Tag Archives: Laura Bush

Who did not play Faust for George Bush

I’d like to compile a collection of letters from famous personages in which they decline to dance with the Bush Administration. Were there many?

Shouldn’t any artist/musician/author or intellectual/humanitarian of note have publicly refused to collaborate with the immoral tyrant and his saccharine-smile patronizing librarian wife?

I have some favorites:
Mr. Feiffer Regrets -by Jules Feiffer, 2002
Poets Against War -Sam Hamill, 2003
Statement of Conscience -by Jennifer Warn, 2003
Open Letter to Laura Bush -by Sharon Olds, 2005

Archived copies are below:

Mr. Feiffer Regrets

October 12, 2002

Mrs. George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I wish that I could come to your National Book Festival breakfast at the White House on Saturday, but after giving it much thought, I can’t attend.

I was thrilled to be invited, along with other writers and illustrators, to help celebrate your campaign to inspire young people in the pleasures of reading.

But I find it unbearably ironic that, while the uses of language are celebrated by you and your renowned guests, elsewhere in the White House language is being traduced and transformed to nudge us into war.

There are honest arguments on both sides of the Iraq debate (such as it is), but it seems necessary on the occasion of a celebration of reading to press the point that words, at their finest, don’t set out to confuse or obscure. Their aim is to clarify.

But clarity is not what we’re getting from your husband’s White House. It seems that clarity would deny him a war.

I am a father and a grandfather. As every parent knows, most children can intuit whether the stories their parents tell them are true or if they’re making them up.

The American people are able to tell too.

I am delighted to participate in National Book Festival events scheduled for the Library of Congress and the Capitol grounds. But as for your breakfast, may I convey my regrets and best wishes to you and your guests.

Sincerely,
/s/Jules Feiffer

Sam Hamill

Dear Friends and Fellow Poets:

“When I picked up my mail and saw the letter marked “The White House,” I felt no joy. Rather I was overcome by a kind of nausea as I read the card enclosed:

Laura Bush requests the pleasure of your company at a reception and White House Symposium on “Poetry and the American Voice” on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 at one o’clock

Only the day before I had read a lengthy report on George Bush’s proposed “Shock and Awe” attack on Iraq, calling for saturation bombing that would be like the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo, killing countless innocent civilians.

I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organized to speak out against the war in Vietnam.

I am asking every poet to speak up for the conscience of our country and lend his or her name to our petition against this war, and to make February 12 a day of Poetry Against the War. We will compile an anthology of protest to be presented to the White House on that afternoon…

Statement of Conscience -Jennifer Warn

February 12, 2003

Mrs. Laura Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.

Dear Laura Bush,

Thank you for inviting me to the White House symposium on Poetry and the American Voice. Your call to better understand and celebrate the poetry of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes led me and many thousands of American poets to find their voices of dissent.

Since January 30th poets in many countries have joined in an upsurge of conscience and compassion, submitting over [15,000] poems to the Poets Against the War web site (www.poetsagainstthewar.org), organizing hundreds of anti-war poetry readings around the world, and joining with millions of others in vigils, processions, prayers and intercessions, lobbying and rallying for peace.

You have inadvertently presented a gift to the American people and to the world by providing poets an opportunity to express their most passionately held beliefs about their vision for the world’s future. Your gesture has revealed the very relationship it was meant to deny: the connection between poetry and politics, between literature and reality. Another great American poet, Wallace Stevens, presented this relationship succinctly:

“In life what is most important is the truth as it is, while in arts and letters what is most important is the truth as we see it.”

This wisdom is excerpted from “Imagination as Value,” an essay in the long tradition of poets puzzling over the power of poetry and asserting its place in a world primarily shaped by the machinations of politics and money.

What is poetry’s power? Why should you, vested with the power of the White House as First Lady, pay attention to such a rush of words at this late hour?

Poetry’s power lies in its perceptive ability to describe both inner and outer realities. In reading a poem we experience the paradoxical delight and anguish of human life. Poetry holds a mirror to the reality that our political systems and values create and in doing so reveals both the limitations of our current state and life’s endless possibilities. In its refracted light we see our intangible connections, the irrefutable unity of all people and beings on the planet.

