Living with Guns
To the Editor:
Subject: Your Agenda Belies Your Mission
After reading Mary-Sherman Willis’ postscript to “The
Fight for Kansas” it was clear that what went before was simply prologue
to her anti-self defense stance, and especially her puerile attacks on
President Bush, in particular, and those of us who honor the
Constitution in its details, in general.
Equally telling was the editor’s own bias as
exemplified by her thesis on the “Living with Guns” series that “...will
contemplate how, historically, philosophically, metaphorically,
ethically, and even legally, Americans have allowed ourselves to justify
and bear ever more lethal weapons, and how we have lived (and died) with
the choice that is perhaps not that of a majority....”
With such a clear statement of purpose it is obvious
that the series will be little more than propaganda, preaching to the
choir, and massaging the politically correct ego of the editor. Alas,
the artsy-fartsy left misses another chance at relevance.
with Guns” appeared in Archipelago, Vol. 6, Nos. 3/4 . “The
Fight for Kansas” appears in the same issue.
On student strikes against the coming war
March 6, 2003
To the Editor:
Still tacked to the walls at Dawson College
[Montreal], red posters in Times New Roman font:
WAR IN IRAQ
@ GENERAL ASSEMBLY
TUESDAY MARCH 4TH AT 2 P.M.
3RD FLOOR CAFETERIA
THE STRIKE WILL TAKE PLACE MARCH 5TH
Students of DAWSON AGAINST THE WAR IN
While the possibility of a war edges closer in Iraq,
the raping of democracy is at Dawson, turning this Montreal cégep
into a pulsating toll of misdemeanor. Rape of democracy, believe it. But
first let me tell you some definitions of the word: strike (Gage
Canadian Dictionary): “Hit (someone or something); deal a blow
to: to strike a person in anger. Set or be set on fire by hitting
or rubbing: to strike a match. Cause to impact forcefully (with
something): she struck the cymbal. Make an attack: the enemy
will strike at dawn! Of a snake, etc., wound, or try to wound with
fangs, claws, or sting. Refuse to work at a factory, business, etc. in
order to get better pay or achieve other demands.”
These definitions, and the remaining twenty-three,
show to organizers of the strike that they misused the word, strike, or
that they used it to create a sensation. Encourage students to vote yes
to a walkout from classes to go to an anti-war demonstration.
Ninety-three percent of Dawson students who voted marked yes on the
ballot. But to those who voted yes, did you strike? That is the
question – against whom?
Strike United States President George Bush Jr.? Not
personally, what would that accomplish if they did? Strike Hussein? No.
Did they attack a foreign government’s foreign policy? Were it that,
backed by sound arguments, facts, then I, and everyone else, would hear
what all the screaming was about. But no, Dawson Against the War in Iraq
(DAWI) students expressing dissent, which was
their democratic right hard, won, put to shame. Shame! Shame, shame,
shame on them! Who instead of scathing American foreign policy cried:
Don’t go to classes! Block Bush! Peace and love NOW!
Don’t go to class! Protest! Bush is a despot! So is Hussein! Make
love, not war?
In the days preceding the DAWI
campaign, if you can call it that, I was expecting the organizers to
show, at the least, propaganda films supporting their angst. Well, one
anti-American booth with all to boot, and one tear jerk film about the
plight of Iraqi women and children looking disfigured and almost dead.
No discussion about the U.N.’s buzzing activities,
no rhetoric, no charismatic or other Americans discussing their views on
the war, no variety of literature for and against, not one partisan or
MP from any of our political parties, provincial or federal, and
no debate, in our Plant or Cafeteria. No debate!
Many students, myself among them, were struck by the
Dawson Student Union position on the strike. They supported
DAWI. Aren’t student unions supposed to remain
cautious, at least by promoting all views, especially to an issue as hot
as American war? Dare I say, referendum?
I was surprised that some members of
DAWI struck at Premier Ministre Bernard Landry – his position!
Quebec is, has long time been, against fighting wars for Canada! (unless
you are a closet federalist) The Parti Québécois
is against federal initiatives of any kind! Ever since President Bush
launched his campaign, Monsieur Landry remains firm no Quebec offensive
in Iraq, and no support to an increase in federal military spending.
Then, Jean Chrétien, Canada’s Prime
Minister, was made to look like an asshole when really he says friendly
everyday, as a Liberal, as a Canadian, he’s open for debate and for
sending peacekeepers, but there will be no military attack in Iraq until
it is approved by the United Nations. So. Why bark up the wrong tree
unless … breath is worth wasting?
