My Letter To The President
By Mirza Yawar Baig
01 June, 2010
Dear Mr. President,
I am sure you know more about the situation with Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla than I do. The question that I and the rest of the world is asking is, ‘What are you going to do?’
We are told that in 1997, a man used to stand outside the White House, your home today, holding a lighted candle in his hand, a silent protestor against the US sanctions against Iraq. He would turn up there every evening and would stand there for a few hours well into the night. One evening, it was wet, windy and very cold. As usual the man came, wearing a coat with the collar turned up against the bitter cold, and an umbrella to shelter the tiny flame of his candle from the blustery wind. As he stood there, the guard at the gate, who used to see him every day and occasionally waved to him in friendly camaraderie, came out to him and said, "Man! I know you are committed to this cause. But look at this night! It is so cold and horrible; you are one man, standing here alone, do you think you will change them?"
The man looked at the guard and smiled. "I don't do this to change them," he said, "I do this so that they will not change me."
I was debating whether to write anything at all today, because like many of my fellow human beings I feel helpless and paralyzed when I see what Israel does, again and again, with impunity granted by your protection. I ask myself, ‘Why? Why is it that a nation which we all respected and looked up to as the role model of justice, today stands alone as the upholder of oppression?’ I don’t know why. So I thought I would also simply remain silent and watch. Then I remembered the story of this man and thought to myself that when I go, I want to know that I never allowed what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control.
It is not in my control Mr. President, to stop Israeli atrocities. That is in your control. But it is in my control to remind you to do what is in your control. Mr. President, we all rejoiced when you were elected President. I wrote an article at that time about the greatness of America that brought a ‘black man into the White House’. Those were not my words. Those were the words of a white Caucasian American friend of mine who I asked about your chances of getting elected. He scoffed and said, ‘A black man in the White House? Never.’ Well, he had to eat his words and I was delighted. The thought in my mind today, echoed in the minds of millions of other people around the globe, is – the color of the skin is of no consequence. It is the color of the dreams, the values, the ethics and morals, the color of courage or cowardice to do what is right and stand up for those who have nobody on their side but God. Those are the colors that matter. Yellow, Mr. President is not a color. It is an attitude. Don’t you agree?
So have the real colors changed? Or should we believe the old African saying, ‘A leopard does not change his spots’?
Much has happened since 1997 and the history of lies and shame has been written in the blood of innocents. None of that was your responsibility as you were then still living in your own house. Today however you are living in Government accommodation and with it come powers and responsibility. I am sure you know all about this because we heard your speeches. Now’s the time to make good on those promises of justice, compassion and human rights. The world, Mr. President, is your baby now. Feels good to you, I’m sure. But what does the baby feel?
Mr. President, to return to my story of the man with the candle, there is one man somewhere in America, who still believes in justice and mercy and that truth will eventually prevail over falsehood. That is his legacy. The legacy of a man whose name we don't know. But his story inspires others. We need such people more than we need those who have the power but use it only to oppress. Remember Mr. President that no person or nation lives forever. But their thoughts, their goals, their ideals and what they stood for endure long after they have become dust.
My question to you Mr. President is, ‘How do you want to be remembered by your daughters? As a man who stood for what is right even though it cost him his job? Or…….’
I say, ‘remembered by your daughters’, because believe me, they will be the only ones who will still remember you after you retire. They and I, a man alone, far from where you are, but who believed in you and what you said you stood for……….now is the time to put your money where your mouth is, Mr. President.
Mirza Yawar Baig