"All the News That Rhymes"

The NewsPoem

Weather: summer

Distribution: 3 Printed in Urbana 21 August, 1998 FREE

Dear President Clinton,

First of all, I am not writing you to bother you about Whitewater or Monica Lewinsky, whom I respect deeply. That is all behind us now, what's done is done, and, all things considered, you could have been a far worse president and even a worse person. Congratulations, Bill, you've made it. Two terms, with two years left to serve. Strictly speaking, you are in a good position because you are not up for reelection: you needn't become too obsessed with popularity polls. Right now you are in a position to get your administration in gear and swiftly enact some policies that could ensure a decent world for decades to come. That is why I wanted to write you this letter, Bill, from one guy to another, an honest-to-god heart-to-heart. I am not out to get you, I am here to boost your confidence and help you make the decisions that are right for the world right now.

That is why I am appealing to you as the chief executive to dismantle and reform the military. Don't stop reading, wait, please don't stop reading yet, wait. I am not some violently sarcastic leftist, I assure you, I just want fewer people to be killed. Right now I think this is best for America and the world at large. I am confident that, once we see fewer people killing other people, there will be a surplus of labor and a general boost in morale. Okay? Don't stop reading yet. I am not suggesting saving money by laying people off, that would be crude. I do not want anybody currently serving in the United States Armed Services to lose their job. I just want them to lose their firearm. Let's just stop buying new weapons and lets just stick with the weapons we already have. And let's train our soldiers to work without them most of the time. Peacekeeping forces ought to be peacekeeping forces, and our soldiers are facing death either way, either armed to the tits, or armed with just a swiss army knife, since their work involves seeking out the most dangerous places in the world and going there. Let's train them in languages and also general charisma: ingenuousness, hat tricks, that sort of thing. People all over the world should be pleased to see American soldiers on their continent, because they know that means that those soldiers are going to try to talk people out of violence, bake bread, play with the kids, and do dishes. Once we have accomplished this, we will be ready to invade our own country.

Okay Bill don't stop reading yet okay? I know this is all starting to sound a little farfetched, and, frankly, I wasn't overly concerned with the well-being of American arms contractors when I drafted this proposal. When I first thought this up, I figured, well, General Electric, it's a very clever company, once we've cleaned up its act a little bit, I'm sure there's all kinds of other things they could be developing. Like techniques of sustainable agriculture to give just one example. Or repainting my house. There's no shortage of honest work in this country, even when we've stopped building laser-guided nuclear missiles, there will still be lawns to mow. Let's look at the big picture here.

Okay I suppose I should cut to the quick. Okay, let me clarify. You know how guns are illegal? Well, I mean, guns aren't illegal yet, I'm getting ahead of myself. Right now I'm just saying: think of our men and women in uniform. There is a third world country and they are marching across a burning bridge. Our soldiers are descending from helicopters. They are beautiful and college educated. They come from a country where there is no violent crime, no infant mortality, abundant food and health care, abundant clothing and shelter, and great state-supported experimental music and literature. They have spent the first fifth of their lives training for this invasion by talking about politics with their friends, acknowledging the fortunate circumstances of their upbringing, studying the languages, music, and customs of every known culture, and deciding that they were willing to risk everything in order to bring the rest of the world the wondrous goodness that is America. They are black, white, Asian, Native American, Latino, Eskimo, SerbianÍ. They come equipped. They know funny jokes in 111 languages. They can convince a Hutu to lower his revolver or a

Bill, I'm falling apart. Did you hear about the Black Ghost fish?

Bill, I lost track of where I was. But I remember. Let's go back to the invasion of Grenada. Remember that? Grenada: a country of perhaps 33 people. And here come the marines. A neat job, needless to say, a textbook marine operation. So are you imagining that, Bill? Okay, freeze-frame it here, buddy. Now take a look at those marines. And imagine a little further. Instead of M16s, those are bouquets. Bouquets, in fact, of purple coneflowers. Here come the marines to do battle with the common cold and restore peace to the tiny nation of Grenada. Do you see how beautiful it is, what it is I'm writing you about, do you see? Of course you see it, Bill, because you're a visionary.

