MS. OLDS REGRETS
We were highly gratified, but not surprised, by the massive outpouring of near-unanimous support for poet Sharon Olds's decision not to attend the National Book Festival or the dinner and breakfast hosted by the First Lady ["No Thanks, Mrs. Bush ," Oct. 10]. A sample of the mail follows. --The Editors
New York City
Three rousing cheers for Sharon Olds, who showed courage and wisdom in turning down Laura Bush's invitation. Every person who breaks bread at the White House tacitly condones the slaughter in Iraq, which her husband initiated when he arrogantly and unilaterally declared this horrific war.
Sharon Olds, your ability to articulate is exceeded only by your courage. I stand in awe. Thank you.
What gives me hope in these bleak days is the resonance of such powerful voices as that of Sharon Olds. I would despair, were it not for poets like her.
MARTHA GALLION GEHRINGER
Bravo! Three Cheers! Good Show!--for not accepting Mrs. W.'s invitation. We need more like Sharon Olds!
H. MILTON PEEK
For me, this is what family values means.
It is difficult to type while standing and wildly applauding poet Sharon Olds's breathtaking decline of Laura Bush's dinner invitation. Perhaps Ms. Bush will see in the letter the difference between politics and poetry. The former requires pretense, artifice and the ability to hide one's genuine face. The latter (to be done well) requires candor, authenticity and the ability to speak the truth without flinching. For these reasons Ms. Olds is a brilliant poet and Ms. Bush is, well... married to the President.
Sharon Olds's letter to Laura Bush has circulated all across the country to this far-most corner. If everyone would "walk the talk" of their beliefs, we would recover. Sharon, you have contributed to strengthening and healing in so many ways.
The idea that a single person can project her moral outrage by refusing to dine with the First Lady appeals to my holistic sense of what we should all be doing. Sharon Olds and Cindy Sheehan have the courage to say, "This is not right--this is immoral." I am wondering where the "men" are who fight so hard to be elected as our representatives.
Studio City, Calif.
Hmmm. Given the ear of the queen the poet chooses to remain silent. Given an opportunity to talk with the priest the poet sings to the choir. Given a chance to dialogue with the enemy the poet denies any inherent possibility within such dialogue. Given the challenge of improbable odds against planting a viable seed the poet paves over the near-barren patch she is given. Given a chance to write the poem of a lifetime the poet publishes a letter. The poet did, no doubt, the best she could and God bless her for it, but God, if I ever have the poet's opportunity, please help me find the Eartha Kitt within.
In 1968 singer-actress Eartha Kitt famously denounced the Vietnam War at a White House gathering hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. --The Editors
I read Sharon Olds's letter with a sense of relief and pride. Relief because it is so necessary for us far beyond America's troubled shores to know that there are still Americans for whom civilized, humane values are alive and paramount, and pride that a poet whose work I love and admire should have such dignified fire in her, such a profound belief that poetry can never be at the service of lies.
It is tempting, as Ms. Olds points out, to speak truth to power--such moments have their glamour--but who can believe now that tyrants listen to poets? She has chosen the wiser course: Her absence from that White House table is eloquent echo to all those forever silenced in the bloodbath of Iraq.
I appreciated Ms. Olds's letter so profoundly that I used my lunch break from work to go purchase three volumes of her poetry. I would love to see her sales numbers peak in a show of solidarity and gratitude for her eloquence and grace and grit.
Sharon Olds eloquently speaks for me and makes my heart beat stronger yet--and at 71 years, still working from necessity, a ferryboat deckhand, I must purchase at least one of her books, proud that in this fog of shame I am still proud of this country that has begot a Melville, Dickinson and Sharon Olds.
Sharon Olds speaks for all of us. My eyes welled up in tears--tears of gratitude. What courage and eloquence. I printed the letter so my class can read it. We all need inspiration in these times. My thanks to Sharon for providing it.
SMILE WHEN YOU SAY THAT...
I understand Matt Bors's point in the "Revised Science Textbooks for Christians" ["Comix Nation ," Oct. 10], but I take exception to the stereotype he employs. Apparently, Bors has never met a liberal Christian. I have. The comic would more appropriately have been titled "Revised Science Textbooks for Fundamentalists."
'PAT ROBERTSON' REPLIES
New York City
Richard Falk is quick to conclude from his post-disengagement analysis ["Gaza Illusions ," Sept. 12] that "this disengagement represents a dangerous step backward in the struggle to find a just peace for these two peoples."
What Falk discounts is the power of international pressure on the decision to disengage from Gaza in the first place. International pressure also brought about Israel's grudging coordination of the immediate aspects of the disengagement with the Palestinians. And it has secured an Israeli commitment to coordinate the larger issues (border control, customs and taxes, sea and airports, safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank) in the immediate future.
It can be expected that in the final months of 2005, with Palestinian elections certain and Israeli elections probable in January and February, there will be very little in the way of further developments, other than the conclusion of the negotiated "coordination" of issues related to Gaza. Israel can be expected to continue its attempt at settlement expansion during the diplomatic lull, but thus far repeated attempts to complete the "Jerusalem envelope" and the expansion of Ariel have been turned back by international pressure.
To those who deny even the possibility of an alternative post-disengagement future than their dire predictions of the mass imprisonment of the Gazans, I can only remind them of the words of respected Ha'aretz journalist Gideon Levy, who, following Sharon's unveiling of his disengagement initiative, wrote (and I think I am quoting him exactly enough, although from memory), "If Ariel Sharon removes even a single settlement from the Gaza Strip, I am a house plant." He was extensively quoted on the left. Oops.
President, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace;
Former Member of the Israeli Knesset
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Of course, let's hope that Marcia Freedman is right to think that "international pressure" can push the peace process beyond the Gaza disengagement, but I remain doubtful. No matter the minority opposition to Sharon's policy in Gaza, unilateral disengagement was fully consistent with Sharon's view of an imposed rather than a negotiated peace. When Gaza lost its "value" as an Israeli bargaining chip, disengagement was strongly supported by the pragmatics of Israel's vision of security, territorial expansion and "peace." The flip side of disengagement is the settlement-enclosing Israeli security wall.
In Roberto Lovato's "The War for Latinos " [Oct. 3], Jorge Mariscal should have been identified as a professor at the University of California, San Diego, not the University of San Diego.