(June 21, 2004)
John Steppling's Review of Swans' June 7 Edition
To the Editor:
Sitting this last week in the Polish countryside I found myself watching both the endless D-Day tributes.......all with zero mention of the Red Army (or even with a re-writing of history so as to exclude the Russian involvement in the war completely), and the mawkish and grotesque paeans to America's worst President; the finally dead Ronnie Reagan. How is it that the death of a man once described by Desmond Tutu as evil and immoral is blanketing the air-waves for nearly a week? Reagan began as a third rate actor and ended, as, well, a third rate actor. He was rabidly anti-communist and so morally bankrupt that lies and deception seemed the tools of general communication, and his well noted inability to remember the names of even close associates --- not surprising with his limited cranial capacity and far earlier onset of Alzheimers than advertised. During his Hollywood days he was always anti-labor, and when as a regent at UCLA he made sure Angela Davis was kicked off the faculty. He went on to lead illegal wars in Central America that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.....maybe more, who is to know really (well, maybe ask Negroponte) and waged a relentless assault on the poor for his entire public career. Robert Bly once said that if Reagan could lie so successfully about his alcoholic father, so suppress his own childhood, then lying about war and death and taxes would come easily. Reagan represented the watershed moment, in a large cultural sense, of the virtual leader. The empty vessel that a sleepwalking public could use in its own reductional needs for assurance. Such a process must be coupled to the way language is neutered and eroded. This last issue of SWANS seems to address this matrix -- the relationships between citizens and their government, leaders, and the discourse of lost meaning. Phil Rockstroh advises Americans that to unburden ourselves of the illusion of our exceptionalism would lighten our psychic load... Well, this truth seems ever more obvious in light of the memorials about Reagan. Rockstroh (and his wife Angela with again excellent graphics) seems to zero in on some of the malaise and irrationality of American self love, with some wise and terrifying admonitions. Richard Macintosh is really touching on the same topic, but the focus returns to our toxic militarism and the hubris of a people who no longer care about anyone but themselves. Of course, they dont really know how to care about themselves either....such is the tragedy. Manuel García's article is a nice piece of pop-culture musings, coupled to the reminder for care in how one digests the world of the fake (good in a week when Ray Charles died....but only got noticed below the fold). I do, however, feel a tad uncomfortable with a question like "What Does it Mean to be American?" I say this because the seeds of something García doesn't intend lurk amid such rhetorical ploys. Maybe it's the hangover from Memorial Day; maybe I worry that exceptionalism hides in that very question no matter how it's deconstructed. That America has produced great culture and even heroic dissenters (David Dellinger died last week also, and in most cases wasn't even on the front page) seems obvious enough, but a lot of my liberal friends are wanting to stay positive and accentuate same (cue Johnny Mercer) which always feels a bit weird in a world currently under such assault from the hegemonic imperialist legions. Milo Clark's article fits my point perfectly....it's one of those pieces that should be saved and used as a reference for the foreseeable future. While the maudlin and near surreal revisionism of the Reagan years continues, I find Clark's sober and articulate litany of disasters ahead a sort of strange comfort......maybe in the same way a Fassbinder film is a comfort.
It's the polite liberal tendency toward being "reasonable" that most disturbs me....and in the persons of crypto-colonialist Timothy Garton-Ash (read his piece in The Guardian on the "Responsibility of the West") and the ever opportunistic Marc Cooper (a new piece in The Nation on "Abu Ghraib and Pinochet") one can hear the voice of compromised reason. Garton-Ash thinks the West needs to help bring our values to the rest of the world....because, as he puts it, (I paraphrase) 'never have so many people on the planet been free, and so many more could be.' Ok, well, yeah, I know.....what the heck is he talking about? And Cooper is congratulating the U.S. for dealing with Abu Ghraib (huh?)....while those darn closed-society Chileans took 25 years to deal with Pinochet's crimes. What he fails to mention is that it was the U.S. who put Pinochet in power, toppling the "open" Allende government, and leading to years of slaughter and torture. What these free trade coffee sipping lib-labs seem unable to grasp is exactly what Macintosh, García, Clark, and Rockstroh do grasp, the desperate and dysfunctional Zeitgeist of America. These delusional aphasic mental spasms have caused a loss of interest in the basic questions of what civil society is meant to be. This forgetting seems endemic and it leads to apology for all manner of state violence...but with a caring face.
To summarize the Reagan connection; let's not forget that Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld (among others) all worked in that administration (not to mention Bush Sr., who once ran the CIA). Reagan was a talking head...a script reader who in private life was a distant, cold, emotionally adrift man, who only knew he wanted to please the wealthy and powerful...which he did. Reagan died about 92 1/2 years too late by my reckoning, and the world would have been a better place had he been bucketed at birth, like a deformed kitten.
Krakow, Poland - June 13, 2004
(Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz.)
Regarding Manuel García's What Does It Mean To Be American?
