Poets Against The War are planning to send 12,000 poems to Congress
on March 5 to show their distaste for U.S. war policy against
Iraq. But are the poets acting as Sentinels of Vigilance,
or as Terrorists? Are they injecting Fear, Intimidation
and Complacency where Courage, Conviction and Right Actions
are required? Is their demand that only anti-war poems
be submitted an act of Terrorism or one of Vigilance?
Does poetry have the right to censor and decide what is right
and wrong, or is it saddled with the duty to provide two points
of view and let its readers decide? You be the judge!
25, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 531
Poets Against The War:
The Politics Of Polemics
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 25--War
is being waged upon the Bush Administration by thousands
of Poets Against The War. The poets are unwittingly
waging their war against the Politics of Polemics.
In the process, they have become caught in their own poetic
crossfire and turned into the very Terrorists of War they
about injecting Fear, Intimidation and Complacency into
a body politic.
A Terrorist likes to drive
the nail of dissent into his victim’s hands and feet.
He enjoys crucifying his victims with the Triad
of Terrorism--arms pinned by Fear and Intimidation, feet
nailed motionless by Complacency. Such Terrorists
sit and watch their victims hang, powerless to do anything
but suffer a slow, painful, excruciating death of shadow
watching, cringing, ducking, hiding, waiting for the Beast
of Terror to finish them off.
Alert was issued over Valentine's Day weekend
the Shadow of the Beast of Terror stalking me as I reviewed
the Poets Against The War criterion for submitting an
anti-war poem. The organization is planning to send
12,000 anti-war messages to Congress on March 5.
The feeling I got
reading the submission criterion reminded me of the recent
Terrorist scare over Valentine's Day weekend. When the
Bush Administration issued a "high alert,"
millions of Americans scrambled to get duct tape and plastic
sheeting to cover their windows and shelter themselves
in case Terrorists dumped some horrible biochemical substance
in their neighborhoods. Fear, Intimidation
and Complacency settled into the marrow of the nation
as 300 million people cowered, anticipating the sound
of the Beast of Terror’s footsteps shuffling toward
During that weekend,
a single mind-set hung over the nation--self protection.
Few, if any, danced in the street to refute the alarm,
which turned out to be false.
What the great mass
of Americans didn’t know, that the Terrorist alert was
not necessarily a warning of Osama bin Laden or Saddam
Hussein sneaking into America’s heartland, but instead
a precursor of the Poets Against the War assault on the
Bush, a former public school teacher and librarian,
reads to children
Bush requests the pleasure of your company
at a reception and White House Symposium
"Poetry and the American Voice"
on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 at one o'clock
all started when Laura Bush cancelled a February 12 White
House poetic symposium called "Poetry and the American
Voice" after learning a number of poets slated to
attend were going to read anti-war material.
Irate, the poets retaliated.
Marshalling forces, the Poets Against The War boasts it
will deliver 12,000 poems and statements to Congress on
March 5 as a signal of its membership's opposition to
the impending war against Iraq.
The event is dubbed
International Day of Poetry Against the War.
A White House spokeswoman
responding to the question why Laura Bush cancelled the
February 12 event said: "Mrs. Bush respects
and believes in the right of all Americans to express
their opinions, but she felt it would be inappropriate
to turn the literary event into a political forum."
Her response sparked
the creation of a website,
goal has been to solicit anti-war poems and deluge Congress
with them. March 5 is scheduled for the "poetic
bombing of the White House." The website claims12,000
anti-war poems will be delivered to Capital Hill.
Their ultimate goal: to "Terrorize" the Administration
into cutting the Gordian Knot wrapped around Iraq and
retreat from the Administration’s saber rattling that
unless Saddam Hussein buckles to disarmament demands the
U.S. will attack his regime and depose him by force.
use the word "Terrorize" to describe the acts
of the Poets Against The War because Terrorism employs
a gun to one's head with the hammer cocked.
One has no option under Terrorism's "gun-to-the-head"
strategy but to surrender to its will or suffer.
The Poets Against
the War are using a gun-to-the-head approach against the
White House because they offer no poet a forum to speak
out against the anti-war position. They have censored
all pro-war poems, and will only accept anti-war ones.
In other words, “It’s my way or the highway.”
doesn’t negotiate with its victims. Like the
Poets Against the War, it doesn’t give its victims any
chance to surrender their will. It simply attacks.
It lays waste to those whom it has chosen as targets of
opportunity. It feeds off its righteousness.
Despite America’s critics, the door to escape war in Iraq
has always been open. All Saddam Hussein has
to do is disclose his weapons of mass destruction in accordance
to U.N. Resolution 1441, or, step down.
