Transparency and patriotism… an open letter to President Barack Obama

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama-

In honor of the Sacred Commerce communication tools I teach and do my best to live, I am writing you today to apologize. I have not been an involved citizen by holding you accountable to what you have said you are committed to creating during your presidency, such as closing Guantanemo Bay, ending our wars overseas, strengthening gun control and working tirelessly for stronger policies to fight climate change. I apologize for not writing to you to speak to my deep concern when I heard about the tragic prosecution of courageous young men like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and the continuing threat from corporate entities like Monsanto. I am not committed to giving you an experience of feeling unsupported and alone in the daunting task of doing what's right for the whole. What you can count on me for is to do my utmost to communicate with you personally, to support you in being a strong voice for the rights of our planet and its inhabitants, and to speak out publicly about issues which are important to me as often as I possibly can.

In December, 2009, I wrote the following words, which are just as pertinent now as they were then:

I campaigned for you and was elated when you were elected. You were the very first President I have ever voted for because I wanted to vote for you, rather than voting for the lesser of two evils. However, I'm also a realist and understand that, no matter how much you may have wanted to move this country forward towards real, lasting, positive change, it takes time. You have said so yourself... and you are right. I continue to believe in you, Mr. President, and pray... that you find the strength to stand by your values and convictions, that you remember why we voted for you, and that you remember the legacy you are leaving your two beautiful daughters, my children and children everywhere. You have the power and opportunity to do so much good.

As I wrote in a November 20, 2008 blog:

For the first time in my adult life, I feel a growing sense of patriotism. According to the dictionary, patriotism is "a pride in or devotion to the country somebody was born in or is a citizen of," and by that definition, I do feel patriotic. I feel proud of this country and devoted to it in a way I never have before. And this patriotism stems not from a feeling of panic, desperation or hopelessness, but rather from a feeling of hope. For the first time in my life - the first time  - I feel invited by the person in the highest office in our country to participate in the process of Democracy, and I am willing to do whatever I need to step up to that invitation….

I've heard some people say that it's up to the government to take care of us - we pay taxes for that, we should be able to trust the people we elect to do their jobs so we don't have to be a watchdog over them. After having given it some thought, what I have to say to those folks is, "Has that worked in the past? Has it worked for us to not take responsibility for the things we want to see done? Has it worked to trust our politicians [and the corporate entities which are so deeply embedded in our government] to take care of things for us?"

We have an opportunity now - a great  opportunity - to participate in this process called Democracy. If we care about an issue, we need to make sure that we take personal responsibility for making it happen, or at least do everything we can so we know we gave it our best…. There is no excuse - if you think you have elected someone to do a job for you, think again.

We face unprecedented challenges, not only here but around the globe, and it would be foolish of us to think that, simply because we have elected someone who stands for change and creative solutions, we can sit back and relax. On the contrary, having elected a new leader who has clearly spoken out and asked the people of this country to participate. It is time for us to step up more than we ever have before. This choice that the people of our country have made is a clarion call for change, for a radical paradigm shift and most especially for responsibility…. We have an opportunity to recreate a true democracy. I believe the founding fathers and mothers of this country fought for that - for everyone to have a voice, a say, in what happens on every level. This creates true accountability in our government. That is what President Elect Obama is saying, "Work with me. Let's do this together."

And a year later in my blog on November 2, 2009:

I was simply so relieved and thrilled at having such an incredibly down-to-earth, well-spoken, visionary leader in the White House, I forgot that it was all of us (well, the majority of us) who put him there. I was so ready for a change, I forgot I had a responsibility to be part of it.

Because the truth is, no matter how much some may want to blame him and his administration for the various messes we're in right now – our national health care travesty, the real, horrible and deepening chasms in our own country between the "haves" and the "have nots," and the greatest challenge of our time, the global climate crisis - we can't blame anyone but ourselves. We are collectively responsible. All of these things started a very long time ago and we chose to ignore the signs and keep living as if everything was just fine….

Because we are the one species who has caused the most damage to this precious planet, we must be the ones to take responsibility for it. Personally. We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that every decision we make has a great affect on everything around us. And because the U.S. is the most privileged nation on the planet (and the one with the greatest environmental impact), we have the greatest responsibility to do our part. With privilege comes great responsibility.

No one, not even the President, is going to rescue us from these things that cause pain or suffering, No one has a magic wand to wave over our lives or the planet to "make it all better." There are no band-aids big enough for the wounds we've created. The only solution is serious, concerted effort to do our part. As my friend Yvonne St. John-Dutra says, "We are the heroes we've been waiting for."

Thank you, Mr. President, for having the courage to speak out boldly in favor of our environment by stating that the Keystone pipeline could only be approved if the project doesn’t "significantly exacerbate the climate problem" and speaking in favor of fossil fuel divestment. Thank you for having the courage to even take on this monumental task in the first place…. And remember, that we, the millions who voted for you, are here for you, to stand by the words you spoke so eloquently during your campaign, and to work by your side to make sure we give every American and every global citizen, for that matter, a fair, fighting chance for a thriving, sustainable life.

What I leave you with is this:  What requests do you have of me, a citizen of this country, to do even more to support you and to help restore Love to the world?

