Poet and soapbox orator Sparrow has run for president of the United States five times: in 1992 with the Pajama Party; in 1996 as the only revolutionary communist within the Republican Party; in 2000 on the Ear of Corn Party ticket; in 2004 as a Republican again (when he lost the nomination that year, he founded the Real-Publican Party); and in 2008 as the candidate of the Sudoku for All Party. “Buy One, Get One Free” is excerpted from his most recent campaign journal. A small portion first appeared in Chronogram. For more on his campaign, visit sparrowforprez.com.
Today, May 25, 2007, a friend sent me an article from the Guardian Unlimited titled “Bush waves off bird’s dirty bomb.” It described how a bird had relieved itself on the president’s sleeve during an outdoor press conference. “The bird is yet to be formally identified,” the reporter writes. “Some say it was a pigeon, others, a sparrow. Perhaps it was a lesser spotted sparrow-pigeon.”
Here was the opening I’d been searching for! I fired off an e-mail to my closest associates:
Gentlemen and gentlerwomen,
I have been awaiting a sign, and now it has appeared! A heroic bird has loosed its bowels on George Bush! Like Mr. Bush, I look to the heavens for guidance. If that flying being — quite possibly a sparrow — can shit on our Chief Executive, so can I. The time is right to announce my candidacy for president of the United States!
In 1969 Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York City on a platform advocating that the five boroughs become the fifty-first state. He was nearly correct. In fact New York should be not a state but a country in combination with the other major cities of the world: Tokyo, Mexico City, Moscow, Cairo, London, Paris, and so on. The great metropolises resemble one another more than they do their host nations. They are increasingly educated, technological, multiethnic “city cultures” where religion is unimportant but yoga essential. This new nation will be called “Pancivitas” (meaning “all cities”).
One of my formative experiences occurred in 1969, when I was fifteen. A young woman shyly handed me a flyer on St. Mark’s Place. A psychedelic design on the pink sheet of mimeograph paper contained this text: “We Demand a Guaranteed 24-Hour Orgasm!” At the bottom was the notation “N.Y. Yippies.” I saved that flyer for years.
Perhaps all my presidential electioneering is a tribute to that peasant-shirted provocateur.
Who is the weakest superhero? I’m out of touch with the current crop of comic books, but of all the heroes I remember, the most feckless was Bouncing Boy, a member of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes. Bouncing Boy had one power: he could become roughly spherical and bounce around like a ball. Often he would ricochet around helplessly.
Why am I pondering the least-powerful superhero? Because America is no longer the Superman of the world. We are closer to the Bouncing Boy.
I am the first pro-Sudoku candidate for president in American history. Sudoku, as you may know, is a Japanese number puzzle found in most newspapers (except the New York Times). It consists of a square of eighty-one boxes in which the player must inscribe numbers so that each row contains 1 through 9.
Among the many candidates, only I am appealing to that vast section of the American public, the Sudoku-obsessed! Not only that, but I will harness the mind power of my fellow Sudokuizers to solve the difficult riddles of our time. Scientists have shown that for about two minutes after having completed a Sudoku puzzle, one has an expanded mental capacity. I will ask everyone in the post-Sudoku state to think deeply on the problems of global warming, breast cancer, the economy, and so on. As the nominee of the Sudoku for All Party, I will harness the Sudoku-mind-power burst to serve our nation!
We must stop thinking of imperialism as strength. France and England conquered Africa; therefore we see them as “stronger” than Africa. But suppose you have two daughters: One is a farmer who works diligently on the land, growing food for her family. The other moves to a foreign nation, where she kidnaps three people at gunpoint and forces them to work as slaves. Which daughter would you consider “strong”? Which would you consider mentally unbalanced?
Because of my love for Sudoku puzzles, I pick up all the free daily newspapers offered in New York City. Today’s issue of Metro contains a troubling essay on the lack of Secret Service agents. Don’t worry, I have the solution: let the presidential candidates campaign in pairs; but they must stick very close together, so that one agent may guard both of them.