To the Editor:
I enjoyed Manuel García's piece very much, and identified so much with it. His observations about 'real' americans are right on! I was brought to the U.S. as a child, and still hold Italian citizenship...but I am a naturalized American citizen, and consider myself an American. Perhaps interesting to Mr. García...I've immersed myself in the Spanish/Latin American culture at times in my life. My graduate degree is from Middlebury College language schools, and I'm now involved in public library services to Hispanic peoples.
So, his article really spoke volumes to me...having come of age during the 60's. I thank him for his eloquence about our times, and wish him the best in the future.
La comida siempre nos ha unido con todo el mundo!!!
Mid-Hudson Library System
Poughkeepsie, New York, USA - June 8, 2004
Regarding Richard Macintosh's Rot
To the Editor:
Richard Macintosh quotes Joe Bageant saying there are those of us who are old enough to see things as they truly are and we will not go down without a fight. Count me in -- I'm pissed, and have had enough of this insanity. we have not had an administration with any humanity in this country for ages, if ever. I wish more people would open there eyes to the terrible black comedy now playing all over the world soon to come to your town regretfully. The writing of these words is an attempt to get the sadness, fear and dismay reduced to a tolerable level -- I care less whether they I are read or not. I state the obvious when I say we are going to hell in a handbasket, is there something wrong with me? Am I losing what few marbles I have left? We should be rising up in a great cacaphony of protest, yet we are like sheep, oblivious to our fate.
Thanks for letting me excersize my frustration.
I want to add that Swans and other outlets of counterspin do not fall on deaf ears and blind eyes and that without your efforts the wool might never be lifted from our eyes. Because of your site I discovered The Moon of Hoa Binh and the writings of William Pensinger, which I find fascinating.
Bend, Oregon, USA - June 10, 2004
Regarding the Editor's response to my letter (to Jan Baughman) dated May 19, 2004 regarding US presidential elections
To the Editor:
What does all this mean? In this response I am seeing the random opinions of WALTER BROWN, LOUIS PROYECT, G.M. TAMAS, or as I see it, The Non Party party line. I don't feel I am contradicting myself in supporting Bradley. In my very own opinion he would give us a clear, intelligent option. Not platitudes and misquoted hyperbole (You would have us think that politics is a parlor game). As a politician with an impressive track record (certainly not pure, but then nobody is pure in a democratic society) he would present a third choice for voters. Given what we know about his views on most issues we can assume that he would take more voters away from Kerry and than Bush. He would be a realistic option for the average American. These people who form opinions from OUTSIDE an intellectual vacuum (you know...their issues are jobs, putting food on the table, putting kids through college....very middle class....very American). By potentially taking votes away from Kerry, he (Kerry) would be forced to modify his platform and take a stronger stand against the very system of which he is a part. This will either get him elected or defeated. In either case the gauntlet has been thrown down: there is now a realistic third party in the United States that the Democrats and Republicans must contend with. The only way they could do that is by exposing their own reality: THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE TWO PARTIES. In short, there would be a whole new political landscape in the U.S. By voting Nader one would only perpetuate the two party system. Until we are presented with a realisitic third party choice it will be business as usual. Nader is a big fat target for the Democrats and Republicans. In this way, your support of Nader IS supporting Bush, it IS supporting Kerry.
As for Walter Brown and the Socialist Party, he and his party are just as extreme to the left as Bush is to the right....more sophistic logic bordering on the destructive.
My opinions [are] based on experience, basic morality, history and day-to-day practicalities. I have worked in large companies and I cannot accept their power over this country; I have worked in politics and I know that it is about power and not morality or representation of a constituency; I have been in combat and can speak of its horrors; I am a Jew and have lived with racism; I am a man and can only accept women as my equal; I have lived my opinions and wish others would do the same. My political views are malleable out of basic survival. Now let ME quote the poet Richard Hugo: "What thou lovest well remains American."
Independent Media Producer
Sonoma, California, USA - June 7, 2004
Regarding the Note from the Editor in the June 7 issue
To the Editor:
<snip> Note from the Editor: Found in the e-mail box on this sunny Sunday morning: "How does it feel to be in the ash bin of history? We won. Your thinking lost. Good riddance. On to killing terrorists; there aren't many communists left to kill. -- Rest in peace, Gipper." Perhaps sensing that he had not made his point clear enough, this person sent a second e-mail: <snip>
Hello Swans, love the site, always read it first. I wanted to ask you to forward on to me the full text of the above snip -- including the e-mail address of the fellow who sent it to you. Thanks for this, it is a slice of time out of your (busy) day, but I really want to peace him out.
Sydney, Australia - June 8, 2004
Regarding Gilles d'Aymery's Stay The Course
To the Editor:
Thank you very much for your poem, "Stay The Course." It's the best one of all! Ever!!!
I've been reading Swans for 4+- years now and read some of the best reports/writings. But your poetry really got me. I sure will keep reading your great group of writers! Thank you again, very, very, very much!!!
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA - June 7, 2004
Regarding Milo Clark's Wahabi And Saudi Arabia, Islam And America
To the Editor:
An excellent and thoughtful article. I only question this paragraph:
"The coldly ruthless extremists of Najd, today's Wahabi, condemn all others without exception as heretics and worse. Wahabi extract death from heretics in ways making the Catholic Inquisition, extermination of non-Roman sects, Crusades and death by flaying or burning at the stake appear weak and gutless. Daniel Pearl, Wall Street Journal reporter in Pakistan and Nick Berg, an American pursuing work in Iraq, lost their heads to Wahabi swords."
