In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Sparrow has run for president of the United States four times. This is the third of his campaigns to be documented in The Sun. His 1992 run resulted in “My Campaign Diary” [September 1992], and his 1996 foray was chronicled in “Why Didn’t You Vote for Me?” [May 1997] and in his book Republican like Me (Soft Skull Press). Below is the record of Sparrow’s 2004 effort. In keeping with modern life, he campaigned almost entirely by e-mail (although he did make a rare live political speech at The Sun’s thirtieth-anniversary gathering in Chapel Hill, North Carolina).
Sparrow’s take on Republicanism is inspired by a book he read as a youth, titled Abraham Lincoln: Selections from His Writings and published by the Communist Party. In the book, Sparrow says, the famous Republican president “sounds like an Illinois version of Karl Marx.”
On January 19, 2004, the day of the Iowa caucus, I decided to run for president. Perhaps, in my tiny way, I reasoned, I can prevent America from becoming a Jesus-flavored neofascist empire. So I announced to the world (or, at least, to the portion of it that is on my e-mail address list) my candidacy for the Republican nomination. My campaign had begun.
JANUARY 23, 2004
Dear Sister and Fellow Republicans,
We must free ourselves from chicken, Christianity, and commerce, by which I mean chicken dinners, the worship of Jesus Christ, and overlarge, unaesthetic corporations.
As for poultry, I pledge: No animals will be hurt in the making of my presidency.
And as for the supposed “Christianity” that now rules the Republican Party: why this strange obsession with homosexuality and prayer? I am the first presidential candidate to clearly state that homosexuality and prayer are not opposites. In fact, they are identical: every gay act is an act of prayer, and every prayer is gay.
“It’s gay to pray!” will be the first — and most important — of my campaign slogans.
Note: Under no circumstances should anyone vote for me in the national election (unless you would vote for Bush otherwise)! If a Democrat were to vote for me, it would be a charmless and fatalistic act.
We Republicans must preserve our proud symbol: the elephant. This majestic, sage creature has been ignored — except by political cartoonists — for decades. Let us return this cautious yet massive animal to our political campaigns! I propose we hold the 2004 Republican National Convention in India, where actual elephants may surround our podium and trumpet during poignant moments.
We must also strive to free our party from capitalysticism — the monstrous offspring of capitalism and mysticism. Clearly God is not a capitalist. God has never set up a corporation, and he has no interest in making a profit. In fact, the Godhead loses money year after year.
Have you noticed how presidential candidates always seem so certain of everything they say? Even Dennis Kucinich will boldly declare, “Solar power is a valid energy commodity.” But how does he know? How do they all — especially George W. Bush — know?
The answer is that they don’t. They are unknowing, like everyone else. They only appear wise due to fakery and theater.
I am the only candidate to proudly announce, “I don’t know!” I speak for a new America, which embraces the politics of doubt. Let me express myself in a poem:
to America. . . .
to America. . . .
[I cannot figure out how to end this poem, as I have begun to doubt the poem itself.]
Let us reconsider many of our national slogans. For example, “America: we’re number 1” could be replaced with “America: perhaps we’re number 37?” And let us change the motto on our dollar bills to “In doubt we trust.”
Since taking office in 2001, George W. Bush has been praying to God for guidance. Almost all this administration’s policies have been dictated by the Almighty. And we have discovered this: that God has awful politics. He is to the right of Richard Nixon! All his policies have a primal and archaic brutality.
That’s why a growing number of concerned citizens are saying: “Impeach God! Vote for Sparrow!”
Our nation, unfortunately, is now ruled by tyrants and belligerent liars. It is time for us (or, at least, for me) to announce, in the spirit of Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty, or give me a good slap on the backside!”
(I wish I had Henry’s eagerness to give his life for the cause of liberty, but I do not. I am, however, willing to risk a sound spanking.)
