Dear Mitt,"I have a secret: We met once. You probably don’t remember. I was pretty shy back then. Someone I love was working with you on a 4 billion dollar merger. The deal fell through—total anti-trust suit, anti-competitive laws, unfair business practices, blah, blah, blah—but I remember how impressive you looked with your shellacked helmet of hair. "
We have a lot in common. You were governor of Massachusetts. I grew up in Massachusetts. You went to prep school. I went to prep school. You held down a classmate you suspected of being gay and used a sharp pair of scissors to hack away his beautiful long hair. I once shaved my head to protest the hegemonic power of the patriarchy.
But it’s not just the little things we share. I feel like it’s our whole philosophy. For instance, I’m fascinated by Michel Foucault’s use of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon to theorize that the downfall of society will be the creation of a “carceral continuum” a penal system so culturally entrenched that it threatens to turn all institutions and social networks into coercive forces. You must be fascinated as well since you may have profited by as much as $80 million from Bain Capital’s investments in private prisons.
Mitt, what I admire most is your profound sense of omertà. You know how to keep your thin lips shut. I don’t mean to bring up Foucault again, but if not for the fact that we live in a total surveillance state of flip cams, video phones, no one outside of that fundraiser in Marc Leder’s Florida mansion ever would have had any sense of your profound contempt for the entitled 47%. Oh, they could have guessed, but they wouldn’t have known for sure. You are very good at giving nothing away.
I have a secret: We met once. You probably don’t remember. I was pretty shy back then. Someone I love was working with you on a 4 billion dollar merger. The deal fell through—total anti-trust suit, anti-competitive laws, unfair business practices, blah, blah, blah—but I remember how impressive you looked with your shellacked helmet of hair. Like a young Ronald Reagan, you know, back when he was a Democrat. No one would have dared hold you down. No one would have dared scissor you.
The person you were working with on that deal, the person I love, we shared a private (equity) joke about our taxes. One year, the person I love paid $90,000 in taxes. I paid $900. This gap might suggest some defining truth about the two of us. Some essential and undeniable difference. A monetary chasm that designated our basic (net) worth. Like a surprising number of wealthy investment bankers, the person I love is liberal, a supporter of Planned Parenthood, a believer in the American Dream. Though I feared I wasn’t pulling my weight, the person I love pointed out that ratio-wise, income to taxes, I actually paid more than the person I love. I’m a fiction writer but even I couldn’t make that up.
As a fiction writer, I admire your best-selling, memoir/mission statement No Apology: The Case For American Greatness. I love how you never apologize. How do you do it? I always feel like I should be apologizing. When I consider all of the opportunities and privileges I’ve benefited from, I fear that nothing I do will ever be enough. I’ll never be able to give back to this nation all that it has given me.
Which brings me to the other real difference between the two of us. The reason we could never be together. See, the thing is Mitt, I care about you. That’s the great burden of being part of the 47%: We care about everyone. Like when I heard how your wife, Ann, rode horses as physical therapy for her Multiple Sclerosis. What beautiful healing medicine! The very image of her steady on her steed warms my heart and gives me hope. Makes me wish that equine rehabilitation could be part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I’m not kidding. I want Ann to feel healthy and strong. I want her to have access to the medicines and treatments she requires even though I know you’d prefer it if we all just went to the emergency room.
One of the greatest things about being an American is the power of the American imagination. As Americans we have the power to believe that a person who pays $900 in taxes is worth as much as a person who pays $90,000 in taxes. We have the power to believe that horses can heal us. It’s not you against me or us against them. It’s We The People, Mitt. All of us are in this together.
Amber Dermont is the author of the novel, The Starboard Sea, and the short story collection, Damage Control, forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Dermont received her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Her work has recently appeared in American Short Fiction, Crazyhorse, TriQuarterly, Zoetrope: All-Story and in the anthologies, Best New American Voices, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Worst Years of Your Life and Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform. She teaches Creative Writing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.