I am writing this letter just to inform you that the tide is turning.
It is a fickle tide,
one that has the presence of mind
to alter its course.
You may remember how just a year ago
many believed you to be illegitimate
(you still are).
Those were the days when your
slips of the tongue
were circulated as comic relief
when in reality
they weren't very funny.
After all, they revealed
your true feelings
like the clown with the innocent face
who sneers under his smile
while handing out glasses of water
laced with arsenic.
You're a prophet, George Bush,
every dangling modifier
and stumbling qualification
were just your way of telling the truth,
like how you accidentally predicted on
Dec. 18, 2000, during your first trip to Washington, DC as President-Elect:
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier. . .
just as long as I'm the dictator. . ."
I understand why the majority of Americans
think any mocking of your character is unpatriotic,
and I understand the importance of patriotism
when there is a need to rally a country
into a nationalist collective identity
that forcibly sends a message to the rest of the world
(including our allies)
that nobody messes with the U.S.A.,
a war cry that echoes out and incites
all the two-Lexus SUV families
and those who believe they too will someday own one
(in other words, not all of us)
to shout in the spirit of the moment:
"Bin Laden: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide!"
and "Red, White and Blue: these colors will not run!"
Great slogans, actually.
I've overheard some astute political commentary
just listening to people on the street.
"They should execute him publicly
and live on TV just like they do over in those countries,"
and "Look around the world. You see
that there are only two choices: Capitalism or corruption."
From my standpoint, there are some logical problems
with these heartfelt opinions
(the former makes the ranter into the thing he most hates,
and the latter obviously did not lose his life savings when
Enron executives pocketed over a billion dollars
before the stock tumbled).
I am one of many
who does not believe that these good people,
and they are good people,
represent the viewpoints of the citizens of the U.S.A.
I know you hate that word, citizen.
And that this is not a new thing.
The principals of democracy are threatened by the big game
you're playing with those energy corporations:
they contribute to your campaign,
you put them on your cabinet
to set environmental policy--
did you really think we wouldn't care?
Of course I know that the 1st amendment was being threatened
long before you took office
and long before this current discussion of "homeland security"
terrified the people,
putting the country into a state of siege,
making it easier for you to control.
I remember the Republican National Convention
in Philadelphia, July 2000.
The police raided a warehouse
where protesters were making puppets
because the materials
chicken wire and cardboard
could have been used
to make bombs.
They destroyed the puppets
and put all of the protesters in jail
initially charging them
with the intent to incite riots
when in fact they were intending
to inspire people to participate in democracy.
I remember being corralled like cattle
at anti-globalization protests
and marching along wondering
what happened to freedom of assembly?
I remember racial profiling,
and how all of these other constitutional violations
have been used for centuries,
especially against the African-American community,
and that minority citizens and immigrants
have been subject to some of the grossest
infringements of civil liberties--
the two words that uphold the very power of democracy--
for a very long time.
And you hate that I know these things.
That I know about Unocal's
plan for a pipeline through Afghanistan
to reap oil from the yet untapped reserves in the Caspian Sea.
That I know about your family's immense profits
from doing business with the Bin Laden family,
which preserves the Saudi court.
That I know about how you hindered the FBI
from investigating the Bin Laden family's connections to terrorism
before the September attacks.
That I know about how between 1988 and 1999
Dick Cheney's company, Halliburton,
oversaw $23.8 million of business contracts
for the sale of oil-industry equipment and services to Iraq,
greatly helping Hussein maintain his grip on power.
Seems as if conflict of interest
is just a reality
that I'll have to learn to live with,
but you can be sure
that I'll never stop
looking for the big picture
and the larger context
because these days there is always
more going on than can be reported
on Fox News Channel upbeat
sound-bite news reports.
I know that in the U.S.A. Patriot Act
there are some implications
that good citizens should just keep their mouths shut,
and you think we will sit by
while gray-suited vigilantes
from your new private army
stop us on the street
and let you see our ID,
making the whole country
into one gigantic Palm Beach
where non-white citizens had to carry ID to prove that they
were indeed non-white citizens.
This practice was eventually made illegal in 1985,
but I can't help but see a connection
between this and the fact that in this same county
a phony list of felons
prohibited 45,000 people
(54% of whom were African-American)
from voting in the 2000 presidential election.
This makes me think
that your idea of security
will only be imposed
upon anyone who is either not white,
or, if white, not dressed in America's mandatory
Banana-Republic-Gap-Old-Navy individuality uniforms.
And I know that really
I don't know anything
about what is really
After all, I'm just an ordinary citizen.
I am telling you these things
because I want you to know
that I participate in democracy,
that I have conversations about politics
and get my sources from the independent press.
And I know that it is America
that grants me that freedom,
and so, yes,
I defend what is good about America.
If telling you these things is unpatriotic,
then poetry is unpatriotic,
and did I mention that I am a poet
paying attention to those winds,
and all those other clichés that poets and statesmen use
to move the people to embrace one cause or another.
I am a writer of propaganda,
and here are some lines of my poetry:
Beware, the images of the future are crouching
in the shadows of grief,
welcome to the next century,
the tide is turning,
you are not the elected sovereign of the world,
you are not the king of freedom,
we will defend our rights to be citizens of the world,
you can't take that away,
you can't take that away.
for Debunker Mentality,
for Boog City and
the 17th annual New Year's Day Marathon Reading, 2002
St. Mark's Church
New York City