Tuesday, September 20, 2005

When you can no longer sit at their table...

I saw this on thenation.com. Sharon Olds, a writer and winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of creative writing at NYU, was invited along with other writers by Laura Bush to read from their works at the National Book Festival in Washington. Sharon wrote a beautiful letter of decline to the First Lady. Here is the last part and it's like a punch to the gut...

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.




Blogger United We Lay said...

Thank you for this!

4:31 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger boni said...

I know PC. I'm Sicilian. And I love people who call it like it is. If you read the whole letter, I love how she set it up so sweetly and then dropped the bomb.

5:14 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

It's a sad commentary about the state of literature in our country that this woman is not being as vilified as Cindy Sheehan.


7:13 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

boni - good point on the lack of villifiation. What an odd benchmark for impact; if you're not being destroyed by the GOP you're having no real input into the dialogue? I saw this on AlterNet and it blew me away, the beauty and raw honesty she put into her repulsion of what Bush has done and what they symbolize.

7:23 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger United We Lay said...

I did get to read the whole letter. It gave me chills. She's m new hero.

8:12 AM, September 21, 2005  

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