“…and crowned thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea…”
Dear Warren Buffet:
Perhaps we both have Bank of America on our minds right now….You, because you recently invested five billion dollars in that mega-corporation…and Me because I owe them money and I don’t know what will become of me if I can’t figure out a way to pay my enormous debt: $ 27,643. 90! I’m writing this in the middle of the night (insomnia)…You may be sleeping right now, secure in the fact that your money is working for you and for Bank of America.
This credit card debt of mine was not acquired through frivolous personal purchases of clothes or fancy toys or a tiara. I acquired this debt the old-fashioned way: I earned it from working (tirelessly, blindly) to keep my beloved small business afloat in these bad economic times. As a creative entrepreneur, with more interest in art and artists than in bottom lines and fiduciary responsibilities, I played a dangerous game…and I played poorly with people who knew how to win those games. Amid tears and fears, after falling behind in my bills—and after failing in my various attempts to beg or borrow more money, I closed the doors of my business in March of 2011. But wait! This is not a “blame game” letter. No, I acknowledge that I am totally responsible for the predicament in which I find myself---although I strongly believe that the greedy and clever manipulations and machinations of Wall Street and the Big Banks share much of the blame for the economic catastrophes that were visited upon my small business and upon millions of other careless or trusting or poorly informed individuals.
I am sixty-nine years old. For thirty-three years, I owned and operated a contemporary art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During those years, I mounted hundreds of exhibitions of Art by emerging and mid-career American Artists. I sold art, built careers for artists, counseled young people, volunteered on boards and in organizations in my community, bought a wonderful white elephant of a house that I thought I could live in forever and eventually pass on to my two children.
Currently, I have no income---other than a small Social Security check. In time, I feel certain I can create a new business. In fact, I’m working on some ideas that have legs that should get me back on my feet before too long…
But what about now? How can I handle my obligations now? I hatched an idea that I have presented to the pleasant—but powerless-- B of A representatives who call frequently to chat with me about my past due balance…I can feel them shaking their heads and rolling their eyes while they tell me that my idea is not on Bank of America’s list of acceptable ideas…Why not?
Here it is: I have no money…but I have some valuable art work. In particular, I own a painting that the New Mexico Museum of Art would like to add to their collection. The Museum has no acquisition funds. The painting is worth in excess of $30,000. I proposed giving it to B of A to settle my debt…and to make arrangements for it to be donated to the Museum where B of A could get a TAX donation and moreover be seen in a positive light for their generosity and participation in the artistic well-being of an important cultural community.
There is no doubt that Bank of America could benefit from some good publicity. This act, and other similar acts, could go a long way toward repairing or improving the reputation of this mega-corporation that has adversely affected the lives of millions of good and earnest Americans. If corporate regulations prevent that sort of transaction, well, perhaps one of the multi-millionaire board members might buy the painting from me, donate it to the Museum (they really, really want it), create a tax break (!) for the donor, and (this part thrills me) an opportunity for me to satisfy my debt to Bank of America.
Yeah, yeah, I already know it’s not a workable idea. I knew that when I first thought of it. Still, it was an exciting, wild idea that could have afforded me the power of being an honorable woman who was successful in finding a way to handle her debts and who was willing to give something of far greater value than the actual debt.
Mr. Buffet, I feel certain that you and I love this country in equal or similar measure. I believe America has lost its way in the last decade or so. Still, I aver that we are all eager to find our way back to a place of fairness, opportunity, forgiveness, safety, health and happiness. Of course, nobody is promised a rose garden…but maybe we can discover a way to disperse a few seeds of solvency, some basic instruction and a soupcon of encouragement to those who have lost sight of their optimism and their sense of community. That would surely go a long way towards helping those of us who need a jump start to grow our own gardens…and to share the fruits when and where and if we can.
In the sixth grade, I came across an anonymous jingle in a poetry anthology. I think of it almost every day:
The World would stop
If it were run
By those who say
It can’t be done….
Well, I think I’ve worked my way out of this bout of insomnia…so, thank you for letting me use you as a writing muse and good night, Dear Mr. Buffet.