A letter to a president — I

Published: July 3, 2010

The writer is a political economist and a research scholar in cultural conservation and heritage management ([email protected])

Dear Sir,

Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate you and your nation on the occasion of the Independence Day of your glorious country, this wonderful, most powerful, munificent Land of Opportunity, this churning melting pot of disparate nations and desperate people.  That I am actually here, amongst your fortunate citizens, celebrating this significant day, reveling in the celebrations taking place right across from your residence, the hallowed House of Whiteness, recently renamed by pranksters as Blackberry Pearl is an opportunity for which I am truly grateful.  How else could I have witnessed the euphoria expressed by your citizens (and those secretly wishing to be carriers of your blue passport, hiding away in some decrepit tenement, looking out for federal agents from Homeland Security who would most certainly see them as threats to the American Dream)?  How else would I have gained this profound insight into the way in which the American Dream is played out, first as a fantasy, then approximating a nightmare when daylight disperses the darkness and all that glitters is not gold (and all that twitters is not told)?

Sir, I had the supreme privilege of being one of the chosen ones to land at the airport named after your illustrious predecessor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and then being ceremoniously hauled up by a large, kind-hearted if heavily armed person whose job it seemed was simply to put foreigners such as I to ease. This, I realised quickly, was just a special way of greeting visitors to the shores of your shining seas, and I was much pleased to see that in the small room into which I had been ushered, there were others like me: a small, wizened old lady in a sarong, possibly from Sri Lanka or perhaps Indonesia — in any case, one of those countries where they live on trees and eat bugs, without even washing them!  And then there was the chubby little Mexican baby struggling against the ample bodice of its mother who was trying to hold on to two tiny toddlers while balancing the baby on her hip.  This, Mr President, was ample evidence of the attraction of the US for these people rushing over from those far-off places where the dream of air-conditioning and credit card consumption is, after all, just a dream.  And to see that your federal agents had gone out of their way to welcome these so-far undocumented members of society was heartening indeed.  I, of course, was used to being hauled away into Area Three where my passport was scrutinised a dozen times and my name mangled horribly as it was called over the public announcement system. with the bark of a machine-gun firing into the stillness of night.

I have been receiving this special treatment since I first came to your magnificent country as a young, 19 year old student admitted into a prestigious private school created exclusively for women of privilege, nestled in the verdant expanse of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Virginia. This beautiful campus is located around the corner from the former estate of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of this Land of Freedom and Equality and one of the signatories to the exemplary document called the US constitution which calls for the equality of all human beings and protects the differences which we may have in opinion or the hue of our skin.  My college was situated just at the edge of the Deep South, more popularly known as the place where racial harmony was gone with the wind before the time of Dr Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement which brought color into the otherwise black and white canvas of American society.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2010.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Jul 15, 2010 - 1:11AM

    Feryal
    We are proud to have people like you , bold , articulate and concerned , I am glad you have mentioned your concerns so directly and openly.I support your viwes, salute your courage, your global vision and long term goals
    best regards
    Tahir Yazdani MalikRecommend

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