The Poets Against the War offer no such escape.
They are hell-bent on revenge, and offer no concessions
to those who oppose their anti-war approach.
They deny any Voice that argues with them.
They oppose any poem, any thought, any presentation that
might be termed “Pro-War,” or might possibly suggest,
infer or imply that America is doing the right thing by
standing off Terrorism in Iraq.
the poets have fallen victim to that which they seek to
admonish. They have taken the position of
the Terrorist in their righteously blind belief of what
is good for America and the world. They are
saying anti-war is the solution, and refute by edict any
suggestion that any Voice speaking otherwise has veracity.
Ad run to promote and solicit anti-war poems
This narrow, chilling
position qualifies them as a Terrorist organization for
they are creating by exclusion Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency upon those who might oppose them. Let
me expand on that point.
When I first saw the ad for Poets
Against The War I thought about writing a poem for the
event with a focus on Vigilance. That was before
I was stopped dead in my tracks by the submission guidelines.
I believe the War on Terrorism is twisted out of perspective
by protestors and pundits who suggest Terrorism can be
controlled by extricating the Terrorists.
My belief is that we should be fighting the source
of Terrorism—rallying our forces against the Beast of
Terror, Terrorism’s seed. Terrorism is the result of the
unleashing of the Beast, not its effect. I maintain
that we must cut off the head of Terrorism, not its many
appendages. I believe Vigilance is the only way
to achieve that goal.
I also believe we, the Citizens of Vigilance, the poets
and pundits, are The Beast of Terror. We are his
hosts. I believe he dwells within us and tries to
make us God. He attempts to make us believe we "know
everything" and have the "right to protest"
all the wrongs in the world as though we had the ability
to judge all actions and reactions with the keen eye of
an omnipotent being who knows exactly what the result
of our actions will be. I submit the Beast of Terror loves
it when we rise up so high in our righteousness that we
think we are right and the world that doesn’t think as
we do is wrong. I believe the Beast of Terror savors
it when we see only black or only white, when we know
so much we can shut down all other opinions but our own.
Such black and white thinking makes us either hawks--convinced
we are right in our efforts to depose Saddam Hussein without
offering any further quarter--or, doves who believe that
war is so ugly and vile it should be avoided at all costs,
including stopping a known Terrorist before he grows bigger
and stronger. This polarity drives wedges
between us all and produces one result: "You're
either with us or against us."
The Poets Against The War have no room in their thinking
that the United States has posited itself as the Global
Sentinel of Vigilance, duty-bound to swing the Sword of
Vigilance against any and all who harbor, breed or promote
Terrorism. They have no tolerance for the
fact the Bush Administration has elected to define Terrorism
to fit strategy and tactics, and put a priority on attacking
it that varies with much of the world. This, they
claim, is the problem. America is acting out of
concert with the world as they see it.
is considered by some not an aggressor,
but rather the Global Sentinel of Vigilance
I am not in agreement with the common definitions of Terrorism,
either those used by governments or Poets Against The
War. We have made Terrorism faceless,
some shadowy figure outside ourselves. We hunt for
it in foreign lands, forgetting when it thrives within
Thus, I believe the
War on Terrorism begins within an individual, at the grass
roots of a society, and should be fought upward.
The Bush Administration believes it should be fought from
the top down, and has chosen to indict, prosecute and
convict those whom it believes fit into its narrow definition
Where I offer kudos
to the Bush Administration is that it is attacking Terrorism,
even if its view of it is political and geographic and
cultural. At least it is standing up to the
Bully of Terrorism. It is telling the Children’s
Children’s Children of the world that Terrorism has an
enemy willing to fight and die to protect the future,
even if in the midst of that position it suffers heavy
assault of its immediate intentions. Because
America is not a conquering nation, I have faith its goal
is not to dominate but to liberate.
This makes the Poets
Against the War stand naked in the Winds of Vigilance.
They would have America stand down, stick its head in
the sand, remove from the borders of Iraq the anti-Bullies
who are facing off the Bully Terrorist. They
would have America be shamed for standing up to those
who pose an unquestioned threat to the future.
is the definition that the Poets Against the War have
constructed in their constitution as to what represents
anti-Terrorism. In their prejudiced
and righteous opinion--not unlike that of the Bush Administration--they
claim a poem to merit consideration under their website
guidelines must be against the war. They are into the
black and white just as thickly as the Bush Administration.
Below I have extracted their submission guidelines.
Note their emphasis that "All
poems must be against the war, no pro-war poems."
