Barn Owl. John James Audubon.

Greetings from the Land of Enchantment. Let me begin by congratulating you on winning the White House, and vanquishing the ogre back under his bridge. Well done. I’m glad we as a nation have moved on. That being said, let me also tell you: I didn’t vote for you. I’m not saying this to be rude or condescending — just letting you know, so you can choose to disregard my words if you like. In your inaugural address, however, you said you would represent all Americans, so I thought I’d introduce myself to you, and take you as a man of your word.

Now, I didn’t vote for you, not because I was some sort of trump-nut, or a “Bernie bro,” or any number of expectations one might have. The reason I didn’t vote for you is simple: the status quo of the past forty years was not working for me, or nearly anyone I know. The whole “American Dream” thing has been a joke for as long as I can remember, and you are one of the many people who have worked to create the system as it presently is. I was convinced that someone like you who has been in politics longer than I’ve been alive couldn’t possibly be the answer. We needed someone new — someone outside the politics-as-usual Washington beltway.

Your predecessor in the Oval Office, as truly ghastly of a president as ever there was, was not the cause of our problems as a nation. Although he did his darndest to try and destroy America, trump was still just a symptom — a result of the disastrous policies of the past forty years. Many on the left are beginning to wake up to this reality. Neoliberalism has been the true terror lurking behind the scenes for my entire lifetime, and it’s a system you have spent your career helping to build. I explore a critique of neoliberalism in a recent essay, which I’d be glad to provide, so I will not make an exhaustive attempt to explain in this letter how neoliberalism drives the class divide ever further, providing a warm nest in which fascism may find solace and grow strong.

I voted for Gloria LaRiva, because she is an indigenous woman from my state of New Mexico, and her platform and values most closely align with my own. “For the Earth to Survive, Capitalism Must End!” is her rallying cry, if that gives you an idea of my political leanings. I wasn’t daunted by claims that I had, “thrown away my vote,” rather, I was empowered that I had voted as my conscience dictated, and not given into the sway and pressure to vote for someone in whom I didn’t believe. No vote is thrown away when it is cast in good faith.

Now, here we are, in the midst of a pandemic, an economic crisis, a climate crisis, and a biodiversity crisis, yet I am writing to you today to say that you have an opportunity. Now is a crucial moment in history, and you have an opportunity to make bold decisions that leave a lasting impact on the future for people everywhere. Even people like me who didn’t vote for you. Show me that I was wrong. I will be the first to admit it.

FDR was successful specifically because he rose to the challenges of his time, and made sweeping, decisive moves towards a freer, more equitable society, many of which, despite attempts over the last forty years by apparatchiks of the capitalist class to overturn, still have a lasting impact now. This could be your legacy as well, not riding on the supposed successes of the Obama years. As I’m sure you know, leftists and liberals are not the same thing, and while Obama may be the darling of liberals, to progressives and leftists, Obama is no hero. The “drone king.” The “fracker-in-chief.” Instead of trying to ride Obama’s coat-tails, show the world that you can be the true president of progressives and leftists in a way Obama never was.

The opposite of a fascist is not a milquetoast moderate hellbent on bipartisanship and mindless inaction in the name of “incrementalism.” No, the opposite of a Trump will be a president who represents all the people and makes powerful moves in the name of equality and ethical social progress, unafraid of Wall Street, unswayed by the billionaire class. You have to be ready to listen to progressive ideas for solving the difficult problems we face, and ready to engage with grassroots organizers. Now is the time for bold action! As you yourself said, “we are at a moment of great peril, as well as promise.”

So, as many leftists before me have asked: what is to be done? Resurrecting neoliberalism from this pile of infernal ashes is not going to work. This isn’t what we need to grow as a culture and as a nation. The system that gave us your predecessor must be overturned, not reïnforced. You’ve spent forty years working for that system, but we will forgive you for it if you promise to change course. I’ve often thought one of the greatest virtues of humankind is our ability to repent — to change direction and move towards better choices based on improved awareness, or new information. Admitting one has made mistakes in the past and looking to make better decisions in the future is as powerful as it is transformative.

So, I had planned to write you a scathing letter about my non-support, but then you surprised me with an unprecedented seventeen executive orders on your first day, and I was floored. They all look pretty promising, to be honest. Could I have been wrong about you, Joe? If you keep this up, you will prove me and all of my smarmy Marxist friends wrong. And I sincerely hope you do.

