Dear President Barack Obama:
I was beginning to think you’d forgotten all about me.
Then I recalled how very busy you are and have been.
During two tumultuous terms, you have been heckled by Rep. Joe Wilson (no relation) during your State of the Union Address, been infantilized by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer when she wagged her finger in your face, had your very citizenship questioned by “the birther movement” which, it turns out, has nothing whatever to do with women giving birth. You assassinated Osama Bin Laden, pulled our troops out of war, you’re doing some sort of Testosterone Tango with Vladimir Putin, your girls hit their teens — which means that despite the splendor of the White House, you’re still with three women whose menstrual cycles will soon all synch up.
Then there’s the Middle East: Isis, Gaza, Hamas and Israel.
On top of all that, the new car smell of being the first black president with an accomplished, beautiful wife has long since worn off.
And I’d just about gotten fatigued defending you and then pointing out your glaring downfalls — your slow footedness on same-sex marriage, this joke-of-a-group-hug you’re calling My Brother’s Keeper — which can be tricky in America for blacks to prove we’re not playing racial favoritism.
You may already know this, but who knows, considering just how publicly intellectual you’ve been about your racial identity. Some of us Negroes out here in the world would sure like to see you tear off your suit jacket, hand it to Michelle, roll up your shirt sleeves, and beat the living shit out of some of these clearly racist white conservatives whose subversive language makes it clear that along with the progressive act of electing you came the worst case of racial regression this country has ever experienced.
Didn’t you like it better when they wore sheets and terrorized us on horseback? At least we were clear who they were and where they stood. Now that they’re in Congress and captains of industry, it’s hard to tell, until, that is, they open their mouths.
But I digress.
I have really said all that to say this: I want to personally thank you for keeping at least one promise that directly affects me and will greatly and positively change my lifestyle.
Thank you for all the work you put into and all the licks you took to pass the Affordable Health Care Act.
Your adversaries think they’re being sly and cute by calling it Obamacare. If I were you I’d be proud to have such a sweeping, relevant and compassionate piece of law named after me, but Wilsoncare doesn’t go down as easily and I’m not nearly as judicious and diplomatic as you.
I’d have given up at the first rankle.
Anyway, I wasn’t always so sure you knew what you were doing with this thing, especially after all the technical glitches; then you were, once again, forced to throw yourself under the bus when you went on television to apologize and try to explain what was going wrong.
Who does that?
Where were the minions, the head programmers, the very person who hired the inept Canadian company to get the website up and running in the first place?
Your willingness to take responsibility for the big things lesser men would pass off to underlings is one of the small things about you I admire and will always remember.
I came of voting age during the middle of Ronald Reagan’s first term, so that damage had already been done. And when he ran for re-election against Walter Mondale … well, let’s just say that was a wash, too.
I was in my early twenties, and the feeling that America was being slowly and methodically ripped at its middle-class seams was frightening. It was a dark time for most of us, and we assumed our positions at the periphery where we knew we’d be for many presidents to come. (Does Bill Clinton count as progress? He started this whole housing mess with all those sub-prime mortgages in the first place. It wasn’t just George W. Bush’s mess you’d inherited. But that’s another letter; I know Clinton helped you get re-elected.)
I think I can speak for a great many of the millions of this nation’s highly skilled yet underemployed workers when I say that with national healthcare, you altered our quality of life.
After enrolling online during the post-deadline extension in March, I’d given up hope — your favorite word — of ever hearing from Ohio Medicaid, the social service your marketplace told me I’d qualified for.
Then I ran into a friend who, after hearing the horror story of My Right Foot of Fury, asked if I’d signed up for health care.
“Yeah,” I said, “but it’s been since March and I haven’t heard a word.” Well, it took her a long time, too, to get word. When the mail came that same afternoon, in it was my Ohio Medicaid card for August, which was exhilarating but weird, since I hadn’t gotten anything else from the state.
Then the next day I got three fat envelopes — one with two conflicting packets saying I hadn’t qualified for Medicaid, the other saying, in fact, I had qualified. The second envelope confirmed my qualification and the final envelope held instructions and deadlines on how and when to choose from several health care providers.
Mr. President, I will treat my Medicaid card like the treasure it is, but I will not be precious with it; I will use it with abandon, brandishing it like an American Express card with no balance.
I will shore up my health care with impunity.
There is foot pain to be managed, teeth to be fixed, paps to be smeared, breasts to be smashed and vision to be corrected.
People who take health care for granted don’t understand that access to it is America’s great equalizer.
And you, sir, have made us all equal.
Your friend and fellow citizen, Kathy Y. Wilson
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: firstname.lastname@example.org