12/06/2010 02:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I need some clarity. I think that I deserve it. I voted for you, and I have been a consistent supporter even when my fellow-liberals began to express dismay at some of your actions in office. I continue to believe that you are a thoughtful, far-seeing, reasonable pragmatist, and that you have the interests of all Americans at heart. It heartens me that, unlike your predecessor in office, you have the ability and the will to listen to the people of this country, including the opinions of opponents.

And still, I need some clarity. I think I understand the dreadful bind in which you find yourself. Your opponents have refused to act on the renewal of unemployment benefits (not to mention other important measures: the arms treaty, "don't ask, don't tell") unless you capitulate on the perpetuation of tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. They offer no sign of compromise, and have rejected yours. I have no doubt but that you are deeply concerned for those millions of Americans who will suffer desperately if their benefits are cut off, and I share that concern. It's an agonizing predicament.

And still, I need some clarity. I want to know where you stand, personally, what you believe. Everywhere there is cynicism and confusion. Those who clamored for deficit reduction are now unwilling to accept what is demonstrably a major step in that direction. They resort to transparently false arguments to validate their efforts to further assure the enrichment of the richest and most powerful of Americans, even if -- demonstrably -- at the expense of the poorest and least represented. If you are not ready to call the bluff of those who threaten you, I need to better understand the reasons why. You have not yet made this clear to me, nor to millions like me who entrusted you with the future of our country.

Are you not angry with these obstructionists, who make it indisputably clear that they are dedicated to nothing but your personal humiliation and downfall? Should we not be allowed to see that anger, instead of the friendly smiles and handshakes?

I have never before posted a bumper sticker on any car I have ever owned, yet now my car boasts a sticker that reads "I Back Barack." I do back you. I would willingly support your veto of any tax bill of which you disapprove, including one that allows all tax benefits to expire. Even though I might not agree with it, I would support you in a compromise if I could understand its purpose. I believe in the power of reason and open-mindedness; and, as a Buddhist, I believe in the Middle Way to which you seem determined to adhere. I love the dignity and humanity your family has brought to the White House. And still I need some clarity. I beg you to speak up, and speak your position forthrightly and clearly, so that we can all better understand.


Peter Clothier