But I digress. The word that DAWI
has chosen echoes foul in the hallway now, of victory. This strike, like
a scythe, slays me. The day of the protest, DAWI
rhetoric criticized some Dawson teachers for being standoffish; worse,
cold in a hot bed because they continued to give lectures, homework, and
tests. That caused student traffic howl. Protesters felt penalized for
choosing not to attend class. They lashed out against those
teachers who did not cancel classes. (The choice to cancel or teach was
given by Dawson Administrators).
But Katherine! Students who work to pay
for their books and tuition fees, and rent, etc. also pay
TAXES and that tax money pays teachers to do
their job: teach. Cégeps are, with
few exceptions, publicly funded. We students are the employers; teachers
are employees. Employer strikers: does that sound logical to you?
Of those students who voted yes to strike, how many
actually went to the demonstration? How many protested? Back further:
how many voted out of conscientious objection to a war in Iraq and who
just wanted a day off school? Who are anti-American and can’t convince
me they are? Who weren’t sure what they voted for? Each time I visited
the polls, students were lined in droves, ready, smiling, more than
you’d expect saying, I’LL VOTE YES TO STRIKE if it
means I’ll have time to smoke a splif, stay home and sleep. I’m not
suggesting total apathy amongst voters, neither absolute slack nor
What I have witnessed this past week is a raping of
democracy. Rape of democracy is when you use a strike and make a joke of
it, not showing your convictions. This is a sad time for democracy
Hats off to Pericles, who, so greatly (I imagine)
delivered a speech, written by his beloved Aspasia, about democracy. I
read THE HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, by
Thucydides, and I share it with you:
Even those who are most occupied with their own business are
extremely well informed on general politics – this is a peculiarity of
ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a
man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at
all…. We Athenians, in our own persons, take our decisions on policy
or submit them to proper discussions: for we do not think that there
is an incompatibility between words and deeds; the worst thing is to
rush into action before the consequences have been properly debated.
When the day DAWI starts
chatting about complacency with this ‘U.S. war on
terrorism’ or whatever you call it — like, why Germany, France, and
Russia want no part in it (because wouldn’t they rather keep their loans
to Iraq alive and well than have the country obliterated), will the
kettle call the teapot black? When Americans of all political stripes
get aired on Dawson radio, and in turn, the voices of all the players,
watchers and outcasts — when everyone at Dawson is welcome to listen and
to speak — then, and only then, will democracy ring in my ear and toward
DAWI. Let’s rethink democracy before we all get
too lazy, tired, forgetful about its meaning. Recall how long it took to
get it back.
Montreal, Quebec (Canada)
Tracy Robinson is the author of “What
War Is,” Archipelago, Vol. 6, No. 2.
The following are representative of the flood of e-mails sent in
response to the Editor’s appearance at the Virginia Festival of the
Book, on the panel “‘Patriotism’ and the Right of Free Speech in
Wartime.” The discussion was broadcast on C-Span March
21, ff. Streaming audio of the panel discussion is available at
Festival of the Book (scroll down).
March 21, 2003
To the Editor:
Thanks for doing this. We all need to step up to the
plate right now.
I spoke as “the artist” at a public panel discussion
about the war. There are many artists making anti-war art work now, but
very few who are explaining their thinking at rallies and on panels and
at teach-ins. It is a huge mistake for we who are actively engaged with
the culture as producers to let the anti-war discourse be controlled by
the professional activists. We who work in art and visual culture have
an understanding of media, advertising, and the power of images that is
quite different than that of the ordinary, non-art informed citizen.
We’ve got to explain our analyses to people who are outside of the art
world. So I had to do it because I couldn’t find any other artist
willing. Plus, I keep thinking about Paul Wellstone these days, and how
lucky we who had him as a teacher really were.
Got to get out there and do stuff like speaking in
public just to pass on what we all learned from him.
Hope all is well in Charlottesville – and peace,
Dan Wang’s “Rosa’s
Argument,” a collaboration with Alan Sondheim, appeared in
Archipelago, Vol. 4, No. 4.
March 22, 2003
To the Editor:
I agree with the views you expressed on
C-Span March 22, 2003. The country is going
through a period of redefinition, and I fear for the worse.
