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On The Release Of Two Prisoners

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Dear Mr. President,


From the mind’s prison, I release you – consider your time as served. However, Mr. President, be mindful that your freedom was not earned, nor was it reward for good behavior. Rather, your freedom was granted of my epiphany, after more than six years, that a mind consumed with holding one captive is a mind itself held in captivity.


I, as the jailer, had become as imprisoned as the jailed.


You were taken prisoner when you took the presidency, winning the best out of nine despite the least out of millions. I first considered your release in the days following that bright and terrible blue sky morning in September, when the eloquence of your words and the newfound poise of your presence guided our nation through its grief. Then you misled our grief to war, waged on a people who played no part in our tragedy.


For that despicable deed I condemned you, in the court of my mind, to a life sentence in my mind’s prison, without chance for parole.


I held you in the same manner that you hold your “enemy combatants”, without due process or appeal. Shameful, that, I must now admit.


I attempted to listen and read as others I knew and didn’t know worked to secure your release, proclaiming your innocence on the grounds that “the world had changed”, and we’d become a nation besieged. But I rejected these arguments, certain the world itself was still the same, and that it was you who had besieged us.


Then I watched several years ago as you gave an interview to your biggest fans at Fox News. You sounded almost proud when confessing yourself not in the habit of reading newspapers. You did not need outside sources of information, you said. All that you needed to know could be learned from your advisors.


One so uninterested in knowledge hardly seemed capable of hatching diabolical plans to conquer the world and oppress the “homeland”.


I saw your human face that day. I saw you for what you really are: an affable and basically decent man who struggles to keep simple an exceptionally difficult job. I saw a man who, by doing so, however, fools himself into believing he makes his own decisions, when quite likely his decisions have already been made for him.


I saw a man presiding in benign but arrogant oblivion over a nation of people living in much the same manner – not trying to hurt anyone, though not really caring much if they do. I saw that a man I once fingered as the cause of all our problems was nothing more than the result of them.


Month upon month, and year upon year in the time since that interview, through four years of disastrous war, a predetermined presidential election, a natural and national disaster, and a Titanic-like sinking in your personal popularity and relevance, nothing has altered my understanding of you gained on that day.


Of you I have no fear, and for you I have no respect, only pity. Hardly a reason to continue your sentence.


And so for pity’s sake I release you, and, in doing so, release myself. You are not the evil mastermind I once believed you to be. My single-minded focus on the person of you, however justified even to this day, has done me no good. Holding you captive day after day has accomplished nothing more than to exhaust me of the ability to enjoy life to its fullest.


So now you are free, you are no longer my concern. For I have come to realize that as surely as “no man is an island”, no man is either a nation. The strength of our nation’s spirit far surpasses that of any one man, or his administration, to suppress it.


Our nation is much bigger than you, Mr. President, and has survived greater challenges than you, no matter what further damage you may do in your remaining days in office. By understanding this I am freed – my mind’s prison is now closed.

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Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and writer living in Eugene, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to many newspapers and publications throughout the Pacific Northwest.
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