So, now that I've got you seeing things my way, Bill, let's talk policy. Let's talk policy decisions, like the kind you can afford to be making. Risky, need I add, policy decisions. Don't worry about Al or the Democrats, don't worry, I heard that Quayle is gonna be a Republican nominee, don't worry about the next presidential election, buddy, because that election's gonna mean your retirement and no more secret service agents following you around and testifying against you in court, and, who knows, maybe a library named after you somewhere in New England, so let's talk policy, potentially risky policy decisions. Okay. Step one. You're gonna wanna do some research here, Bill, and find out those companies that are currently building arms for the military and shut them all down immediately, you can do it, you're president, just say that, because some employee of Lockheed was caught with mairijuana, the DEA is going to seize the entire company because it might have aided and abetted the employee by giving her a paycheck or something, or just declare that all arms manufacturers are a risk to United States security because those armaments might end up in Iran, or Israel. It doesn't matter Bill, face it, the public is going to take anything you say with a grain of, so to speak, salt, right? Not me, you understand, but the common people, who read all that cynical reporting in USA TODAY, are going to be suspicious of anything you say. So go ahead and lie. There isn't even time to impeach you, Bill, before you're retired with a library and the secret service off your back, if you catch my drift, and a lot of your pals also retired comfortably, pension paid by the taxpayer, it'll be sweet and so soon now, so just shut down those companies and make up some story. People will be sore at you whatever you do, so, from one draft-dodger to another, do what's right. Hey Bill I was just kidding about the draft-dodger thing, I mean I don't expect you to stoop to my level, and anyway it's not necessary for you to stoop to my level in order to swiftly implement risky policy decisions. So shut down every company manufacturing weapons for the military, step one, and, step two, shut down every company that manufactures handguns. Wait don't stop reading please don't stop reading wait. There's a lobby, I know, and they'll want to have words with you, but you're the soon-to-be ex-president, and you should have no trouble blowing off all those NRA pests. Anyway, you're not making guns illegal, you're just making it illegal to make them. Making guns illegal is gonna be tricky, that's why it's step five. Wait, don't stop reading, think of the kids, think of the kids, don't stop reading, remember Grenada, remember the marines with their purple coneflowers, remember the vision.

Okay Bill, wait, I'm afraid I'm losing your respect and your patience. I know you are probably getting ten thousand letters a day, letters both from foreign dignitaries and from kindergartners writing you in purple crayon, all of which letters are probably easier to read and more direct and satisfying, so let me just dispense with the policy decisions. Forget I ever said "risky." No more numbers, no more numbers. Let's just focus on the vision. Together, buddy, can I call you buddy? I know you can't get too personal with me but that's just because you're president, and I understand that, I've been through similar experiences myself, but I think you'd like me, maybe, if I were your age and it were twenty or thirty years ago and you didn't need to be careful about your reputation. So when I write you I see us drinking scotch together in a paneled room with hunting trophies. Now, of course, you can't drink scotch because you're the chief executive, but you can swirl it around in a snifter and appreciate it for what it means and how much it cost, so that's all you're doing, there in that paneled room, where you and I see visions eye to eye. I might have a sip or two, myself, but that's nothing between gentlemen sharing a vision. In fact, have a cigar. Have a cuban cigar, just kidding I wouldn't want you to smoke that no I meant a good old American cigar ha ha forget I ever said "Cuba."

Never mind. This isn't working, is it? No wait.

So, just imagine you live in Grenada and the marines come. In real life you'd be thinking shit! help! But in this vision, instead you think, great, the marines are here, i will go tell the children so they can all run and get their free ice cream and see the nice marines with their funny jokes and their puppet shows and their hat tricks. And the marines will have sparklers for the children, and even though you are concerned about the safety of the children, you know that the marines will oversee the deployment of the sparklers safely. And the marines will have uniforms, and they will take them off and let you wear them, and the children will play with them along the shore and the marines will explain the creatures in the tidal pools and they will teach the children French. And when it is time for the childrens' naps, then the marines will read stories to the children, books by Antoine De-Saint Exupery, and when the story is over the marines will sing the children to sleep and then the marines will go and work in the fields until dinner. And the marines will turn out to be a great cook and they will share their cooking tips and the tiny nation of Grenada will sleep very soundly, while the marines milk the goats.

Bill, is that a tear forming at the corner of your eye? No, no, let it come. C'mon, blink, Bill, let's make that tear come. Your eye is watering because you've just seen a vision. You've seen a vision of how proud you could be to be an American. And that's important. And maybe, Bill, I should just stop right there. I think that's enough for one letter. I won't even talk about nuclear disarmament, let's just sit in silence here, in this paneled room, and you finish that cigar, and we'll just sit in silence. And nod. And, if you aren't going to be having any, would you mind if I finished your scotch? Thanks Bill, and thank you, Mr. President.

Thank you for your time,

your loyal supporter,

Newspoetry at Spineless Books