Personally, I am prepared to travel with Mitt Romney — and even share my deodorant with him.
Forty-six percent of the American people now support the impeachment of George W. Bush. Imagine if he were to decapitate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and carry her head through the streets of Washington on a pike. I’ll bet support for impeachment would rise to 48 percent!
I’m the sort of guy who will read USA Weekend (the weekend supplement of USA Today) if he finds it in the garbage. (All right, I’ll admit it’s partly for the Sudoku!) In the May 25–27 edition I found a revealing article entitled “To Me, He’s Dad.” It’s an interview with three middle-aged children of American presidents: Doro Bush Koch, Jack Carter, and Patti Davis. They all exhibit the whiny nostalgia of grown-up child stars.
One anecdote from George W. Bush’s sister Doro is especially otherworldly. In response to the question “Whom did your dad turn to, to enable himself to cope, during times that required courage?” she replied, “My mom. She’d act like there was no crisis, like everything was normal. . . . On the weekend before my father sent the planes over to Iraq, she arranged for two of his dearest friends, Spike and Betsy Hemingway, to come spend time with him at Camp David. They’d laugh and joke and play tennis. This helped him greatly during this time.”
Oh, the blithe dreaminess of this picture: the happy WASP family whose patriarch will doom two hundred thousand Iraqis to death!
Today I delivered this speech to the International Meatpacking Workers, Local 323, Council Bluffs, Iowa:
Ladies and nonladies, let me begin by explaining my salutation. I had intended to commence, “Ladies and gentlemen,” but I noticed a troubling sexist flavor to this phrase. Even though ladies is the primary word, somehow it’s less prominent than the longer gentlemen, as if one uttered ladies out of pure politeness before pronouncing the more-esteemed male noun. No, no, no! Let me keep the word ladies alive even while I address men. Therefore I say: “Ladies and nonladies.”
Other candidates offer hope; I offer hopelessness. To begin with, I alone among the candidates admit that we, the U.S.A., have become an empire. We cannot have military bases in 130 nations and not be an empire. Ask yourself, “Does Costa Rica have military bases in 130 nations? Does Denmark?” No, they do not. Why? Because they’re just minding their own business, being Costa Rica and Denmark. But we are an empire. And our empire is doomed. The peasantry who labor for pennies to supply us with cheap oil, cheaper coffee, and nearly free bananas are revolting. They refuse to accept our sneering mastery. The jig is up. All bets are off. Our little con game has ended. Each one of you should go home, saw off one-third of your house, and give it to a Mexican campesino.
Let me tell you a story. I live in the hamlet of Phoenicia, New York, in the middle of the Catskill Mountains. Phoenicia is quite dull during the winter, so a group of us formed a collective to put on shows every month. Two weeks ago, a woman from San Francisco named Owl Cat Boatrocker played the guitar and sang. At the end of one song, she began to whistle. Hearing a twenty-six-year-old woman whistle with her eyes closed was supernally lulling. The whole audience became, for a moment, four-month-old babies.
Our empire will end, as all empires do. But whistling will continue. Whistling is more eternal than a B-52 bomber.
Our greatest national problem is that so many of us take antidepressants (often just because we like the word Celexa). The American persona is cheerful enough already. When someone asks, “How you doing?” you must reply, “Fine,” or, “Great.” You’re not allowed to say: “I feel like a great big tongue that a water buffalo is peeing on.”
Americans are not happy or joyful. Rather they are “antidepressed.” We need to start taking pro-depressants. The world is depressing, and we are oblivious to this crucial knowledge.
One of the principles of homeopathic medicine is that a smaller dose is considered more effective than a larger dose. This has profound implications for U.S. foreign policy. At the moment, we have 158,000 troops in Iraq. Imagine if we had only six! According to homeopathic logic, this presence would be much more successful.
Let’s try it: Reduce troop levels to six soldiers and see what happens! Adopt a homeopathic foreign policy! Sparrow for president!
