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Letters to President-elect Obama: Michael Lowenthal

Letters to President-elect Obama: Michael Lowenthal

Rosenthal

Open letters from 26 gay men and lesbians.

Dear President-elect Obama,

This is writer to writer, OK? After all, you were a storyteller before you were ever a politician, which gives me more in common with you than with any other president in my lifetime--even though you wrote a memoir and I write novels...and, well, your royalty checks are a lot bigger than mine.

Still, I'm guessing you suffer an itch of recognition, as do I, at Randall Jarrell's old quip: "A novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it." Too true! And yet here I sit, day after day, striving to write the flawless novel, just as you surely strove to write the flawless memoir, our challenges made all the more urgent--and inspiring--by our knowledge of their unattainability.

Our democracy is sort of like a novel. Let's call it...a constitutional government of some size that has something wrong with it. For most of my life, America has been led (I use the term loosely) by people who've used that "something wrong with it" not as a goad toward perfection but as an excuse for not even bothering to try. For dismissiveness and division. For calling the whole endeavor into question. To them, the tale of government gets reduced to a bumper sticker's taunt.

What if Melville, unable to envision Moby-Dick without a few digressions about cetacean anatomy, had quit after "Call me Ishmael" and spent his life tearing down the art of fiction? What if you, knowing you couldn't make every sentence faultless, had never shared your Dreams with the world?

So listen, Mr. President--I could give you lists of issues I care about, of bills I hope you'll sign, but what I really want to ask is something both smaller and larger: that you try not to forget, as our leader, the part of you that's a writer.

When you wrote your memoir, there was no way to do it other than to sit by yourself, in the loneliest of chairs, unearthing your true feelings. Honesty and empathy were your best--let's be real: your only--tools. And then you revised and revised, even though you must have known that in literature, as in life, there's no such thing as a finished draft.

Bring the art back to our democracy, Mr. President, the style and the striving. Help us write the next chapter of our Great American Novel. Will there be something wrong with it? Of course. Probably many somethings--but that's OK. We don't expect you to be the perfect president; we only expect you to want to be.

In solidarity,

Michael LowenthalAuthor of Charity Girl and Avoidance

More Letters to the President-elect:Tammy Baldwin, Democratic member of Congress from Wisconsin

Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day

Evan Wolfson, Executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign

Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter

Michelangelo Signorile, radio host and author of Queer in America

Tammy Bruce, radio talk-show host and author of The New American Revolution

Kenji Yoshino, professor at New York University School of Law and the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

Vestal McIntyre, author of You Are Not the One and the forthcoming Lake Overturn

Jarrett Lucas, codirector of the 2008 Soulface Q Equality Ride

Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl and Avoidance

Suzanne Westenhoefer, comedian and star of the documentary A Bottom on Top

Jim Buzinski, CEO and cofounder of Outsports.com

Perez Hilton, blogger, radio host, and television personality

Carole Midgen, former California state senator

Pam Spaulding, Durham, N.C.-based blogger

Paris Barclay, Executive Producer/Director HBO's In Treatment

Lorri L. Jean, CEO, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center

Jeffrey Prang, Mayor of West Hollywood

Jorge Valencia, Executive director and CEO of Point Foundation

Mark Leno, California assemblyman

The Reverend Doctor Troy D. Perry, founder and moderator emeritus, Metropolitan Community Churches\

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

Donna Rose, transgender activist

Peter Tatchell, LGBT human rights campaigner and spokesman for OutRage!

Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director, Immigration Equality

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