Dear Mr. President

This is a letter I am sending to President Barack Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

I know I speak for not only myself, but for many other Oregonians, when I offer a deep, heartfelt apology for the way you were treated when you visited our state.  As as native-born Oregonian, I'm embarrassed and ashamed by one of the most unpatriotic things I have ever witnessed.

I wish I could claim that these "protesters" were all outsiders who came to Oregon to further some ill-informed political agenda.  While I did hear from friends in that area that there was a large contingency of Oath Keepers, there are unfortunately some people I know supported this rude and disrespectful behavior.  I believe that most of the crowd was from Oregon.

For the record, I am a gun owner.  I believe in the right to bear arms, especially living in a rural area that is frequented by bears and other dangerous wildlife.  While I'm not a hunter, I have no problem with people who want to get up before dawn, go out into the wilderness, and legally kill an animal to feed their families.  I believe a gun is a tool, to be used sensibly.  I also believe in keeping guns away from children, or from adults who do not use them responsibly.  Above all, I believe in the right to go to school, work, the movies, etc., without being senselessly murdered.

I don't know if gun control is a definitive answer, nor do I claim to have all the answers, but I know what isn't helping: glorification of guns.  For instance, I own a chainsaw.  Like a gun, it is a handy tool in rural life.  It could even be used as a deadly weapon.  But how many times do you see pictures of people posing in their sunglasses, trying to look cool while holding a chain saw?  I think that people who do this with guns are a big part of the problem.  They are under the mistaken impression that they look cool and sophisticated, while half the time they are pointing them at their foot or the person next to them.  When kids grow up seeing adults acting like that, they aren't learning proper respect for the weapon or responsible ownership.  Not cool, and not mature.

You'll notice you won't often see combat veterans doing this.  They know better.  They are highly trained and respect the weapon and themselves more than that.  I got curious about this and did a little research, and what I found validated what I have observed among my veteran friends: they aren't impressed by this either.  They also don't buy into the idea that everyone should be packing around weapons.  Recently, The Nation magazine conducted interviews with dozens of highly trained combat vets and law enforcement professionals - people with actual combat experience.  All of them agreed that, "the NRA's heroic gunslinger mythology is a dangerous fantasy that bears little resemblance to reality."  In another interview, a veteran said, "We put on our issue .45s, and our instructor said, 'Gentlemen, the first and most important thing you've done by putting on that weapon is  you've increased your chances of being in a gunfight by 100%.'  That's a lesson that a lot of people don't get.  More guns means more gunfights - and the idea that in a chaotic, pressurized, terrifying situation, they're going to do the right thing is ridiculous."

So it would be nice if people could let go of the fantasy that if they were there with a gun, they would have stopped the killing.  Since almost the first day of your presidency, some of my conservative acquaintances have been screeching that you are going to TAKE THEIR GUNS!!  To record, you have not confiscated the gun of one single person I know.  They failed to notice that, in fact, you have expanded the use of concealed carry on federal property.   I've also noticed that nobody has gone before a death panel or been placed in FEMA camps yet, and your Presidency is nearing an end.  If you've done a dismal job of anything while in office, it's fulfilling conservative fantasies of you as an evil despot set on the destruction of America.  Thank you for that.

You were coming here to comfort the families, to acknowledge the magnitude of their loss.  Your visit was all about the victims and their families.  I can't say the same of the protesters, who shamed every Oregonian on Friday.  They made it about guns, and worse yet, they made it about you.  Perhaps the victims' families appreciated your supportive gesture, but anything they may have had to say about the death of their loved ones was drowned out by the hate fest.  It created a media circus and changed the tone of the day from one of quiet and somber respect to a gun-worshiping clown display, complete with racist and misspelled signs.

I learned a while back that Oregon was originally founded as a "white homeland."  I had always been proud of Oregon for not allowing slavery, until I learned that the reason was to keep Black people out.  Many communities in Oregon were KKK strongholds and Sundown Towns.  Racism was actually written into our state Constitution until recently.

I'd like to believe that this recent display of willful ignorance was not racially motivated.  I'd like to believe that, but I don't.  Comments I have seen on the social media, as well as some of the signs at the "rally" indicate that bigotry indeed played a role.  As an Oregonian, I again feel the need to apologize for this disgusting behavior, and assure you that the majority of Oregonians are as horrified and embarrassed as I am.  We just had the dignity not to add to the fray on a day that was supposed to be about those who lost their lives.  Some people have no class, and that noisy minority was out in force on the day of your visit.  They exploited it to further their own political agenda, on the flimsy pretext of "protesting" something they thought you might do.  In other words, they did what they tried to accuse YOU of doing.

To be fair I have been disappointed in some of your decisions.  I was furious about the re-authorization of the NDAA, and I'm not at all in support of the TPP, but I wasn't out there yelling with an anti-TPP sign.  It wasn't the time or the place, and would have been deeply disrespectful to Roseburg, and to you.

I not only respect the grieving families, but I respect the office of the President of the United States.  There will probably never be a president I agree with on every issue, but for the record, I respect you as a person.  You have handled a multitude of senseless personal attacks with dignity, humor, and class.  Ironically, I think we both know that if you had not graciously offered to visit the victims' families, every conservative pundit in the country would have blasted you for being elitist or uncaring.  Since you did the classy thing, they had to come up with some other excuse to blast you. 

If Westboro Baptist Church came to my town to spread their message, which I consider hateful and dangerous, I would be the first person out there with a sign.  However, if they announced that they were coming not to hassle anyone, but on a personal visit, say, to the local cheese factory (which makes some of the best cheese on the planet, by the way), or to console the family of someone who had died, I would leave them alone.  As a peace activist and a member of Occupy, I believe in peaceful protest... against an issue, not a person.

I hope you know that many, many Oregonians supported and welcomed your visit on Friday.  Out of respect for the grieving families we stayed home and watched in horror as extremists made Oregon as a whole look really stupid.  Thank you for being so gracious, and for having the courage and integrity to come visit Oregon and these families.

And thank you for being our President. 


  1. Romy: Thank you so much for your words. :)

  2. Thank you. I will be sending this to him via snail mail on Monday.

  3. My kudos to you Romy for a well written letter. I am only doing this anonymously as my profile name contains the word looney and don't want anyone going off on that as is is Pink Floyd related only. My late husband and former editor of the Headlight Herald could not have written it much better (though he would probably have wanted to edit it anyway!) It would go internet viral if you wanted it to!
    Great job!

    Betty Dickson

  4. Thank you. I had the deepest respect for your husband, and would have welcomed his critique.


Father's Day

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