I very much look forward to hearing them and will do my utmost to honor them.

With deepest respect, utmost gratitude and abundant blessings,

Erin Ross

Community and Communication… Creating Common Ground

talkingcircleSince this month's Being Game is Community, I've been doing a lot of pondering about what it means, how it works (and doesn't work), and what's required to create workable community. And, in musing on the various permutations of this subject, I've come to the conclusion that the real strength in any given community lies in its ability to communicate. Both the words "community" (a group of people or society as a whole) and "communicate" (to make known or express oneself in such a way that one is readily and clearly understood) stem from the Latin "communis" which means "common," which includes such definitions as "shared by all alike," "pertaining to the community as a whole" and "prevalent or general." Thus, consider that our communication is the common ground of our community; it is the place in which we meet, exchange and grow.

Whether the community is a couple, a family, a classroom, an organization, business or nation; if our communication is healthy and clear, our community is thriving.

The reason this all came up is that I've witnessed some communications in my own extended family that have been, in my experience, challenging and, truth be told, even painful. And… I've held my tongue because I didn't want to make waves. I'm not saying that's the best strategy… it's been my safe (safe equaling sedative) strategy, so I don't have to deal with the various "cans of worms" (my interpretation) I see sitting on the table. However, the problem in that strategy is that it also leaves a great big pink elephant sitting on the table amidst those cans, very likely to be too heavy for the table to withstand the pressure and, thus, break under the weight of the unspoken.

I have wrestled with my conscience about how much to say about all of this, but have come to the conclusion that, as the "Communications Manager" for our family, it is my duty to step out of my "safety zone," speak my truth and open the floor for what I hope will be deeper dialogue.

With that, I offer an excerpt from a letter I recently sent to my family (names and specific detailes removed) in the hopes that it encourages some of you who wrestle with the communications in your family, since this is where it all begins, and to learn the tools that can help in beginning to open, and even repair, the relationships that are the most critical ones we have.


Dear family-

I notice how easy it for me (as a human being) to be attached to a position of "being right" about many issues, especially with all that is happening in the world, locally and globally. What I have come to experience and trust, however, is that when I am attached, I diminish my ability to consider other points of view with an open mind and heart. This isn't to say that it's not important to have convictions and values, or to set clear boundaries on what is acceptable or not. I also know that I don't often do as good a job as I intend (it's a work in progress), but I do believe it is vitally important to listen- really listen, with interest and curiosity- to what others have to say to the best of my ability in any given moment. 

I give myself the experience that I hear a lot of “being right” and attachment to positions in the exchanges between some of our family members. All I can say is, as challenging as it can be sometimes, I've experienced that, when I allow myself to loosen the grip of my attachment to my position, I am more open to hearing ideas and solutions that are actually more beneficial for the greater good, even if I thought I had the best interest of the greater good in mind all along. In other words, I consider that the best solutions usually arise from humble and open-hearted dialogue. 

What this boils down to is an invitation to all of us (myself included) – whether or not we've been in the middle of these conversations or sitting on the sidelines patiently watching – to...

… speak and act with as much compassion, humility and love as possible. 

… notice our internal reactions to what others say or write or do and "be with" them for a moment… or a day (there is nothing so urgently at risk here which can't benefit from a "cooling off" period if we're upset). 

… consider our words and where they're coming from before we speak or hit the "send" button. 

… remember that we are all, whether we like it or not, in this family with each other as long as we are on this planet and able to enjoy our connections and this beautiful land which [my grandparents] left us to steward.

In my estimation, we are a brilliant, passionate, loving bunch… often prone to reactivity, righteousness and stubbornness. That is what makes [us] so admirable most of the time and such a pain in the ass on occasion.

I also want to say that I know that what I'm saying here doesn't come close to addressing some of our deep-seated issues and histories... I believe that none of us is immune to some shadows or incompletions in our relationships with each other. What I am saying, though, is that, perhaps- just perhaps- if we have the courage to begin to open the closet with tenderness, care and an intention for healing and restoration of love, then we have a golden opportunity to raise the bar of who we are as a family even higher than it already is.

Finally… I am also glad to see more of us in my generation taking a greater interest in the maintenance of this land, honoring and wanting to learn from the wisdom and know-how [our predecessors] have been carrying since grandpa and grandma died. In my humble opinion, we have an opportunity here to learn what must be learned about lakes and dams, meadows and barns, trails and orchards and much more... and we must seize it with care, commitment to service, and innovation. This land is our greatest legacy and the glue which holds this family together. It is an honor to begin to learn how to care for it, and I humbly admit that, although I have not done as good a job as I should have thus far, I am committed to learning and executing the tasks which need to be implemented to the best of my ability.

All in all, my request is that we bring to our family table the following... action with care, urgency with thoughtfulness, the good of all held in as much esteem as our personal preferences, and love over positions.

I love you all and am committed to listening, speaking and participating with as much deliberateness, love and care as possible. You can always count on me to "step away" if I need to ruminate or calm down for a moment and to "dive in" when necessary. Despite, and because of, our differences and similarities, I love this family - and this land - more than I can say.

With love and blessings to each and every one of you,



I wish you a most beautiful rest of this glorious month of June in whatever communities you participate, and look forward to reading your comments!