I read all seventeen. I’m impressed. These are all good things, to be sure, and much more progressive than anything I thought you were going to do. One thing I would encourage is to start exclusively using the term “white supremacy,” rather than “racism,” because it’s more to the point and can’t be manipulated by opponents in the same way as the latter term. (e.g. “reverse racism” nonsense) Calling it white supremacy addresses the systemic nature of the problem, centering it as a problem of the white community that needs to be solved from within the white community.

Now, these things certainly look good on paper, and I hope they amount to real material changes that are felt by regular people, people who are suffering, and so desperately need aid. These resolutions are a monumental step on your first day in office, and I hope you put in the work that goes with it in the weeks to come, but remember: it is only a step — a baby step at that. Many more steps must be taken. No longer can we speak of incrementalism and moderation. It’s time to be bold, Joe.

We need help! Many have been evicted, are unhoused, are food insecure, and unemployed. You can’t imagine the real suffering that many of us on the ground have been surviving through, and my situation is quite a bit more privileged than some. It’s been just short of eleven months: 316 days to be exact. The $2000 stimulus check divided by 316 comes down to a measly $6.33 a day IF you round it up! Can you imagine living on $6 a day? We have not been given even close to the amount of assistance most of the developed world has afforded their citizens, and are we not meant to be the “richest country in the world”?! It’s not a hand-out I am asking for, as the Republicans will inevitably claim. I’ve paid taxes since I was 18. It’s my money and I’m only asking for a little bit of it back. I’m just asking for a little help. Have you seen the French stimulus bill? If we can’t even do better than France, how can we claim to be the best country in the world? Come on, Joe!

We deserve retroactive payments for all the months of quarantine we spent in bitter poverty, barely making it, surviving on ramen and dried beans. How long has it been since you had to eat a struggle meal, Mr. Biden? Things have gotten really bad for the people on the ground. We need stimulus payments to continue through 2021, and we can’t stop there. We need to take seriously the conversation of Universal Basic Income. Andrew Yang isn’t as crazy as some would have you believe, and it’s time to start looking at the data surrounding this seemingly-radical concept. The idea that we would become less productive is simply not what studies have shown. I personally take pride in my craft as a bartender, and if the pressures of paying rent and buying groceries were covered by UBI, I wouldn’t stop tending bar, but rather, I would be liberated to do what I love, and do a better job at it, improving my quality of life and the hospitality experience of guests who sit at my bar.

Healthcare for All needs to happen yesterday. I can’t believe the state of affairs of the US healthcare system. The American healthcare system is neither healthy, caring, nor systemic. I once broke my arm and ended up wrapping the bone up myself because I couldn’t afford to be ravished by the predatory for-profit healthcare industry. “Obamacare” as the Healthcare Mandate has come to be known was a failure because it flooded the private sector with public funds. Anything short of a single-payer system, like literally every other developed nation in the world has, is not good enough. Be bold and do the right thing! We only ask for the same level of healthcare that you enjoyed when you were in the Senate.

The Green New Deal needs to be ratified. We cannot afford to drag our feet on climate change any longer. Become a strong leader in the environmental movement, and join up with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Markey, and others in signing the Green New Deal, but then go above and beyond that too. The Green New Deal is just the beginning. We’ve got to work towards a sustainable future while creating new jobs in the renewable energy sector. Catastrophic climate change is the biggest threat to the perpetuity of humankind since hominids became the dominant species. You must make strides in this area, not baby steps. Don’t stop at the Paris Agreement and the Green New Deal. It’s not nearly enough. We should be so much further along than we are, and it’s sheer insanity that none of your predecessors (except Carter) have taken the threat seriously. I look forward to seeing the next steps that you take to ensure a green and sustainable future for my nieces and nephews, and the children of tomorrow. Become a leader by making decisive action on climate change so, that America can lead the world, for the problems that affect us all.

End petroleum. It’s a dying industry anyway. Why not get ahead of the curve and help bring the petroleum industries to a point of transition towards better sources of power. Instead of fighting tooth and nail against the inevitable, companies like Exxon and BP should be investing in renewable technologies now. They’ve made billions off the American people and it’s time for them to invest in us and our future. Petroleum extraction, refining, distribution, and eventual consumption all play a significant rôle in furthering catastrophic climate change and must be halted as soon as possible. As an added plus, you could invest in rail infrastructure across the country. Amtrak could be invested in and accessibility throughout the country could be improved. We need to catch up to where Europe and Asia have been for decades.

