Dear George Bush
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. They've worked. 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 going on. 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. And you? 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, those tides, 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. Oh, no. You can't take that away from me. Sincerely, Kirstin Prevallet
for Debunker Mentality,
for Boog City and
the 17th annual New Year's Day Marathon Reading, 2002
St. Mark's Church
New York City
Copyright © 2001 by Kristin Prevallet. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.