To the United States Senate and House of Representatives:
Sirs and madams, I submit this to you as a concerned citizen and a loyal American. Let me start from the outset by paying respect to the institution you are a body to. You stand in the halls of visionaries. The founders of this nation had their flaws, yet their ideals were honorable as were their lofty dreams for a union free of tyranny and repression. Though the scars are copious and we must always be mindful of the sins visited upon many in the past, we should be grateful nonetheless to live in a nation that is a beacon of freedom and liberty. Yet today, I write to you because that beacon is flickering to a dim. Contrary to popular opinion in some quarters, what made America great was never her perfection but that she was being perfected over time. Sadly, not only have we reached a plateau as a society, we are seemingly going in reverse.
It is with this saddened heart that I pen this open letter to the United States Congress and specifically address this memorandum to my Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as well as my Congressman Gerry Connolly who represents Virginia’s 11th Congressional District. Who I am is inconsequential; I write this letter for every man and every woman who is feeling the gravity of societal angst and financial duress that is weighing heavy on the chest of too many Americans. I do not convey this missive with a spirit of antagonism; though I’ve written on countless occasions of the excesses of Washington DC, today I’m presenting this petition before you with hope of goodwill in my heart. Though I must note, my exasperation that I’ve expressed about our politics is not because I harbor any resentment about my country nor should my past chagrin be taken as a sign of disloyalty to my nation.
Rather, it is because I cherish America and all her possibilities that I express dismay at the state of our union. I am originally from Ethiopia, I fled my native land to escape the clutches of tyranny and state sponsored repression. A police state is not a theory that I read about in history books nor a documentary I watch on YouTube; I remember to this day the feeling of anxiety I felt and the fear I witnessed in my mother’s eyes while driving through military check points when I was a child in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. We came to America seeking a shelter from oppression; my parents left behind a life of upper class privilege to toil as immigrants in a new land so that my siblings and I could have a shot at a future free of coercion and pursue our God given potential—this was the audacious dreams of my parents.
I love America for this reason above all. I will forever have an affinity in my heart for the land of my birth, but I am an American. There are not enough words to properly describe the blessings of this nation. Though the work before us is much, I would be remiss if I did not note the abundance of America. I have learned much from my father; one wisdom he instilled in my mind is to be thankful even in the midst of hardship. Accordingly, let me express my gratefulness to America. In too many places around this world, the critiques I write about leaders would be met with a bullet and a grave sentence. Yet, in America, we are free—even as these liberties are fraying—to condemn and criticize without being met with malice at our doors.
I am forever indebted to America; this nation provided safe harbor when menace forced my family and me to flee my birth land. Liberty must be jealously guarded, so I rise today in defense of America’s principles and our collective freedoms. You follow in the footsteps of giants and the chambers they once kept. I’m not referring to the brick and mortar of the US Capitol, I’m referring to the chambers of hearts that yearned for a more perfect union as the founders of this nation deliberated good governance during the nascency of a nation. Long before Washington DC became our capital, men like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and Benjamin Franklin were busy drafting the blueprint that they hoped would enshrine freedom and liberty for the ages. What they feared above all for the United States was concentrated power and the despotism that would arise from the womb of federalized interests.
What the founders feared is metastasizing into reality; complacency from the public and malfeasance by a few is birthing a kleptocracy. I do not write this for effect nor is my aim to be hyperbolic; with each passing day, we are nearing closer to despotism and tyranny. We never thought it possible in Ethiopia that one day a nation governed by a succession of Solomonistic kings and queens for more than two thousand years would suddenly be shattered by a violent overthrow and be replaced with autocracy by the wielders of brute force. Yet that is precisely what happened in 1974; Mengistu Hailmariam dethroned Emperor Haile Selassie and then ruled with an iron fist for more than twenty years only to be replaced by an equally despotic TPLF government that currently rules Ethiopia with AK47s and without consent. Tyranny takes a long time to matriculate but then arrives with the force of a thousand thunderbolts.
This is an existential threat that America is facing. Concentrated power and consolidated wealth is tearing apart the fabric of our nation. Chunk by chunk, we are going back to the days of King George as the citizenry is being taxed to death and our representation is being nullified by the influence of moneyed interests. Empires die when hubris leads to wars, mismanagement leads to debt and when systemic greed leads to institutional corruption—the death knell tolls for our nation. We have become a nation of wealth transference where the masses toil in order to feed the opulence of plutocrats. Where the founders were being repressed by British nobility before 1776, in 2017 the people are being subjugated by a neo-aristocracy in Washington DC, Manhattan and gated villas in exclusive townships who live apart from the broader public. The Declaration of Independence is being erased by a confab of rent-seekers and nepotists.
We get distracted by the outrageous and the rantings of a mad man as our country cracks at the foundation. Every lever of power and all institutions that affect the citizenry has been co-opted by the affluence and influence of the wealthiest few in this world—many of whom are not even American. How does Congress abide six corporations, as in six people, owning more than 90% of the information that is broadcast through mass media? How do you allow two social media corporations—Facebook and Google—to accumulate such powers that they can dictate free press and the first amendment? How have we come to accept billionaires paying a less effective tax rate than a mother working at the Waffle House who is struggling to feed her children? JFK once said “ask not what your nation can do for you but what you can do for your nation”; we now live in an era where a wealthy few are convinced that our nation is due them.
It does not have to be this way; we do not have to sit back and impotently observe our nation sinking into the abyss. That is the reason I am presenting this open letter to you. I still hold tight to the hope that goodness can overcome selfishness and that goodwill can rise above discord. But faith without action is dead. The only way to bend the arc of history towards justice is if the public stops being participants and instead become defenders of Democracy. Likewise, the leaders we entrust with power have to muster the courage to break against party and self-interest and return to the vision of the founders. I am reminded of this quote from John Adams:
“We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all Divines and moral Philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.” ~ John Adams
A commoner, I humbly ask this of rulers in the spirit of John Adams. What is the end of government? If rulers pass laws devoid of morality, if Congress enacts legislation that benefits a few at the cost of the people, if bureaucrats are more interested in protecting their turf than serving the public, and if politicians are more focused on retaining power than they are in the judicious use of power, we become a nation no different than the empire the founders rose up against. I ask you to consider these things; the judgment of history. The verdict our creator and the fate of our nation—as well as the direction of our planet—all rest on your shoulders and your collective decisions. cc @GerryConnolly @timkaine @MarkWarner #OpenLetter2Congress Click To Tweet
Teodrose Fikre on behalf of “We the People” dated October 27th, 2017
“In all our associations; in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim—that all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from, the people.” ~ George Mason
I you agree with this article and you too want to be less a participant of Democracy and a defender of Democracy instead, join this letter by signing the petition HERE or clicking on the picture below and further more use social media to circulate this write up far and wide and make sure to use Twitter to send this to your Congressmen and Senators as I did by sending this to @MarkWarner @TimKaine and @GerryConnolly. It is time for us to reclaim our nation or watch our country languish. History and our children will judge us too.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.