9/11 has provided the cover needed for a small
group of extremely wealthy and powerful individuals to institute changes
that would never have gotten through otherwise.
Especially appalling is the concentration of media
power. Anyone confined to American television and hometown newspapers as
a source of information gets a totally biased and warped view of what is
going on in the world. The Pentagon is actually co-opting journalists.
How can a relatively small number of media outlets
controlled by giant corporations dependent on other giant corporations
for ad revenue give an objective worldview?
The nightly newscast from the 3
major nets features anchors who earn upwards of $20,000,000
a year for their services. What kind of news comes out of their mouths?
FOX news is the most egregious example of lying,
hypocrisy and propaganda out there.
FOX is a disgrace. It is reminiscent of a Nazi
Please continue to be a voice for freedom and
democracy. I fear voices like yours are slowly dying out. The giant
corporations either buy you or cut you out. No one even recognizes or
mentions their almost totalitarian grip on the United States and its
people. Many of these transnational corporations are larger than most
countries, yet answerable only to a handful of people and corrupt beyond
belief. Who can stand up to an entity with $45,000,000,000
in cash on its balance sheet and platoons of lawyers and politicians on
retainer in every country in the world?
To the Editor:
Today I happened to catch a program on
C-Span in which you participated. I wanted to congratulate you on
your urgent remarks regarding America’s redefinition as imperium,
combining both an extension of power internationally and an
intensification of that power domestically. I must admit that I had not
heard of Archipelago until seeing you on TV today.
The war on terror – a war without limits – is an
example of Carl Schmitt’s notion of the state of exception/state of
emergency: a situation wherein the sovereign is legally permitted to
suspend the law and act beyond the constitution in order to protect it.
On the opposite side of the political spectrum from Schmitt, the radical
Italian social theorist Giorgio Agamben, author of the Homo Sacer
series, has traced the ancient theologico-political lines of the state
of exception from Roman law through Auschwitz. This project however is
always rooted in the present. Such an alternative perspective offers a
solid foothold in understanding the logic of the creative-destructive
discourse and events that have defined the post-9/11
Eugene R. Sheppard
Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish History and
Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies
Assistant Director of the Tauber Institute for the
Study of European Jewry
To the Editor:
I’m a librarian and am happy to be introduced to your
online journal. I just wanted to thank you for your clear and passionate
remarks at the Book Festival last week. I caught it on c-span during a
moment of deep despair over what was presented to us on the other
To the Editor:
Whether the Iraq invasion goes easy or hard on the
Iraqis, or on American and British forces, it is still illegal, still
immoral, still dangerous – still wrong. The payback will come in ways we
cannot anticipate, any more than we anticipated 9/11
as a result of stationing American troops in Saudi Arabia. It may take
the form of terror. It may take the form of mass insurrection. It may
take the form of a resumption of the Cold War, with Russia and or China
hardening their attitude vis-à-vis
the Pax Americana, entering into alliances with other nation-states, and
threatening us belligerently with “weapons of mass destruction.” Or it
may take the form of a collapse of the U.N. and
the loss of the precious instruments of international humanitarian law.
For the fact is that three fifths of the world now considers the
U.S. to be an enemy, bent on extending and
consolidating its own wealth through military power. Our alliance with
Israel is especially repugnant, and in general our growing disregard for
human rights exposes us to charges of practicing the rankest hypocrisy.
What baleful precedents do we set in place by this invasion? How do we
justify the hundreds, the thousands of burned and maimed and crushed
people resulting from our gleeful display of the new Blitzkrieg strategy
advanced by the Pentagon – “Shock and Awe”? And how will we ever justify
to the people of the world this government’s malicious will to arrogate
to itself all the powers of life and death?
Andrew L. Wilson
Andrew L. Wilson is editor of
Street, and coeditor of
Gargoyle: Arts & Letters on the
March 22, 2003
To the Editor:
A friend saw you on a Panel Show on TV,
and said I should visit your Web site, as we have similar views. I found
your site very interesting. My friend has seen an e-mail exchange
between another (Conservative) friend, “Frank, and I,” and feels my view
was roughly what you were saying on the Panel Show.
It has taken a hundred years of Distorted History to
produce an American public that can accept what the Government is doing
today. I fear we are lost; how can we change around and bring back the
American Constitution to America?
