Dear Mr. Ryan

It’s eight o’clock on a work night, and there are other things that I should be doing. But this won’t let go of me. I’ve never been able to explain why I write to others, but usually it is to express something that desperately needs to be expressed to another mind outside my own. And I have no idea sometimes where it comes from.

Dear Mr. Ryan,

I have never written to a politician before let alone the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I think the farthest that I’ve gone is a Kansas State Senator that I once interned with or those emails set up by others and you just sign your name, as if signing an online petition. I’m sure you have seen them.  But I felt I had to write you…even though I’m not one of your constituents, living in a state far far away from your own. In the wilds of New York, along the eastern seaboard.  But my parents met in your home state, not that it matters, or maybe it does. They met in Wisconsin, at the University there…they suffered through the ice cold winters, with the mountains of snow, my father a history major on a work-study scholarship going for a Ph.d and my mother a speech pathologist on a scholarship of her own…both from middle or in his case dirt poor middle class first generation Americans.

My father, like you, comes from a large Irish-Catholic family. His brother is a Priest. He went to school on the GI bill sending every dollar home. And his father was a carpenter, who barely made ends meet, working on the Pennsylvania docks during the Great Depression. While my mother shared a bed with two sisters, her house merely four small rooms, if that, and the shower in the basement that doubled as garage. Her father was a German cattleman, who ran his own trucking business. He didn’t graduate high-school, barely made it past the eighth grade, taught himself math and how to read, since he happened to be dyslexic.  They used to call him “the Flying Dutch Man” during the 1930s, and he would give loans to his workers and people he knew so they could survive the hard times. He hated Truman, loved Eisenhower. My father’s family fought for Roosevelt, and the New Deal, dirt poor and living off Welfare. His mother’s twin brother fought in the Great War, among the first inside the death camps, he was an ambulance driver, he was never the same after that. Seeing all those corpses…. My parents met and fell in love during the long Wisconsin winters arguing politics…arguing over Truman, who ended a World War with a nuclear bomb and fired a US General for trying to invade China.

But that’s not why I write you, not to share family history, but because I fear for our country for I can feel it roaring…the sound is deafening, can you hear it too?

******

Dear Mr. Ryan,

I don’t know how to write this. I’m no one really, just a single woman on the cusp of fifty, but I read the news today…and oh boy. This ban on immigrants fleeing their countries, much as my forebears, and I’m guessing yours as well fled theirs, but under far dire circumstances. Yesterday my mother told me a story about a family of Syrians, who had managed to acquire visas, and even had a new home and jobs set up in a neighborhood in Pennsylvania. Their community came to the airport to greet them, to escort them to their new home…their story reminds me of my great granparents, who fled Ireland during the Potato Famine, and settled into a Catholic community in Pennsylvania, with their six children. But unlike my grandparents, these Syrians, who were fleeing to save their lives, but also Christian, although it hardly matters,  were turned away. They were turned away, Mr. Ryan. Handcuffed like criminals and put back on a plane to face certain death…

Every week, it used to be every day, I see the Statue of Liberty sitting in the harbor of New York…and I remember visiting it with my Mom in 1992. I remember being proud. Proud of my country, who like no other, accepted the hungry, the poor, the disillusioned, the persecuted, regardless of their origin, struggling to be free.

I don’t know what has happened to that country? I remember 9/11. I walked beneath the sky as it rained down paper and dust, thick and brown. I remember the rage that filled me at an unknown enemy. And it was easy, so easy to hate…until I met a lawyer, Muslim, Pakistani, who greeted me with friendship, he had a visa, he was an immigrant. And each, day, Mr. Ryan, I ride the subway, and next to me sits a woman, dressed in full Muslim attire, only a bit of her face shows. She chats in her native language with a neighbor, and briefly smiles at me in greeting, saying hello..

At church, a man tells me,  the Sunday before our national election, that he teaches Syrian refugees how to speak English..volunteering his time, every Saturday, and the refugees, who can’t vote, admire you Mr. Ryan, and would have voted for Mr. Trump, because they believed you would make them safe and protect them…

*******

Dear Mr Ryan,

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this. Most likely not see it. But I feel I must write you. Even if it falls into the slush pile in your office. But my country is bleeding. Through the cracks in the pavement, I can see it. The land it is cracking and trembling.

I’m not sure if you have heard, but there is no drinking water in Flint, Michigan, poisoned by lead, and the water in Corpus Christie, Texas you can’t drink or wash in, due to oil spillage. In the Dakotas, the Native Americans are freezing trying to protect our water from a pipeline that was re-routed from a residential area due to fears of it contaminating the water. Meanwhile there are oil spillages in Pennsylvania, and the coal mines are killing the miners.

And this summer, Hurricane Matthew devastated Hilton Head, and the Carolinas. People on the islands lost their homes, after years of no hurricanes. You should see the debris, stacked up on the roads and highways, as FEMA trucks slug by.  Meanwhile the Artic ice caps are melting, and the sea levels are rising…

Can you see this? Do you care? I worry about our planet. I worry that in a few years, my home, my city, Brooklyn, will be under water…as will DC, and Philadelphia. While Oklahoma continues to be ripped apart by earthquakes, and tornadoes devastate Kansas.