Yesterday I noticed that the New York Times never mentioned that the Republicans were campaigning. The thought struck me: Perhaps there is no Republican primary! Perhaps I am campaigning for an election that does not exist! What a wholesale embarrassment that would be!
Then I read in today’s Times that John McCain is campaigning for Bush in New Hampshire. Apparently there is a primary — just a very quiet one. This fits my campaign, which is extremely hushed.
When I become president, I will immediately issue a decree abolishing capitalism. (Admittedly this decree will not be law, but it will carry the moral weight of the presidency.) And what will I replace capitalism with? I’m glad you asked. I will replace capitalism with the opposite of capitalism: leisureism. Under capitalism, people are paid for working. Under leisureism, idleness is rewarded: people receive paychecks for whittling, sitting on porches, and gossiping.
Don’t worry: the work of the world will still be done. People just won’t be paid for it — the way, under capitalism, we are not paid to read novels.
But we will be richer than ever, because we’ll be getting lots of money for talking on the telephone!
In bringing up President George W. Bush’s past addictions, I fear we contenders are catering to Puritan morals. I am the only presidential candidate to proudly say, “George, God bless you for snorting cocaine! I’m glad you spent three years drunk off your ass! What I dislike about you is that you’re an autocrat who will dangerously extend the American empire into oil-producing regions and put everyone under surveillance — all with my Social Security money. That’s my only quarrel with you!”
I am willing to debate George W. Bush in the Republican primary. In fact, I’m more than willing — I am insistent on a debate! If Bush will not debate me, I will refuse to take out the garbage for two weeks! I won’t eat my carrots!
Not only that, but I promise to debate him on more than just politics. I will debate him on hair grooming, Palatine history, and the photovoltaic resonance of mercury atoms.
Come on, W., let us go mouth to mouth and grapple with one another’s syntax!
I am running for president, but I demand: Do not vote for me!
Some observers find this strange.
Consider this, however: Many people go running every morning to improve their leg muscles and respiration. Similarly, I am running for president to strengthen my political muscles and inspiration.
If we do not exercise our rights, they grow flaccid. Our body politic is now covered with cellulite. Let us establish a series of political health clubs and struggle-spas, where we can work our ideological muscles!
My fellow listeners (for, unlike some speakers, I listen to myself while I speak), let me ask, “What is spoiling American politics?” And let me answer myself: “The stump speech.”
Candidates travel from town to town delivering the same speech over and over, four times a day. We demand that John Kerry discuss his heroic battles in Vietnam at every public appearance the same way we insist Celine Dion perform her well-known hits at every concert. Political advisors invariably tell candidates to “stay on message.” Oy! If Charlie Parker had stayed “on message,” bebop would never have been born!
I am the only candidate to go defiantly way off message. No other candidate will say (as I am about to):
“Let hot dogs consume themselves!”
In fact, I will say it again:
I am also the only presidential seeker who will shout to George W. Bush: “Hey, Anglo Muttonpuff! Vacate the White House right now and let me sleep in the Oval Bed, beneath the mirrored ceiling (a gift from Cyprus)!”
Other candidates claim to speak the truth. I go beyond the truth, to speak the unknown.
As you know, I am running for the Republican nomination for president of these Nearly United States. “Why Republican?” you ask. Because I am a conservative, and I wish to spread my conservative views throughout the American geography.
“In what way are you a conservative?” you persist. Let me explain.
For one thing, as you may notice, I wear clothes. I don’t wear twenty toasters chained to my body. That would be radical. But I am a conservative.
Another point is that I speak in words. I don’t produce loud, keening moans. That would be radical. But I am a conservative.
Also, I eat food nearly every day. I don’t eat aluminum foil, hand cream, or buckets of ice. That would be avant-garde. But I am a true conservative.
I am so conservative that sometimes I fear I am too conservative! (I suspect most of us Republicans have this secret anxiety.)