Emmett F. Fields
Bank of Wisdom, LLC
March 23, 2003
To the Editor:
I watched the panel of which you were a member on
C-Span yesterday and appreciated your cogent
remarks. In particular the concern over losing freedoms in America and
the nature of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. I pulled up
your Archipelago WebPage and was introduced to the work of Robert Fisk –
a writer of extraordinary talent and objectivity. His stories are a
welcome push into reality.
I suspect your social agenda is Liberal. We would part
ways in that area.
Also, thank you for the quote from Amira Hass.
Journalism’s primary mission, at least in the free world, is to,
“monitor power and the centres of power.” On the Conservative (I hate
that word – it no longer describes what I mean), there are litanies of
issues that are assiduously avoided in the American press.
Anyway, thank you for the serendipity of Robert Fisk.
Robert Fisk’s “The
Keys of Palestine” appeared in Archipelago, Vol. 6, Nos. 3/4
. An interview with him from Baghdad, March 25, is on
March 23, 2002
To the Editor:
I had the pleasure this morning of hearing on
C-Span – quite by accident – your splendid remarks
apparently delivered yesterday at the Virginia Festival of the Book.
Thank you for saying what you did. Expression of such
sentiments is unfortunately becoming both increasingly necessary and
Estabrook, Visiting Scholar
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dear Prof. Estabrook:
Thank you for your note. I will say more frankly today
than, perhaps, on Saturday, that I am afraid for this nation, and for
I do not know if the Democratic Party can recover
itself nationally. I worry that the estimable Green Party may weaken it
further, while not gaining enough strength itself to be able to reverse
our descent into empire. (The Republicans have driven out or aside their
moderate wing.) Frankly, I wish we had a politician in either party as
worthy as Joschka Fischer. Perhaps we do – perhaps we will see his
(probably not her) rise this year?
Dear Ms. McNamara:
I’m afraid I share some version of your fears
As a member of the Green party and a Green candidate
for Congress in Illinois last year, I agree that there are serious
questions about Green party strategy for 2004. It
does unfortunately depend on what the Democrats choose to do, and they
seem to me to be setting new standards of fecklessness in the current
Local Greens asked me to run for Congress in
2002 because a one-term Republican incumbent was
not going to be opposed by the Democrats! As you write, “The system of
redistricting congressional seats is weighted toward the incumbents.”
Our congressional district (about which the Wall Street Journal
editorialized last Election Day) is a flagrant result of what the chief
of redistricting for the Republican National Committee called
“sweetheart gerrymandering” – Republicans’ and Democrats’ providing safe
seats for one another. I very much hope that the Democrats can nominate
a presidential candidate opposed enough to this war that we Greens and
others can unite behind him (yes, probably not her) to dismiss Bush-43
as we did Bush-41. But if as seems likely the
Democrats nominate a candidate in favor of imperial war, like Lieberman
or Kerry, then I think the Greens should seriously consider another
On another note, I read with interest your “A Year in
Washington, A Visitation of Ghosts.” I agree that “The Vietnam War
poisoned my generation, and I think we have not healed from it.” It’s
necessary for us to say where the sickness came from. Bush-41
said the most important effect of the Gulf War was that “The Vietnam
Syndrome is dead.” I don’t think so, although you’re undoubtedly right
that “all is veiled by propaganda and fear.”
Cf. “A Year
in Washington,” Archipelago Vol.6, Nos.
March 23, 2003
To the Editor:
“In the long-run every government is the exact symbol
of its people, with their wisdom and unwisdom.” (Thomas Carlyle,
Reckless behavior of legal or illegal residents of the
United States, not including criminal behavior ranging from shoplifting
to high crimes and misdemeanors in virtually all
organizations-corporations, governments, unions, churches, nonprofit
organizations, media-in a few words, from the thief stealing from the
Girl Scouts’ cookie jar to the political payoffs perpetrated by members
of our highest government offices, is nothing new. We have more
criminals in jail than ever before; we tax ourselves oppressively; we
enjoy freedoms but with a growing decline in responsibility for the
enjoyment; we allow the government to control more and more of our
lives; we pour money into foreign countries recklessly, not demanding
strict accountability; we pledge allegiance to the United Nations when
it’s convenient; we’ve come to tolerate most anything or anybody as we
march toward Balkanization, toward a Disunited States of America.
Balkanization might not occur. The drift into chaos
might stop, or, we might see the United States crumble from within,
aided by outside forces sharing a common hatred for the United States.
