. In fact, these claims are unrelated as such.
My third criticism is that Mr. Estes doesn’t know the difference between Islamic terrorists and a Muslim, and sadly, this makes him a racist.
The fact that he invokes the white/black analogy only confirms this. But this is not uncommon in a man his age. Nor does it change the fact that the world has changed since his day, and America has changed, and his plea for the president to start “acting American” is perhaps a criticism which needs to be applied to conservative values which no longer ring true in today’s America.
And although today’s America faces very real enemies and threats, the president has staunchly affirmed his opposition to those that would seek to harm America. Whatever “heart and soul” Mr. Estes thinks America has lost is perhaps more of a reflection of the ideal America that Estes wanted to create but failed to do so.
America is what it is. It certainly has the potential to be a great nation, greater than it has ever been, but it’s failure to do so will not be solely President Obama’s fault. The fault would lie entirely with us–the American people.
So perhaps we can say, enough is enough with the Obama-blame-game. Start taking responsibility for yourselves, and if you want a better America–well–that’s still possible. But complaining about past bygones is no way to make a better future. Learn from your past mistakes, and move on. Whether you choose to forge forward and create a better America or simply continue to blame Obama for every little perceived slight will say more about you than anything else.
My fourth, and final, criticism is this: People who continue to propagate and share this letter are either Obama-phobes or assholes. None of the criticisms in the letter pertain to the current administration or the President. Most of the criticisms in the letter have already been addressed, or else are irrelevant, so the only reason to share this letter again (other than to provide criticism of doing so) is because you are a Obama-phobe, asshole, or both.
And that’s simply no way to be. Not only that, but reposting Mr. Estes letter would effectively make you hypocrites. If you want to brand the First Lady as untruthful in her purported claim that American’s are “mean spirited,” never mind the quote being taken out of context, regardless, by reposting this letter, itself being a mean-spirited act, you only seek to validate her claim. In which case, I think you have other issues than just the inability to apply logic or reason well.
If you have valid criticisms of President Obama and his administration, then by all means, make them your own. State them clearly. Make sure, unlike Harold B. Estes, that your points actually support your claims. And then consider your oppositions criticism fairly, as this is the only way to move the discourse forward. But if you simply jump on the band-wagon of Obama-bashing, well, that’s old and tired. And quite frankly, anything you might have to say is probably not worth listening to.