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Less positive response

July 15, 2012

Dear Ms. Whitehouse,

I hope you don’t mind the e-mail contact.  I got your address through Blaine Strimple, a friend of many years.  My name is xxxxxxx.  I am a retired Corning-Painted Post School District teacher.

I read with great interest your recent letter to The Leader.  I certainly agree with many of the points you make about conditions in the United States. There is, without doubt, a great disparity between the haves and have-nots, between the empowered and the powerless, and between the mighty and the weak.  In addition, the current political climate is a national shame.  We need to work together to solve many of our country’s pressing problems, but those in office seem more concerned about staying in power and in playing politics than serving the real needs of our citizens.

I would, however, have given more credence to your opinions if you had made some attempt at a balanced approach.  Perhaps something along the lines of noting the high standard of living you have been able to enjoy in your many years of living here, a recognition of the many, many good qualities of our nation (standing with allies in times of trouble [remember WWI and WWII?], quick to send aid in times of disaster or tragedy, etc., etc.), and an acknowledgement of the fact that you felt free to openly share your criticisms in a public forum that freely allows exchange of thoughts and ideas.  I’m sure that there are many nations where this would not be allowed.  You then could have followed this preface with your very valid points of criticism.

Yes, most Americans feel that this is a great country (poor, deluded us!).  I’m sure that the citizens of many other nations feel the same about their native lands.  We certainly are not perfect (unlike the nations of ?????, and ?????).  I feel that most Americans are open to looking at our faults and at discussing ways to correct them.  However, I noted that your letter was long on criticism but somewhat lacking in suggestions.

I know that there are many who will attack you, rather than confront the issues you have raised, but perhaps it is human nature to resent the criticisms of a guest who has enjoyed the benefits of our nation for so long (twenty-eight years?) but now seems to feel it necessary to call us to task.  I am sorry that your many years of living here have been unhappy and have left you feeling so negatively about us.  I am disappointed that we do not meet your standards and that you have no desire to become one of us, but I do so appreciate your insight into our self-delusions about our greatness.


PS — I’m contacting you via e-mail, rather than sending a letter to the editor.  I wanted to share my thought on a personal level instead of becoming part of a public debate. (I have therefore not included his name). I do wish you well.


My reply:

Thank you for your letter.  You make some very valid points.
I would not say that the past 28 years have been unhappy.The US, and Corning in particular, have been very good to my husband and me, not so much so for our children: two have had serious financial difficulties because of the impossibility of getting affordable health insurance, one has an overwhelming student loan debt, and two are unable to get loans (one for business, one a mortgage) because the banks are so afraid of another financial meltdown.  In one family, we have the haves and the have-nots that you mentioned. Yet we all pay our taxes and abide by the laws of the land. The children, I might add, are all happily married to Americans and have American children and step children.  Not one of them is a citizen.
Of course, there are good things about the country, freedom of speech being one of them. However, this is hardly unique to the United States.  It is a basic tenet of the United Nations Charter, and the majority of countries abide by it. The US’s contribution to the World Wars is, I’m afraid, irrelevant to today’s situation.  As your friend Mr Strimple said, this is not the country that it once was, not the country he served. 
As far as my letter being short of suggestions  is concerned, that was quite deliberate.  I am not in a position to offer solutions.  (That is not to say that I do not have ideas.)  But my intention was to draw attention to some of the problems facing the country, and ask voters to think about them, come up with their own solutions, and then decide who among the people standing for election will best put those solutions into effect.
Incidentally, the title in The Leader “Proud not to be an American” was their choice, not mine.
I am very willing to take this discussion further with anyone who would like to, anywhere, any time.



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