My mom gets by with the help of Social Security and Medicare. She appreciates both programs, and you might think she'd be exactly the type of person the White House wants to help champion healthcare reform.
You'd be wrong.
My mother lives modestly and has worked hard all of her life. She's a writer these days, contributing articles to the local newspaper and heading up a workshop at the local Seniors Center. She is incredibly self-reliant, and she's incredibly suspicious of Big Brother.
Last month she began researching a story she wants to write about the Resolute Desk, the desk used by most Presidents in the Oval Office, a gift from Queen Victoria. The wood comes from the HMS Resolute, a ship trapped in the Arctic in the 1850s and later rescued. It was refurbished by the U.S. Government and returned to Queen Victoria as a token of peace. Later, when the ship was decommissioned, the Queen had part of the wood used to make the desk, which she gave to President Rutherford Hayes. It's the desk President Obama uses now, and it's the desk made famous in photos, as a very young John F. Kennedy Jr. crawled around his father's feet. It also had a starring role in the sequel to "National Treaure".
Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave President Obama the framed commissioning paper for the Resolute. My mother could not find any details on the commissioning paper, so she went to the White House website and clicked "Contact Us". She asked if someone could provide her with the exact wording in the document.
Two weeks later, she heard back.
But the email from the White House was not about the Resolute Desk. The email asked my mother to help debunk myths about health care reform.
"Dear Friend," the email starts. "Our latest Reality Check video features Vice President Joe Biden addressing the biggest whopper of all: that our health insurance system works just fine and Americans don't care about reform...You can help the Vice President debunk this myth..."
The email provides a link to a videoby Vice President Biden where he encourages my mother, and others, to upload their own videos explaining how healthcare reform will improve their lives. He also asks people to go to "a new online tool at www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck ... answer a few questions." Oh, I don't think she wants to answer any more questions, thank you.
Now, I don't want to sound paranoid, but this is exactly the sort of thing people like my mom, who grew up in the Depression and watched all four of her brothers go off to fight in World War Two. She merely clicked on the seemingly harmless "contact us" link at the White House, and suddenly she's a cog in the healthcare PR wheel.
The Vice President says in his video, "We want to hear back from you. Tell us your story by posting a video of your own." They probably wouldn't want to post any video my mother would send. But, then, I don't think she'll be saying another word to the White House about anything, anymore, ever. As my husband told her, only half-jokingly, "Be careful. They're gonna cut off your Medicare."
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