Big Bridge #10

An Open Letter to America


Photo by K. R. Copeland


“I don’t agree with that point of view,” said K. shaking his head, “for if one accepts it, one must accept as true everything the doorkeeper says. But you yourself have sufficiently proved how impossible it is to do that.”

“No,” said the priest, “It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must accept it only as necessary.”

“A melancholy conclusion,” said K. “It turns lying into a universal principle.”

—“Before the Law,” Franz Kafka


As pre-election events started to whip this country into a maelstrom of red and blue states, who’s for what, what’s for who, Swift Boat Veterans for Publicity, big oil lobbyists, Muslim fundamentalists, Israeli homesteaders, price-gouged consumers, holier-than-thou evangelicals, SUV-driving suburbanites, mall-going security moms, wonks and wonkettes, Farenheit 9/11 converts, Springsteen-listening Kerry backers, Zell Millerites, New York Times bashers, Fox News watchers, Jon Stewart chucklers, Governator supporters, Appalachian flag-wavers, big-city nay-sayers, generals and privates, Constitutionalists and Green Partiers, Dan Ratherites and O’Reilly Factorers, facts and facsimiles, and Jib-Jabbers of every political persuasion seemed on the verge of complete meltdown as George W. Bush’s attempts to unite America had divided it like no other time in recent memory, and the election was still months away. It was then that Michael Rothenberg asked if I’d like to guest edit a feature for his online magazine, Big Bridge.

The idea for “An Open Letter to America” came about as I felt the need to somehow encapsulate these events. Our nation, immediately after the events of September 11, 2001, was united in a way that I had never experienced in my lifetime. We as Americans had one common goal: self-defense. (Nothing could be more important in this precarious world where nuclear proliferation is rampant.) Through our televisions we watched as Colin Powell went before the United Nations and gave us the argument that sent us to war with Iraq. The rationalization for this war was based on a falsehood and no one will now take the blame. In the Age of Information, bad intelligence becomes the culprit, not the humans who gathered this faulty data with faulty procedures and methods. The messenger was shot. The news media reported no real news on the events leading up to the war, only corporate rationalizations.

America seemed to be moving into some strange gray area off the map completely. Whether Democratic or Republican, our government has been entrusted with America’s safety and security and the health and welfare of the American people. Getting the news from poems has never been more important; we’re not through the woods and there’s no real end in sight.

I thank profusely all those involved who made “An Open Letter to America” possible. There is much wisdom, humor, and skill in these works. I hope you will enjoy these poems as I have.

—Larry Sawyer, 1/30/05, Chicago, Illinois