*********

Dear Mr Ryan,

I’ve been told to pick an issue, but where to begin. I’ve never written to you before. I’m not an activist. I wouldn’t even describe myself as politically active…but I fear for our health-care system. It is not for myself that I write. My organization provides health care, although it barely covers my needs, it is there. I pay into it, so it’s not free. But no matter. I write for my family, for my friends who are on the Affordable Care Act.  While they admittedly hate the premiums it has saved their lives. My niece, my sister-in-law, my brother who run their own business, are on the ACA aka Obamacare, as is my cousin, who has a serious heart condition and recently survived a car accident. Then there’s the friend in Arizona, an old college pal, whose life was saved by it. If it weren’t for Obamacare she’d be dead. She’s a mess, and with the ACA/Obamacare is able to work as a health care provider and help others.

I fear what will happen when they lose it. They have pre-existing conditions. And then there’s medicare, so many people are on it, I will be on it in a short period of time, what will happen if you take it away? Please, Mr. Ryan, don’t take it away. I worry about my people, all the people, who are sick, or struggling…

I found out the other day that if it weren’t for Planned Parenthood, my sister-in-law may not have survived her childhood. It provided low income children with health care. It saves so many women and children, every day…Did you know that, Mr Ryan?

Mr Ryan, while I understand your objections to the abortion issue,  can I please tell you that after abortion was legalized there were less abortions, and no partial birth abortions done?  That with Planned Parenthood, women like my grandmother were given access to birth control. My grandmother had thirteen children, Mr. Ryan. She miscarried one and the other was still-born, she didn’t practice birth control and it almost killed her. And she debated a hysterectomy, because her church said it was wrong. But her doctor stated she would die otherwise.  It made her life a drudgery, and due to her low income status, and limited health care options, she and my grandfather were forced to do the unthinkable, place seven of their children in an orphanage. It traumatized the youngest. My grandfather had a broken arm and my grandmother a dangerous pregnancy…can you imagine, Mr. Ryan? Can you imagine their pain?  If Planned Parenthood had been around, if her religion, for she was Catholic, had allowed it..this may not have happened. My father wrote to the Pope at the time requesting he lift the ban on birth control – he was so angry..

*******

Dear Mr Ryan,

I fear for our country’s sanity. It is so divided. There is so much anger. So much bitterness. Every day, the news is worse. Yesterday, a mosque was burned to the ground in Texas. I fear the terrorists are winning, they are dividing us, they are pitting us against our allies and against ourselves…

Oh, Mr. Ryan, I fear for our world. It keeps me awake at night, twisting and turning. And each day, I look at those around me, and we put up a good front. Making phone calls. Marching. Or simply pushing ourselves through the daily routine. But there is so much anger. So much. I see it in the news…did you know Reuters News Agency has advised their reporters to treat the US the same as war torn and fascist countries around the world, and in particular in the Middle East?

******

Dear Mr. Ryan,

It’s most likely pointless to write you. I don’t know what to say, or what to write …anymore. My heart is aching. I see my friends, gay and lesbian, who finally gained the right to marry. And the poor transgender, stuck in bodies that feel like alien lifeforms, or being strictly defined as one gender, when in their soul they know they are another — unable to feel safe going to the bathroom in their home states. I’m straight, Mr. Ryan. I’m heterosexual. So this doesn’t affect me. Well, not exactly. Of course it does, because I love my friends who live across the planet, and I rarely see. And because if they aren’t free, how can I, how can we?

Oh, Mr. Ryan, if I could only get you to see? Sometimes I wish we could all crawl inside another’s skin for a day, just one day. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Think as they do. I in yours and you in mine, and oh what the world could be..if we could just walk a mile in each others moccasins, if just for one day.

Each day, I walk the streets of New York City and work elbow to elbow with surbanites from the Island, who fear the city’s grit and grime. In Manhattan, next to the subway, on 42nd Street, at 6am in the morning, there is a couple lying on dirty blankets and a makeshift mattress that has seen better days, with crudely worded cardboard signs stationed around them. “We are homeless, we are hungry, I was beaten up at a shelter, please give, we are saving to get off the streets…” They have nothing. No shelter, but a subway tunnel, no heat, but the grates below them, no food, but what the passerby’s provide…they are dependent entirely on the milk of human kindness.

Kindness, Mr. Ryan. Oh, I pray for kindness.

And I find myself thinking once again of those Syrian Refugees, who appear to have caused this…first Britain leaving the European Union, and now the US…and it calls to mind a passage from the Bible, and you’ll have to forgive me, Mr. Ryan, I haven’t studied the Bible recently…so this won’t be a direct quote. But somewhere in the New Testatment, doesn’t Jesus Christ state that when a beggar or person with no money, no country, fleeing for their safety comes to us, it is him, it is Jesus, and if that is so, how, I ask you, dear, dear, Mr. Ryan, can we turn them away? Without breaking our hearts and our spirits and the source of us all in the process?Oh Mr. Ryan, I pray you can hear me, even though you are so far away, and your email server is full, your voice mail appears to be broken, and your mail lies unopened on the floor..our hearts are breaking, and our country is burning, can’t you feel the flames?               .

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