The War Submission Guidelines
You may submit either a poem or a statement against
the war. You may submit more than one poem. Please
limit your poem to no more than about a page (we
cannot publish epics or tomes), and submit no more
than 3 poems. All poems must be against the war;
no pro-war poems, no hate-filled poems, no obscene
poems will be published. You may format your poem
by adding html tags. We hope to publish your poem
within a day of its submission. Note:
By submitting your poetry
for publication on this website, you represent and
warrant that you are the author of the poem, that
you have the right to authorize its publication
on this website, and that it does not – to the best
of your knowledge -- infringe the copyright of any
link to the site
I find Bullyism vs. Bullyism is still Bullyism. Even if
it comes from the soft underbelly of the poet.
Poets forced to express
their feelings about war from the singular point of view
of being "anti-war" is just another form of
poetry. It criminalizes the purity of poetry as
a form of unique expression that, by its nature, defies
myself an accomplished poet, able to compress feelings
into conflicting thoughts and ideas, designed for the
reader to interpret. I have for hours
and days, and sometimes weeks and even months and years,
pondered over a single word to extract from it the most
powerful meaning possible, not only to elucidate those
words it rests beside, but to ignite the tone and texture
of the message I am trying to emote. I so often
sit in amazement when I hear someone interpret what I
have so steadfastly tried to create, only to find that
they see something far different from what I saw, and
feel things much simpler in some cases, and much
more complex in others, than I could imagine.
So who is to
judge a poem is "anti-war" or not "anti-war?"
oxymoronic to assume such a judgment is possible in the
first place. Yet Poets Against The War have drawn
a righteous line in the sand, just a fierce and just as
obnoxious as those they protest against. The
have become the kettle and the pot, calling each other
black and white, and forgetting that poetry is all about
the grey--the innominate zone that makes poetry so magical--that
is the privilege of the reader to perceive the word painting's
brush strokes and define its meaning through the reader's
not the editor's eyes.
Bush stepping up to the Beast of Terror place
Poets rallying behind the Poets Against The War guidelines
are inferring by their submissions and acceptance of Terrorist
Guidelines they believe America has left no option for
Iraq but war. They have assumed the myopic view
that America is a belligerent force, bent on issuing death
and destruction. They wish to ignore that
America may be standing up to Terrorism while the rest
of the world prefers to stick its head in the sand and
do nothing but sling rocks at President Bush for stepping
up to the Beast of Terror plate. They leave no wriggle
room for those who might see the threat of war a message
to Terrorism that at least one nation, one people, one
President, will not condone its proliferation.
a step farther than the Administration that they attack
as a warmonger, the Poets Against The War execute
any violators who oppose them. As Saddam Hussein
has so deftly shown he can execute any and all who stand
in opposition to him, including the killing of his two
son-in-laws, Poets Against The War expunge any poem that
crosses their desk or computer screens as "dissident."
With the same alacrity of a despot, they cast such dissenting
missives into the dark, dungy wastelands of cyberspace
or the shredder, gleefully wallowing in their belief they
know what's good for the earth. They arrogantly
censor what should be read and not read to cause mankind
to evolve to the next higher plane.
they become the Beast they rail against.
effrontery of the kind Poets Against The War express is
symptomatic of Terrorism. As Saddam Hussein
would deny he is a Terrorist and defend to the world he
has acted in behalf of the best interests of his country,
so the Poets Against the War will vociferously deny they
are Terrorists and defend their right to cut, slash, imprison
and exterminate any point of view at odds with their agenda.
After all, they claim to have the corner on "what's
right." And, they stand above all others
because they are lofty "poets."
Despite any protestations they might issue, their guidelines
shout Terrorism: "If
you don't play the game we have designed, we will exterminate
This edict means that a guy like me who opposes anything
"anti-" can't send my thoughts. You see, I view
something "anti-" as excluding the "pro-."
It is no longer a balance between what is, what was and
what can be, but rather an issue of "what I
have decided it is."
Under those terms, I can't even submit.
The wall of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency looms so
large I dare not shovel my big toe of Vigilance in the
submission direction, for I speak of the Swords and Shields
of Vigilance, and I am an advocate that along the Road
of Complacency, someone somewhere must make a stand in
behalf of the Children's Children's Children. I
also adhere to Parental Duty of Deadly Force when necessary
to protect the future from the clear and present danger
of those who would destroy the safety and security of
all children. That is, I would not blink an eye
to use whatever means is necessary to stop a Beast of
Terror from clubbing a child to death.
must take a stand
This attitude would surely throw me into the pro-war arena.
to my frustration is the lack of the genuine poetic message
from the Poets of Vigilance. That message
is the cry from the Poets Of Vigilance. Where are
the mothers and fathers and grandparents, uncles, aunts,
cousins, nephews and nieces of Vigilance who know that
protecting the world from Terrorism is not a matter of
protesting war, but Vigilantly guarding its virulent growth.
war is always a Johnny-come-lately activity. It's
the thing one does to keep up with the Jones'.