Anyway, as a true conservative, I can speak against our current tycoonocracy (government by tycoons). These Cheney- and Bush-dynasty heirs run the government as if it were their personal corporate headquarters. Currently they are engaged in a hostile takeover of the nation of Iraq. But guess what: when you take over a corporation, the vice-presidents of the captured company don’t strap on Kalashnikovs and fight you in the hallways shouting, “Allah is great!” These tycoonocrats are slowly learning, to their chagrin, that a nation is not a corporation! In the meantime they are bringing down our American republic.
Enough stupid tycoons! Cheney-Ashcroft-Rumsfeld-Bush must leave the White House, and Sparrow must enter!
© Arthur Sawyers
A poll result published in last Thursday’s New York Times [June 17, 2004] revealed that the percentage of Iraqis who “view American-led forces as liberators” is 2.
This is the same percentage of Americans who don’t own televisions.
I can’t explain everything right now, but believe me: THIS IS NO COINCIDENCE!
The American empire has been a failure. (As evidence, consider this: talk-radio hosts now publicly defend the torture of Iraqi detainees — “if it saves American lives.”) I must therefore make an extreme proposal. Not only do I call for the immediate dismantling of all U.S. military bases in foreign countries; I also demand that the people of the United States petition England to accept us back as a colony.
This unique request for temporary recolonization (for a period of four to six years) will allow us, as a nation, to resume our moral education. I am the only presidential candidate (to my knowledge) to say, “Mother England, rule us once more! Our imperial efforts have led to complete tragedy! Relegate us to colonial status now!”
Pundits have begun referring to President Bush as the “torturer-in-chief,” and some Republicans worry, Can an avowed sadist win a presidential election? To the rescue comes the real Republican candidate . . . Sparrow!
If elected, I promise to torture only one person: me. With my numerous “spiritual” austerities — such as avoiding meat, onions, garlic, mushrooms, eggs, white sugar, food additives, and preservatives (not to mention my weekly twenty-four-hour fast, daily chi gung regime, and total abstinence from television) — I will afflict only myself. I am a Republican with a difference!
Referring to the troubled autocrats who control the Oval Office as “neoconservatives” is extremely misleading. An elderly woman who sews quilts is “conservative.” These yahoos are about as conservative as a sex-change operation. A better term for them would be “Maoist bankers.”
In 1968 Maoist student radicals all over the United States commandeered the offices of their college administrators. They fearlessly broke in, rifled through personal files, and smoked the presidents’ cigars. Breaking laws did not disturb them, because they obeyed a higher law — that of freedom and democracy.
The only difference between those student radicals and today’s neoconservatives is that the students opposed the American war factory, whereas the neocons want to extend it; they use Maoist tactics to serve capitalism.
The biggest mistake of George W. Bush’s first term occurred on June 3, 2003, when he said to the Iraqi insurgents, “Bring it on!” If only he had told them, “Take three weeks off! Go on vacation to Hawaii!” perhaps history would have followed a different course. We will never know.
Dear Uplifted Followers and Other Cavaliers,
The Republican National Convention has been held, and apparently I have not received the nomination for president. (To be honest, I haven’t been reading the papers lately, but I assume someone would have sent an e-mail — or maybe a messenger with buglers? — had I been chosen.) This leaves me but one choice: to found the Real-Publican Party! (“Publican” is a chiefly British term for a saloon keeper.) The Real-Publican Party will unify all tavern owners, barmaids, drunks, poets, and jazz pianists.
Note: Do not vote for me! Vote for that wine-sipping gentleman, Mr. John Kerry. I am a contemporary mystic researcher, not an electable being.
When I am
I will gather
For three days
we will camp,
and no one
will begin to
and we will
a River of
with that great
A last-minute message from the Real-Publican candidate, Sparrow:
I implore all my followers, worshipers, and lukewarm supporters to vote for John Kerry. Here’s how: Enter the voting booth and picture my exact human body in your mind. Then imagine me transforming into John Kerry. Vote for me in the form of John Kerry.
