Dear Mitt Romney,
I come from immigrants, the type of immigrants Americans like to hold up as positive examples: hard-working, churchgoing, sacrificing-for-the-kids immigrants. The sort of educated immigrants you claim you would personally hand a green card to. Our narrative is a lucky one. It could easily have been another story, one of many millions of Americans who struggle everyday to make ends meet, who work two, three jobs to make sure their children can eat more than 18¢ packages of noodles. You are insulted by the idea that the government should aid in supplying food and housing as though these things are luxuries rather than necessities. I am lucky enough, like you, that I've never had to go on government assistance to survive, lucky enough, like you, that as a child my parents were in a position to effectively, if not always comfortably, care for me. But unlike me, you've somehow grown to feel entitled to that luck, as though you wisely selected your parents from the womb.
You say that the difference between your campaign and Obama's is "between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams." I am a free person (last I checked) and I am pursuing my dreams. I run a small business that I started as a struggling grad student and with its earnings and other work I make my living. Despite my entrepreneurial spirit, running this business would have been nearly impossible were it not for government-provided infrastructure. By your definition, being this free, dream-pursuing person, I should be voting for you, but in good conscience, I cannot.
It's easy to talk about percentages in clinical and divisive ways, about 99% and 1% and now 47%. But behind these numbers are people with faces and lives and dreams of their own (yes Mr. Romney, "poor" people have dreams, too). According to your comments made at a private fundraiser, I am an entitled burden, or was for most of my time in grad school, where every last one of us received tax refunds. We were part of this 47% you so despise, students and adjuncts that prop up the university system and participate in this education scheme politicians claim to want to improve. Some of us will eventually earn our way into the tax bracket you feel it's your job to protect. And some of us will not. The point here isn't to talk about earning enough money to be worthy of your attention, but to let you know that at all levels of earning are people who work hard and who deserve your attention and concern if you are to be president.
Lesley Arimah is a recent graduate of Minnesota State University where she earned an MFA in creative writing. She is currently serving as an emerging writer in the Mentor Series at The Loft Literary Center.