Commit to ending fracking, mountaintop removal, and “clean coal” as well. Fracking is dangerous for human health and safety. Clean coal is a deliberate misnomer meant as a PR spin. Mountaintop removal is just immoral, however, you look at it. I used to work with organizers in East Tennessee for mountaintop defense, and the idea that the entire habitat that the mountain shelters and sustains can be destroyed in an instant is so horrific, and does irreparable damage to the ecosystems of Appalachia. Mountains are not renewable resources.

I’m glad you’ve put a hold on student loan debt, but we need complete student loan forgiveness. Beyond this, we need complete liberation and decolonization of academia. So many people I know that are working in the service industry have MAs, MFAs, even PhDs. Let’s face it: we have a surplus of over-educated people in this country with nowhere to use our talents and knowledge, working at Starbucks and Olive Garden. We spend billions sending soldiers and drones around the world. Why not send teachers around the world instead? Start a corps of educators, artists, and ambassadors of goodwill, rather than death and destruction. The image of the US as an empire of death as has been the image seen by much of the global south since at least the Vietnam War can be changed. We can become that beacon of hope and liberty that we used to be. Kids in cages at the border need to be set free and returned to their families. Period. Hysterectomies should not be performed on detained people against their wishes. Period. I can’t believe I even have to write these words!

You may be asking yourself, “how can we possibly do all of this?” Well, for starters: Let go of Wall St. Do not allow yourself to be governed by the will of corporate donors, no matter what. Do what’s right for regular people. Go beyond merely repudiating corporate donations and abolish billionaires. This one sounds radical but bear with me. As artificial intelligence improves and automation of what were once human tasks becomes more integrated into our society, posthumanist theorists surmise that we will begin, more and more, to supplement our biological substrate with technologies. This will undoubtedly lead to a dramatically widened inequality gap that would amount to a sort of techno-feudalism if not heavily regulated. Follow Norway’s lead and abolish Billionaires. Why should anyone be allowed to hoard that much money?

Now, let’s talk about the “R” word. Don’t worry, Joe. It’s not the one you think. I wanna talk about Reparations. In 2008, the US Congress formally apologized for the transatlantic slave trade, as well as the subsequent Jim Crow era. As far as I know, no sitting president has ever done so. Wouldn’t it have a more meaningful, more personal impact on the average person, if you did it, instead of the vague impersonal quality of Congress doing it? Mere apologies are not good enough, anyway. Let the 1619 Project guide you further. Let leaders such as Dr. Cornel West inform you on what moves to make next. Reparations would ease a pain that has been weighing on the conscience of this nation for a very long time, and you could be remembered as the president who made decisive moves towards attempting to right a grievous wrong. In reference to Sen. McConnell dismissing reparations because slavery was something that happened 150 years ago, the brilliant author and intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates replied, “…emancipation dead-bolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open. And that is the thing about Senator McConnell’s ‘something’: It was 150 years ago. And it was right now.”

The White House itself sits on the ancestral lands of the Anacostan (Nacotchtank) Nation. We need to get real about the fact that we invaded these lands and are continuing to occupy them. How can we learn to live harmoniously with the indigenous nations of Turtle Island? Acknowledging the sovereignty of these nations comes first, and ceding large portions of the ancestral lands would be the next step. As Ronald Gamblin wrote, “Land Back is about Indigenous peoples confronting colonialism at the root. It’s about fighting for the right to our relationship with the earth. It’s about coming back to ourselves, as sovereign Indigenous Nations.”

These ideas may seem sweeping and thoroughgoing, but what better way to carve out a lasting legacy for yourself. This is how you become the peoples’ president. This is how you gain the enduring fame of FDR, as well as the pop culture celebrity-status of Bernie Sanders. I was impressed by the first steps you took, Mr. Biden. It’s not what I expected from you at all. I like it and I hope that you prove me and my friends wrong about you being a neoliberal corporatist by becoming a truly progressive candidate like we haven’t seen since before Reagan. Only then can we truly be living in a post-malarkey America.

Thank you for taking the time to read this admittedly verbose missive. Wishing you and Mrs. Biden the best of luck in the weeks ahead!

Sincerely,

Oisín Young