I believe that it is irresponsible hyperbole to write that the torture and suffering inflicted by the Romans -- or during the Inquisition -- would "appear weak and gutless" when compared to the Najd. (I also think that using Pearl and Berg as examples is distracting -- given the controversies surrounding both of their deaths.)
And really -- is beheading really worse than flaying? or being burned alive?
Carrboro, North Carolina, USA - June 6, 2004
P.S. It's not often that I contemplate the relative degrees of pain inflicted through beheading, flaying and burning at the stake! Thanks Milo!
To the Editor:
This was a very insightful article; however the author fails to include a major issue about the relationship between America and Saudi Arabia.
The issue and reason for the US backing of the Saudi Royal Family is the Petro Dollar. The US dollar is the reserve currency for all oil transactions in the world since 1971. If the Saudi's and/or OPEC decide to move toward the Euro like Fance and Germany want, the U.S. would go bankrupt. Every country in the world would return their dollars to us to exchange them to the Euro and we would see a shift to Europe as the super power. That is why we support Saudi Arabia, but it won't matter soon because the Saudi's will be overthrown in a few weeks and the U.S. and U.K. will move in to protect the Oil Fields to stabalize the world market.
San Diego, California, USA - June 13, 2004
Regarding Alma Hromic's poem, Going Home (May 2002)
To the Editor:
I like this poem very much. It cheered me up to stumble upon it quite by chance while searching for swans in general. I would love to see more work of this quality, which speaks to me on many different levels.
Linda Landers RE
London, England - June 17, 2004
[ed. Dear Ms. Landers: Thank you for your kind comments and for visiting Swans. Could you please let me know which poem you are referring to, so that we can list it in our Letters to the Editor? Thank you.]
It was Going Home - ii Taking Flight, by Alma A. Hromic.
I was looking for information on swans as I am an artist and I had in mind an image, but then started to read some interesting things about swans... I pictured the swans in my mind, and what I was hoping to do was to make the visual impression strong so that I could draw them from memory, which is how I work. I am going to the park in the next few days to feed the swans, they come up and eat out of your hands.
Anyway, I had this idea of taking some photos too when I go there, as they are so beautiful, and I wanted to look at some swans to remind myself of the shape of their wings and necks, so I keyed in 'swans in flight' and after a while I came to this beautiful poem... the imagery reminds me of the swans with their long necks, like arrows... but a lot more is implied.
I will look at the rest of the things on your site, I was a little busy doing my research today, but when I have a bit more free time I will do that.
Thanks again for this beautiful image.
London, England - June 17, 2004
From Medellin Colombia With Love and Admiration.
To the Editor:
Love Swans, please keep it going. As an American living in Washington's created hell (Colombia), Swans makes me feel good. Nothing is more healthier than the truth, something GWB was never taught.
Medellin, Colombia - June 8, 2004
Swans: Reputable Internet Source?
To the Editor:
I am an American father and I love my great country! I am informed by getting my information on the Internet which has become the only source I know that is not biased as the mainstream media has lost my respect. I try and choose the reputable Internet sources and choose them wisely. I want to know TRUTH about what is truly going on in my country. I am well aware that both candidates for the office of president belong to the secret german society known as the Skull and Bones. When asked, they do not dispute this fact; they just say that it is so secret they cannot talk about it. How in the world can any of us agree with them? This country MUST be ran with openness and tranparency. Our country is being hijacked in this election as it was hijacked in the last election. And just look at what the hijacker does in office! He divided the people and has turned the world against us as we are now the most hated country of all.
I am an American patriot at heart and always will be. I am sick at my stomach and have been for some time now. I feel the only chance we have of regaining the constitution and the bill of rights is to take it back militarily. That's right I am not whistling dixie! I mean a coup d'état for the good of the common people. There is not any choice I feel at this point. The Skull and Bones issue must be addressed and we the people should refuse to back any member of that sick and satanic society for the highest office of our land. Congress has let the people down in a big way and deserve to be booted for their denials of the truth! Massive re-elections and a complete overhaul of our government is warranted! A revolution of the people always wins and always will.
Wichita Falls, Texas, USA - June 7, 2004
Feeling About War
On one of my forums where we can say what we want I find the following post today -- 6 June 2004.
This is made by a former trooper who feels much the same way I do.
Enter URL http://vets.appliedphysics.swri.edu and go down to his post today. Just above it you'll see that I posted a link to Phil's commentary. By the time you open this you can read responses to either or both entries.
There will be some by Timnuts otherwise known as Desmond, dumbnuts, etc., wanderer, and others who will knock both entries. Numbnuts lives in MA is a VN vet of very very questionable nature -- he had 15 Article 15s -- and lives off the government for his meager service through a PTSD designation.
Here below is the post that should interest you.
William D. Gray
Sumner, Illinois, USA - June 7, 2004
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