As we increase respect for group rights, we diminish individual liberty,
which promotes the Balkanization of the United States where one shot
heard around the world can plunge the world into global warfare.
We expect perfection, but we don’t demand perfection
from ourselves-thus we condemn this or that government administration or
this or that form of capitalism or this or that form of virtually
anything or anybody merely because it’s our right to protest. Problem
is, unprincipled protesting is more destructive than it is constructive.
After the gates are stormed, what’s next?
Take the anti-Iraqi War protestors. They, through the
courts, have enlarged the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and
to petition the Government for a redress of grievances extending beyond
civil disobedience to include violence, destruction of property, injury
to people or to inconveniences affecting traffic, safety, commerce, and
a host of activities not associated with the protestors’ rights to
peaceably assemble and to petition the Government. Protesting has become
a cottage industry, sponsored by people promoting their causes, their
ideologies, enlisting protestors from all ages, all walks of life, all
occupations, or from all political or religious (nonreligious)
persuasions-”Let’s go protest!” becomes something to do, which might be
and often is, unprincipled, undisciplined, and done without awareness of
the agenda of the promoters who might be using funds from their
nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations.
If Karl Marx observed how badly he miscalculated the
future of capitalism during his time, he’d be forced to revise his
opinion of the bourgeoisie and proletariat dichotomy, of what
constitutes wealth-and most assuredly revise his observation that
religion is the opiate of the masses. The material wealth created by
private ownership of property, capitalism, enforcement of contracts
(among other things) has surpassed Marx’s most optimistic vision of his
idealistic community where no one works, but everyone enjoys prosperity,
which is the magnet that draws the feelings of victimized people to
unite with and to support the flawed ideology of paradise on earth.
If anything, the United States, enjoying its brief
romance with history or destiny, demonstrates that governments, like the
humans who discredit them, are works in progress.
When an American student allows herself to be run over
and killed by a bulldozer, people who support suicide-homicide bombers
murdering innocent bystanders, consider her a martyr. That’s berserk
freedom of choice. Do you suppose if she’d personally carried out a
suicide-homicide attack she’d be enshrined in the Palestinian Martyrs’
Hall of Fame or maybe have Saddam Hussein send her family a fat check
for her bravery? In the United States heroes trespass in forests where
they take up residence in trees, drive spikes into to trees to kill or
maim loggers, or throw themselves on a highway to protect a snail darter
or a rat.
So as we march into the Iraqi War we’re faced with a
Mission Impossible: remove Saddam Hussein without killing him, his
soldiers, or Iraqis. American or coalition casualties don’t matter. Make
sure we feed, clothe, and otherwise take care of Iraqis-including
repairing their infrastructure, restoring their oil capability, and
allowing France, Germany, and Russia free access to Iraq’s oil.
Since we’ve already killed and been killed, the
Mission Impossible script is right on, but no matter how
well-intentioned or how well we execute the Iraq War operations, we will
have failed the World Community. We can apologize to the United Nations,
but the U.N. will not accept our arrogant apology.
We deserve whatever disaster falls upon the United
States – the big bully who causes the world’s problems, stationing
troops in 140 or so locations; who bribes nations
to go along with us; who gives false hope to suffering nations but
sharing only a miniscule amount of our GDP with
the Third World; who uses an egregious amount of the world’s natural
resources while polluting the earth--and as an example of the ultimate
insult, proposes to use dolphins to detect mines in Iraqi waters! That’s
crueler than the proposal to use chickens to detect poison gas to alert
our military forces. Karl Marx would love it!
The United States lacks moral authority, having
succeeded only because of the ability to exploit people and nations. If
we’d listen only to Allah, we’d know right from wrong and not have
March 25, 2003
To the Editor:
After listening to you at the Virginia Festival of The
Book, you have further proven yourself an Anti-American spineless
liberal who like all other liberals of late, are simply being ignored
and laughed at. Notice your ally Michael Moore being booed off stage
Sunday Night at the Oscars when he opened his anti-American mouth and
bashed our president and our war efforts. However, as a
29 year old member of the South Carolina State Guard, I will say
this: it is heroes like the soldiers in Iraq right now that have spilled
their guts in order for you to open your ignorant mouth against the
country that they have died to defend their love for. Do us all a favor
and leave our beloved nation, we do not want you here.
Victor N. Webster
March 24, 2003
To Katherine McNamara,
I am watching now your C-Span2
appearance from Saturday. You were awesome. I plan to read