An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

I wrote this entry at my old blog last weekend, when Hillary Clinton announced she’d be running for the Democratic nomination.  Since then, I moved to this new website, but today a comment from my friend Jeff Ford over at the original post has spurred me to repost it here, too, and I think I’ll do as he suggested and get it into the local papers if possible, and see if maybe a letter writing campaign might not be started. I have no clue who will win the Democratic nomination for President, but my feelings are that Senators Clinton and Obama are the two with the best chances.

 Dear Hillary,

I’m a young thirty-something from Youngstown, Ohio. You may have heard of us here because we’re both a Democratic stronghold in Ohio and also because we are emblematic of the failure of the American Dream.

Years ago, in the seventies and eighties, when I was still too young to understand the extremity and consequences of the situation, the steel industry abandoned my community, which had worked so hard for that economic sector of our country through difficult years of toil and suffering, and the owners of those industries left us absolutely nothing, no resource from which we could draw sustenance and grow as a “nest egg” for the community afterwards. What once was one of the fastest growing cities in America was left to rot and disintegrate. No one cared, and no one stepped in to help us. Our once burgeoning economic climate and population of over 180,000 people is now in 2007 reduced to 80,000 and a flatline on the heart monitor of the economy.

Despite this region of Ohio becoming a virtual land of the living dead, we have held strong to the belief that the Democratic party, if given the chance to lead, would do something to help our ruined community revive. In recent years we have given up this hope because it is now the new millennium, nearly four decades have passed since the steel industry abandoned us to face the void on our own, and we have learned not to rely on our government for help. We’ve begun to do what we can for our community with our own meager abilities and funds. Most of our citizens still feel nothing can be done to save us. Perhaps in the end they are right, and this community, my city, should be allowed to breathe its last breath and go back to nature. Perhaps there is a kind of logic to that.

But I can’t give up on us yet. I didn’t grow up in Youngstown, Ohio. I grew up on a small farm about forty-five minutes outside of the city, in a rural town called Kinsman, where we have a small history of citizens of the United States who are called to leave the countryside and go out into the greater world to try, at the very least, to make it better. Clarence Darrow is one such person from that community, who also began his law practice in Youngstown, the city that provided him with a platform from which a small village boy could go on to defend the freedoms of teachers in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trials. It seems long ago now, but the older I get the more I understand how not so far away from us that point in our shared history is.  I myself have struggled throughout my life to be someone who fights for a better community in whatever way I can. This year I will see the publication of my first novel from a major publishing house and I promise there will be more to come. I’ve dedicated myself to being a voice for a community that has not had a voice for the past forty years. But I understand why others from my community often fail to be able to start their own ignitions, so to speak.

Without an urban base with a strong economy to allow people to become their better selves in this world, it is not just the city of Youngstown that suffers, but the region that spreads out from it as well. We have been growing generations of newcomers to this world, children, who have no hope for a future for the past forty years. This is not America, according to the text books. And it’s not an America I can sit by and accept.

My hope, Senator Clinton, is that, if given the chance, as we’ve hoped of many Democratic presidents in the past, you and your administration will find a way to help our dying community before it is finally too late for us. The only way I can think of to reach your ears is to write you this letter, and plead for the sake of my family and friends and all of the anonymous family and friends that make up a community. It costs us very little to beg in our current circumstances. We are a strong base of supporters for your candidacy and hopeful you will be able to win the presidency. We will work hard for you before the election, during, and afterwards as well.

Will you work hard for us in return? Will you help us, Senator Clinton? We do so desperately need someone of your abilities and stature to help us believe that America still exists, that being a part of this nation means that we are as valuable as any other community. Will you help bring us back into the family of man?

Sincerely yours,

Christopher Barzak

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4 responses

  1. Hi Chris,

    Congratulations on your book deal. I’m certain many years of struggle, failure and endless editing went into the final sucess.

    I’m a little confused though. Just what would you expect Hillary Clinton, or any other president to do for you and your town?

    Voting for a president is a great privilege of the republic, although I’m not sure how that translates into a federal investment intended to solve the financial woes of 80,000 people.

    The suffering of rustbelt America is no secret to the rest of the nation, but relying on government to solve the problems it caused seems a misplaced reliance at best.

    Maybe Hillary, or whomever, has some idea how to help what we know is a much broader problem of manufacturing job loss across the nation.

    Let’s hope the “solution” isn’t some old, tired socialist transfer of wealth scheme instead of one that affords a new self respect for you and your neighbors.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Hi, Icanplainlysee,

    I hope the solution is one that affords a measure of self-respect for this community too. My goal is to try to call attention to the problems of this area. The suffering of the rustbelt, as you say, isn’t a secret to America, but in many cases it has been forgotten. It’s something I don’t want to see swept under the rug forever. It’s not so much a reliance on government (which we really have given up on as a community), but my attempt to be honest with the government officials we have to deal with, or may have to deal with in the future. I’m probably naive in this respect, but I feel space for truth and creative resolutions can be opened if we stop being silent and at least address these people, particularly if we were able to do so as a group.

    My letter, really, isn’t so much only for Hillary in this respect, but for anyone who is a “leader” of this country. It’s an invitation, in all honesty, for one or all of them to bring their attention to an area they often neglect.

    Thanks again for your comment. I appreciate what you’ve said.

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