Serving My Patriotic Duty--As a Stooge

In late September, 2002, while the Bush administration was patriotically trying to align our nation behind its desire to wage another war against an army one-fifth the size of the one the U.S. defeated in two days a decade ago (but a diabolical, security-threatening army nonetheless) my longtime friend Annick Smith walked into my Montana home and handed me a letter penned by herself, Terry Tempest Williams, and Gretel Erlich. Part of it read:

***

Dear Friends,
We are inviting you to join us in a flurry of letter: op-ed pieces, essays, stories, poems, and polemics written by women (and male friends, too) who are uncomfortable, no outraged, with the Bush administration's insistence on war..

War with Iraq. War on our civil liberties. War on the environment and the social issues central to all of us, and particularly to families, women, children...

Our idea is this: if each of us speaks to our own community...we can (offer) another way of seeing, another way of being...offer questions over answers, reflection over rhetoric, and compassion over aggression...rather than defer to the simple, polarized language being fed daily to the public via mass media by George W. Bush and his speechwriters.

If each of us within our communities dares to speak out at this time when questioning the president is viewed as an affront to patriotism...perhaps we can help redefine what patriotism really means in a democracy...Won't you join us and cause a little trouble?

***

Under the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and Operation T.I.P.S. I hereby report to the FBI, and to all other pertinent federal agencies, my friends Annick Smith and Terry Tempest Williams and their friend, the writer Gretel Erlich, and wish my nation godspeed in bringing them to justice.

In hopes, as the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. acronym demands, of "Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism," I should add that Annick's home is in a big beautiful meadow off the Blackfoot River, that the roads up there are confusing, but that I can show federal agents the way since Annick and her partner William Kittredge (who I also suspect to be a non-P.A.T.R.I.O.T.) have had me up there for dinners and parties many times. (I'll miss those visits terribly, and it's embarrassing to turn Bill in since he's done me personal favors and my endowed chair here at the university is named for him. But the new patriotism has its costs and we all must be prepared to pay.) I should warn you that, though Annick is in her sixties, she may kick an agent or two's ass. Bill will probably just go grumbling -- but don't let the press record him, as his grumbling has a tendency to be devastingly on the mark.


"A national system for concerned workers to report suspicious activity."


China Hat, Utah (see enclosed map and directions) is a big red rock. Terry lives in the occasional shade of it with her husband Brooke, who I also suspect of non-patriotism, due to the fact that he and I got a little drunk after the National Book Awards in NYC last November even though he was raised Mormon. Mormons, as you know, aren't supposed to drink: this breach of religious obligation suggests that Brooke may also be capable of patriotic breaches. Of course, if he'd refused to drink with me I'd have been even more suspicious, due to well-known acts of terror committed by followers of "other" religions whose proponents refuse to drink. The fact that Brooke was drinking undermines the validity of this charge, I suppose, but these are confusing times. Maybe you can nail him anyway on a generic "capable-of-other-sorts-of-breaches" suspicion.

If you get the chance while tailing, wiring, interrogating, or incarcerating Terry, please tell her I'm sorry she got in the way of my duty as a Bush/Cheney Patriot and T.I.P.S. operative. Her first published work was a review of my first novel, and it was kind. I should also confess, since she may rat me out under interrogation, to a situation that developed on the Antietam Battlefield at the end of a large gathering there, when I was overcome by emotions more prayerful than patriotic, and (gosh, I know this sounds bad!) ended up weeping on Terry's right knee.

Please try to understand, you agents and agencies, that I had infiltrated a gathering of five or so hundred people, that we'd been grieving the industrial ravaging of Earth for three days, and that on the last night we observed a long silence, during which luminaria burned and fireflies glowed over a vast field where, in a single day, the souls of 36,000 Rebel and Union patriots had been separated by bullets and swords from their bodies. Somehow, all that silence, all those violently separated souls, all those fireflies rising, caused a feeling so much vaster than "national" to sweep over me that my heart seemed to break, then open, then fill with light, and tears of grief/gratitude/joy burst out in a way that was so inappropriate, in terms of National Security, that I'm not sure what to add, except of course my suspicions of Gretel Erlich.

We've not met, Gretel and I. But be it known that I read a recent interview (in which she was unpatriotically interesting in her unfavorable comparison of America's "consumer-coma-lifestyle" to the vital lifeways of certain Inuit peoples) that led me to believe she could be lurking up in Greenland. Dress warmly, good luck nailing her, and on your way back I suggest you make a sweep through Montana and pick up, under the same Act and Operation, all the doctors and nurses I know (see attached list A), their Hippocratic Oath being indiscriminate toward other races and creeds, hence unpatriotic, plus all the clergy I know except rightwing fundamentalists (see attached list B) including first and foremost my lifelong friend, the Trappist monk Casey Bailey (address and monastery map enclosed). Though this pacifist contemplative may seem harmless, when I visited him two weeks ago he quoted, with obvious approval, Mother Teresa's prayer asking God to "break my heart so completely that the entire world falls in." Obviously, any attempt to love the entire world is treacherously out of step with our corporate need to exploit it, our national need to "rid it of evil," and the Powell dictum that America must be "the global bully."

During your sweep you'd better also nab my mother, Donna, a dangerously kind-hearted Christian with an uncanny ability to smell "sour milk." My grounds for patriotic concern are her recent mention of a fancied physical resemblance between Dick Cheney and the Devil. While you're at it, my wife Adrian and daughters Celia and Ellie are also a potential security problem, given their ongoing expressions of sympathy toward Iraqi children (see revealing photo at right) and seeming listlessness and depression with regard to the coming oil war... er... "war against terror" (sorry). Actually, the longer I think about it the more obligated I feel to turn in all of my friends (see entire enclosed address book).

In accordance with P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act Title II Sec. 501 ("Attorney General's authority to pay rewards to combat terrorism") and Sec. 502 ("Secretary of State's authority to pay rewards"), I ask for prompt and ample remuneration for this difficult choice to defend Bush/Cheney/Powell's "America" rather than my actual American friends and families, actual soil and ecosystems, actual honesty, actual perceptions, and actual allegiances. When determining size of payment, bear in mind that I will almost certainly require costly psychotherapy and medication. It's going to be hard to continue to serve my country without the people, places, ideals and land I once lived to serve.

Thank you from the bottom of my P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act-replaced heart.

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