You must do this for our future children, future grandmothers, and future cars.
Dear Comrades, Anticomrades, Ambivalent Supporters, and Friends,
Fortunately, I must concede defeat. The American people have vociferously announced that they do not wish me to helm their nation-state, with its numerous possessions, territories, and family vacation spots. Of the approximately 112,034,000 votes cast, zero were for me.
This is the result we have all been praying for.
Though America will plunge deeper into no-brainer fascism, at least I will not have to move into the White House and study grain-harvest reports daily.
I must thank my family for sticking with me during those perilous days when it appeared that I might win. Mostly, I thank you, my readers, who hung on my every word, and in many cases immediately denounced it.
Together let us continue to fight the police state, which we will eventually replace with the masseuse state.
In the 2004 presidential election, just under 60 percent of eligible voters turned out. What about the other 40 percent? Who are these nonvoters? Extensive surveys show that this group includes:
People who like Bush, but not enough to vote for him.
People who like Kerry, but not enough to vote for him.
People who believe voting is bad luck.
People who oppose democracy for religious reasons.
People who hate to miss any TV show.
Fishermen lost at sea.
Scientists working twenty-four hours a day to cure AIDS.
Pimps and others too cool to vote.
People who were still traumatized from Halloween.
The extremely absent-minded.
People who decided to have “one little drink” on the way to the polls and ended up getting completely loaded.
People who feel voting is “not athletic enough.”
People whose trust funds stipulate that they not vote.
People who refuse to engage in any organized activity on a Tuesday.
People who believe voting “steals your soul.”
People who can’t decide what to wear to the polls.
People who are waiting for drive-through voting.
People who feel worthless if their candidate loses.
People who feel guilty if their candidate wins.
People who don’t realize the Socialist Workers Party is on the ballot.
People who sleep from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. every day.
Astrologers who find the first Tuesday in November inauspicious.
People who find voting too “European.”
People who feel voting violates chaos theory.
People who believe voting sets a bad example for their children.
Youths who believe one must be thirty-five to vote.
Psychics who already know who will win.
People who are too fat to vote.
According to the Kingston Freeman, the “unofficial” voting totals in my town, Shandaken, were: George W. Bush 712, John Kerry 970. This says a great deal — almost everything — about Shandaken.
Today I wrote this poem in French, then translated it:
Fallujah est désert.
Pas de magasins.
Pas de cris.
La paix est descendue sur Fallujah.
Fallujah is empty.
Peace has descended on Fallujah.
The last line of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a question: “Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave / o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
But the question is never answered.
Sparrow’s Presidential Campaigns
1992 — “My Campaign Diary” [September 1992]
1996 — “Why Didn’t You Vote for Me? A Diary of My Presidential Campaign” [May 1997]
2008 — “Buy One, Get One Free: A Journal of My Presidential Campaign” [December 2008]
2012 — “Please Don’t Vote for Me” [November 2012]
2016 — “Embarrassed to Be an American: A Diary of My Presidential Campaign” [October 2016]
2020 — “Future Generations Will Thank Me: My Campaign (Sort of) for President” [August 2020]
I was amused by Sparrow’s chronicle of his run for the presidency [“Why I Am Not President,” January 2006] — amused, that is, until I came to his poem “River of Tears,” in which he envisions “120,000 Americans on Prozac” going off their medication and weeping collectively. There was a time I might have cried over the poignancy of the poem, but it’s much easier for me not to now that I have joined the ranks of those on antidepressants.
Depression is a dangerous disorder that separates one from the light of the world. Many people get lost in that darkness. Since I’ve gone on antidepressants, my life has been more serene, my relationships better, my temper more controllable, and my outlook more optimistic. I often fear what would happen if my medication became unavailable.
But, as Sparrow’s poem reminded me, in taking antidepressants there is something lost as well, for I know that the tragedies in this world should not go unmourned.
I would volunteer to be one of President Sparrow’s 120,000.