I want President Bush to have a dream … like the one that Ebenezer Scrooge had … I want him to be visited by the ghosts of Iraqi children … who cry out "But mankind was your business"
A little Bach flower remedy for calming the nerves and some deep breathing was in order.
“I’m glad I’m not on a web cam because I didn’t dress for the occasion,” I joked to Pokey Anderson, co-host of The Monitor, a Pacifica radio program out of Houston, Texas.
I was about to read my poem “Dream for President Bush” over the phone while she recorded it for her upcoming show this Sunday. After I posted the poem on my blog a few weeks ago, it was excerpted by Blue Gal on the Crooks and Liars website, which is where, I assume, Pokey found it.
She laughed and kept me talking so that she could adjust the controls to match my voice. “What’s the weather like there?”
“It’s dreary and raining. Not too cold but cold enough to have my wood stove going.”
“Wood stove?” she questioned.
“Yes. People still use wood stoves up here in the mountains of Virginia,” I said.
Dream for President Bush was written as a spoken word poem during a solo writing retreat in November of 2002. I had rented a cabin just down the mountain for a weekend get-away by a lake. While writing it, I paced the cabin floor in front of a roaring fire, shouting the lines in an emotional outpouring, as if they would reach Bush and awaken something in him. I knew the reason for the rush to war was being trumped up. I knew invading a country unprovoked, even a dictatorship, was going against international law and would set a shameful precedent that our country would come to regret. I knew that Saddam was holding warring fractions in Iraq together with force and that without him a vortex of violence would erupt. If I knew these things, those in power certainly did. The Bush administration wasn’t being honest. The Democrats caved, the corporate media caved. I had a lot to get off my chest that weekend and I did it through writing the poem, which was more of prayer than a protest.
In the first year after writing the poem, I was invited to read it at a peace vigil in Roanoke. I read it for a cable TV show in Hull, Massachusetts, the town I grew up in, after running into a Hull Times reporter who recorded it at the January 2003 Peace March on Washington. I passed out copies at the march and handed one directly to Representative, Cynthia McKinney, and to actress, Jessica Lange, both speakers at the event. Someone read the poem at a Blacksburg Peace Rally that I wasn’t able to attend. Here in Floyd, where I live now, I’ve read it at open mics at The Pine Tavern, The Black Box stage, Oddfellas Cantina, and the Café Del Sol. When I first read it at the Pine Tavern to a packed house, the war had already begun. Although the poem was overwhelmingly well received by the crowd, one couple got up and walked out. The last time I read it, this year at the Café Del Sol, no one got up and left the room.
I want President Bush to be haunted … by the ghosts of our Founding Fathers … until he learns this lesson: that killing civilians is a terrorist act … and preemptive strike is invasion …
According to The Monitor’s website, they are a weekly news analysis show founded by Mark Bebawi on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in response to the poor quality of available news coverage at the time. “Since then it has evolved into a weekly examination of many large stories ranging from Climate Change to changes in the world’s economy,” the website reads. The guest list for past shows is impressive and includes Daniel Ellsberg, Molly Ivans, Seymour Hersh, Arianna Huffington, David Cobb, Helen Thomas, Gore Vidal, Frank Rich, Robert Fish, Scott Ridder, William Rivers Pitt, Howard Zinn, and others.
When I wrote Dream for President Bush I was fired up. Sadly, I’m more apathetic now. While I believe every human being can be redeemed, like Scrooge was, it’s unlikely that President will ever have a vision worthy of a leader. And even if he did, so much damage has already been done. No matter what course a president from either party takes now in Iraq more people are bound to die.
The poem that needs to be written now is one that calls for action to hold the Bush administration accountable for its chronic ineptness, corruption, and abuse of power. Otherwise we can expect the low standard our country holds now to remain, be repeated, or worsen. Such a poem, like the one I wrote, should not be considered political, but rather one that reminds us of the core values our founding fathers intended for this country and inspires us to do whatever we can to protect them.
While reading Dream for President Bush over the phone to Pokie, I found myself getting up from my chair, walking while reading, closing my eyes to feel the meaning behind words, and looking up from the typed words on paper as if someone was in the room listening.
If President Bush doesn't have a real dream soon … he should step aside for those who do … He should impeach himself … and ask for forgiveness … for imposing his nightmare on the world …
Post notes: You can hear the poem broadcast live this Sunday between 6 and 7 p.m. Central Standard Time (that’s 7 - 8 p.m. here) at the KPFT website HERE by clicking on the “listen now” icon in the upper right hand corner. Or, you can listen after it’s aired at The Monitor’s website HERE, archived under the Sunday, December 30th show. The photo is of a collage I made a few years ago, incorporating the first stanza of the poem.
Update: Not only can you read the poem in its entirety HERE, you can hear the clipped audio of me reading it on the show HERE. Thanks to Jeff for figuring out how to capture the poem from the hour and a half show, and to Nelson for helping me post it here at Loose Leaf.