War, after all is said and done, is the sum of a society's
Complacency. For years the world has watched
Terrorism brew, growing ever so strong. No
one has leapt out of the pack and tackled the Beast of
Terror head-on before. Only through September 11
have we begun to realize that Terrorism is a true enemy,
a shapeless, nameless creature who has risen from the
bowels of human defects to launch us into the Era of Vigilance.
has forced America to take a global stance against Terrorism.
Now that the
United States has defied the world by standing up against
one of many state Terrorists without seeking the consensus
of the other nations, it is being bombarded with criticisms
from both within and without. The poets are
just one of many.
Poets write of Hell as Fire.....
Instead of praising the rightness of a nation to bully
the bullies, the poets seek to make the Bully Police the
bully. They don't want to attack the bully for what
he has done that cripples, maims and murders his own,
but would rather castigate those who wish to quash his
Poetry, as with all
literature, works only when it seeks to rub the stone
against the flint. Only when one is forced
to ponder Hell as "fire or ice" do the engines
of the mind engage to cogitate the pluses and minuses
of human nature, and to arrive at some conclusion between
the extremes, while at the same time recognizing the importance
of the extremes.
well as Hell Frozen Over
no message without conflict and neither does life.
All existence is the result of gravity, the push and pull
of forces good and bad, the challenging issues of right
and wrong, and the proverbial issue of what is best for
today versus the sacrifice necessary for tomorrow.
Poetry is nothing
more nor less than a giant Question Mark, created in the
mind of those who read it to answer. It delivers
to us mighty thoughts in tiny words that explode within
us as we ingest the perplexing issues each word symbolizes.
But Poets Against
The War have emasculated the principle of poetry as a
means of communicating conflict. They have
stripped the Pro from the Con, sawed off the other side
of the see-saw, extruded the plus from the minus in the
electron circling the atom.
In my case,
they have stripped Vigilance away.
While I propose
the pole of Terrorism is Vigilance, I cannot employ that
in my poetry regarding my views of the war. If I
did, I fear I might be called a "Pro-War Submission,"
rejected by some pompous ass whose idiot savant finger
is poised over the delete key, whose vision is so blurred
by righteous indignation that "anti-war" is
the so right that everything else is wrong.
Intimidated by the shadow of all the great poets who have
signed the proclamation of the Poets Against the War,
who have submitted their works, who are scheduled to stand
at podiums and rail on about the wrongness of war.
I am Intimidated by them because I realize they are reacting
to war, not proacting against it. They seek
the podiums of "I-told-you-so" as the bombs
are about to fall, and gain further recognition for their
wisdom because they seek the opportunity to catch a headline
here, or a camera lens there. I am Intimidated
because I quietly sit here and fight for Vigilance in
what seems a lonely place, with no podiums or television
cameras, no headlines, no fan letters. I am
Intimidated I do not protest just to protest. There
is fame in that, I know. But little purpose,
I think. Little purpose.
extinguish the Light of Vigilance
Then, there is Complacency.
I am Complacent
to set into words my thoughts and feelings.
The Fear and Intimidation imposed by the guidelines and
purpose of Poets Against The War are oppressive in nature.
They tell me that no matter how hard I might work to meet
the February 28th midnight deadline to submit a poem,
that my tongue would be cut off before it could wag in
I am defeated
before I start. So, as with any Complacent
person, I do not start. I give up before trying.
Terrorism has won this little battle. It's Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency have all conspired against
me, emasculating me before I could strip down to bare
bones and expose myself.
the War do not want to hear about Vigilance.
too much of a Pro-War stance.
If I were to
demonize Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il,
I would surely violate the tenants of the guidelines.
If I were to hint that America is a Parent of Vigilance,
acting in behalf of the Children's Children's Children,
I would be earmarked a hawk. If I were to
force the thinking of the readers into future generations,
and pose the battle between the Beast of Terror and the
Sentinel of Vigilance as the ultimate in human conflict,
I would be called a warmonger.
So I will not
participate. I can't, even if I'd like to.
I offer instead
the words of Shakespeare in As You Like It::
Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head...
is the jewel on the head of the Toad of Terrorism
Vigilance, I believe, is the precious jewel on the head
of the Toad of Terrorism. But, I can't express
that to the Poets Against The War. It might
sound like I'm giving credit to America's stand-off with
It might make
people think that President Bush isn't such an "ugly,
venomous toad" after all.
Feb 24--The Definition Of Terrorism?
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