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September 20, 2005


The Gonzman

Hmm. More to the point, I'd think, is the question, "Would a certain Jewish carpenter break bread with Laura Bush?"


I agree, Hugo.

Ms. Olds is not simply responding to the invitation: she is constructing it in such a way as to make her refusal meaningful. Insofar as Laura Bush is a "representative" of the administration, she has never been a representative of the defense, economic or diplomatic policies which Ms. Olds (correctly, in my view) deplores. To avoid hypocrisy, Ms. Olds would have to forego more than just a lunch invitation: there's a great deal that the federal government, even under this atrocity of an administration, does for good.

And the opportunity, as you say, to speak the same truths that she presents in her letter at (or, more likely, to press, etc. before and after) a White House Event would be a more powerful statement of true civil discourse.


Good words, A; I liked this bit at your space:

"We must openly disagree if we are to discover what binds us together and what we can accomplish. We must talk to each other in order to disagree. We must speak honestly as well as decently, which means that we may sometimes need to say unpleasant things about each other."


I think it's interesting that you say "the poet's job is to speak truth to power." I like the idea of speaking truth to power, I'm just not sure it's the poet's job. I thought about proposing that it's the poet's job to speak truth, but even that I find hard to fully defend! It's hard to pin requirements on a poet, right? They are required to speak, I suppose, otherwise they would not be poets, but beyond that....I don't know.

This whole scenario also reminds me of that episode of The West Wing with Laura Dern, where she wants to criticize the administration at a White House dinner. That isn't really relevant to anything, but the similarities are just pretty striking :)

Saul Isler

As much as I agree with your reasons for boycotting Laura Bush's little book bash in DC, I think you're blowing an excellent opportunity to deliver your salient message to her and the rest of the country in person. Incidentally, she's not to be blamed for the travesty of this war, it's the idiot she married.
Instead of boycotting the event, your speaking your piece to her face would serve not as a mere boycott but a "March on Washington." What you can DO would have more impact than what you refuse to do. Please reconsider your choice.


I'd like to think Olds reading at the White House in a spirit of Christiaan generosity would have had an impact. but poetry has been read to Mrs. Bush before. Nothing changed. Olds got more attention for her cause and drew more readers to her poetry with her letter than she could have at the festival. Mrs. Bush has been a charming mouthpiece for and defender of her husband's policies all along and so she is fair game. While she is a genuine book lover, she has also used literature to put a nice PR polish on the White House and the presidency. Was it rude of Olds? A bit, but nothing compared to the rudeness of her husband's presidency: torture, sexual humiliation, cutting vet benefits, insulting anti-war mothers of dead soldiers, swift-boating war vets, fiddling while new orleans drowns, favoring wealthy cronies over much more qualified people, and so on. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think that's rude. Olds expressed the welling anger in a lot of people.

That said, one has to respect those writers who put aside their political views, which required superhuman effort in some cases, went to the White House and spoke their truth there. We can have it both ways, so people are free to protest that which they have every right to be angry about, and also free to put those things aside in the ecumenical spirit of booklovers everywhere.

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