Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I sent an email to Barack Obama. Even before I had pressed Send I had begun to doubt myself. What self-respecting Canadian, after all, would send fanmail to a U.S. president? Why I truly am a proud Canadian, and never once have I send fanmail to a Canadian prime minister. In fact, I’ve rarely written to a Canadian prime minister. I think only once, during a moment of utter outrage when Elizabeth May was about to be denied a position in the televised leaders’ debate.
It seemed a little silly to waste an email on barack Obama. Certainly he would not take the time to read my note. Most likely I’d only be costing him money, wages paid to the person who reads the email. Still, it seemed like I ought to support a hope-focussed leader living right next door. I thought he ought to know that there are centres for hope studies. I thought he ought to know that there’s a hope scholar in Canada who teaches university classes using text from his speeches. I thought that maybe a really bad day would come, a day so filled with despair that he would be reduced to reading fanmail just to keep himself going. The more I thought about all this, the more sense it made to dash off a little note. So I did.
Barack Obama didn’t reply to my note—at least not right away. I kind of appreciated this because I knew that any reply I would get wood be a form letter. Even the most dedicated heroes are reduced to answering fanmail with form letters. So I really did not mind receiving no reply.
But then I did receive a letter in the email—not in the first month, not in the second month. It came in the third month. The subject line read: Health Care News worth Sharing. The signature said Barack Obama. My first thought was: “”Oh no. I’ve got my name on some general email list. Right now I’d better unsubscribe.””
I thought of the email as junk mail, but I didn’t unsubscribe in the first week. It seemed too soon. I didn’t unsubscribe in the second week either. In the third week I moved the email to Deleted Items. But I still didn’t unsubscribe. The letter was safe for a while. I only delete Deleted Items about once a year.
Then yesterday I heard a radio interview with a Canadian who has been recruited by American companies to make public pronouncements over American media describing our Canadian health care system as ineffective and excessively costly. . That got my attention. I opened up the deleted Items folder and had a second look. The message from Barack says

“”The Vice President and I just met with leaders from the House of Representatives and received their commitment to pass a comprehensive health care reform
bill by July 31.

We also have an unprecedented commitment from health care industry leaders, many of whom opposed health reform in the past. Monday, I met with some of
these health care stakeholders, and they pledged to do their part to reduce the health care spending growth rate, saving more than two trillion dollars
over the next ten years -- around $2,500 for each American family. Then on Tuesday, leaders from some of America's top companies came to the White House
to showcase innovative ways to reduce health care costs by improving the health of their workers.

Now the House and Senate are beginning a critical debate that will determine the health of our nation's economy and its families. This process should be
transparent and inclusive and its product must drive down costs, assure quality and affordable health care for everyone, and guarantee all of us a choice
of doctors and plans.

Reforming health care should also involve you. Think of other people who may want to stay up to date on health care reform and other national issues and
tell them to join us.

Health care reform can't come soon enough. We spend more on health care than any country, but families continue to struggle with skyrocketing premiums
and nearly 46 million are without insurance entirely. It is a priority for the American people and a pillar of the new foundation we are seeking to build
for our economy.””

I thought about the Canadians who are being paid to tear the system down before it even gets off the ground. I wondered about their expectation for the future, how much they’d like to be one of the 46 million Americans who have no health insurance.

Lately I’ve been going to the doctor. Nobody asks me how much money I have. My insurance is guaranteed. Sure I grumble. I’d like to be treated more kindly, seen more quickly by specialists. Of course I’d like to keep taxes as low as possible. But it occurred to me that maybe Stephen Harper, our very own prime minister, maybe Stephen Harper doesn’t know I want to pay taxes to support health care. Maybe Premier Ed Stelmach doesn’t know it either.

It has never occurred to me to send fanmail to our premier or prime minister. Unlike Barack, they rarely make public statements that fill me with hope and delight. But I just might send them a little fanmail about our health system, and I don’t think I’ll unsubscribe to Barack’s email list any time soon. One little email isn’t exactly overkill after all, and my fanmail must have been read, given that they knew this topic would be of interest to me.
I believe universal health care is a very hopeful thing. I believe that supporting it is an act of hope. I think I’d better boost the hope of our leaders by saying how much I like it, to be a small voice speaking in the din of all the complaining that comes so much more easily to the tip of the tongue and the button marked Send. Hope grows when people work together for something they value. False despair is out health system’s greatest threat.

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