We invite you to read this selection of poems which represents some of the most powerful in the Poetry Against the War Anthology. These poems were written by Pulitzer Prize winners, former U.S. poets laureate, and poets who work as professors, business people, homemakers and veterans. Those who have submitted poems or personal statements to register their opposition to ill-considered military action, including a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, honor a long and rich tradition of thoughtful and moral opposition by poets and other artists to senseless and murderous policies, including those of our own government.

We believe that the world is poised on the knife-edge of a decision between war and peace. It is our hope and conviction that peaceful American voices, conveyed in part and without historical precedent by the poets of this country, may help to avert a disaster of tragic proportions.

We call upon the Bush administration to halt the headlong rush toward war, to heed the voices of the people of the world, and to seek peaceful means of resolving conflicts in company with the world community.

Never before in history have so many poets gathered to speak in a single voice.

Sincerely,

Emily Warn
Poets Against the War

Open letter to Laura Bush -Sharon Olds

September 19, 2005

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it’s a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents–all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women’s prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students–long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit–and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person’s unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country–with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain–did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made “at the top” and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism–the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness–as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing–against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting “extraordinary rendition”: flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

Sincerely,
SHARON OLDS

Harry Potter meets Laura Bush

The role she was born to play.I wanted to hate Harry Potter’s latest movie but for one happy surprise: the villainous Dolores Umbridge, played not as a malignant Mimi Bobeck, but instead a spot-on incarnation of First Librarian/Educator guess who?! The First Lady played herself, a smiling headmistress pulling a no-child-left-behind clear-skies-initiative at Hogwarts to subvert the education process lest new skilled wizards graduate to jeopardize the duplicitous aims of the state ministry. With a saccharin plastic grimace and trademark twinkle in her eye, Ms Bush thwarted the young wizards’ magic lessons and exacted Kafka’s Penal Colony punishment on her unresisting subjects.

The unflinching First Lady caricature lent this Potter adventure a semblance of social commentary, but betrayed us thereafter, offering nothing else resembling Muggle/human nature or societal fabric to give a viewer insight into their own lives. Except maybe the ugly scarves at Christmas for comic relief. Otherwise Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was pure entertainment at the cost of two hours of your imagination on idle, but I’ve read no more than a page of Potter, so what do I know?

I also really don’t know enough about Dungeons & Dragons or Tolkien to be able to judge the genre. Is it enough to appreciate J.K. Rowling’s fanciful parallel world like an elaborate puzzle or computer fractal marvel? It’s not my resistance to trivial minutia, it’s that all the clever pieces form an intricate lattice holding up nothing. This is my usual rant against videogame storytelling, always swimming upstream against currents of obstacles, pocketing clues. It’s myth-telling void of any wisdom, natural or historical, unless you count history as keeping a bread crumb trail of Harry’s info quests.

The forces of darkness and light in Harry Potter’s Tatooine lack for every dimension except on/off amplitude, even there without shades of grey. The characters’ actions are driven by neither sociobiology nor mortality. Only at the film’s close does our young Jedi/Chosen One offer an afterthought about team spirit to buoy his friends as they contemplate the battle with evil coming in the next installment: “Unlike Voldemort, we have something to fight for.”

Really? To my mind, anticipating that great evil fights for no reason misjudges its relentless zeal. The misdirection echoes the New World Order fear-mongering against Moslem Evildoers, terrorists apparently who act “because they hate us.”

Surely this underestimates the selfishness or desperation that makes the real world go ’round, motives neatly incomprehensible to young altruist minds. Real evil is an infinitely more ruthless force which preys already on the Harry Potter generation outside the theater doors. That evil is systemic, its motive is greed, and it perpetrates dehumanization. Also like the movie’s corporate makers, it employs misdirection just like Dolores Umbridge Bush to neutralize Harry and his friends.

That said, Imelda Staunton’s flawless turn as our Cretin-in-Chief’s cretinous better half was gloriously, fearlessly in-somebody’s-face.