From a speech I gave at the Chazz Oil Refinery in Fruston, Illinois:
As I look down at your smiling faces, I know that some of you are terrorists. This is a simple fact of modern life. A certain percentage of our fellow citizens are avowed enemies of our government and economic system. It’s only about .2 percent of the population, but there is a large audience here today, so, statistically speaking, probably four of you are terrorists.
All I’m saying is — and at this moment I’m addressing just the terrorists — I ask for your vote. I am the only candidate (as far as I have been able to determine) who’s actively seeking the terrorist vote.
I’m not saying I am a terrorist, or even that I am pro-terrorist. All I’m asking of the terrorists is: examine my platform, and that of the Sudoku for All Party, and see if we deserve your support. I think we do!
Karl Marx wrote: “The capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with.” (Actually this is a misquote. What Marx really wrote is “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.”) Today, in the age of credit cards, we must revise his adage: “The capitalist will lend you the money to buy the rope to hang him with.”
I recently learned an unfortunate fact about professional football players: their careers average just four years in length, and their injuries may lead to brain damage later in life. Something must be done for them. When I am president, I will pass legislation requiring incremental additions to football players’ padding, until by 2019 they resemble globular sponges twenty feet in diameter.
Protect our vulnerable linebackers! Sparrow for president!
The phrase “One man, one vote” is obsolete. I propose we replace it with “One woman, one vote.” Let men sit out the next twenty-eight elections, as women did the first twenty-eight. Only then will our nation truly attain gender equality.
I am the first presidential candidate to declare: “I should not be allowed to vote!”
I predict that by April 2009, capitalism will crumble, and our world economic system will vanish. (I know I have made this prediction several times before, but those pronouncements were based on faulty data.) The subprime-mortgage crisis will nudge the shuddering carcass of capitalism over the edge of the cliff of insolvency, to be dashed to pieces on the rocks of moral urgency!
And what will replace capitalism? Possibly Hugo Chavez will rule the world with near-benevolent socialism. My suggestion, however, is cantorism, a system where one is rewarded for singing. (Cantor is Latin for “singer.”) Wouldn’t you enjoy living in a world where doo-wop groups are richer than finance swindlers?
It’s time the whole world had a single currency. I suggest we call it the “eartho.”
To engage the American populace on the issue of global warming, we must change our language. If one calls for a “Conference on the Consequences of Islamic Fundamentalism,” citizens fall asleep, but if you demand a “War on Terror,” the public’s blood begins to boil. Global warming, which threatens to destroy the human race, is a much greater danger than terrorism. To fully awaken our sisters and brothers, we must declare a “War on Warmth.”
Many confused citizens ask me, “Should I vote for you, Sparrow?” Here, for the first time, is a definitive guide for my followers:
Certainly, if you are a registered Republican, you may vote for me in the Republican primary.
If you are a Democrat, I suppose you may choose me in the Democratic primary, if you absolutely despise Dennis Kucinich and every other candidate.
If you’re interviewed by a pollster, you should say: “I support Sparrow. He’s the only candidate who will prohibit men from voting until 2124!”
In the actual November 2008 election, do not vote for me under any circumstances. Vote for the Democrat. I do not wish to spend eternity in hell crouched next to Ralph Nader.
I hope this clarifies my position.
A recent poll of people in thirty-seven foreign nations showed that the majority believe the U.S. to be the greatest enemy to world peace. And they’re right! We’re also the greatest contributor to global broiling. (The term “global warming” now strikes me as too gentle.)
The simplest solution? Break the U.S. up into fifty separate nations. How many countries would view Nebraska as a great danger? We could relearn the pleasures of local culture. Max Yobim could be declared “the greatest cellist in all of Kansas,” for example.
Smash the U.S. into fifty parts, and make Sparrow the leader of Utah!
Republican candidate Mike Huckabee is surging in the polls. He’s a bass-guitar-playing Baptist minister who disbelieves in every scientific finding since 1662. (He’s not only against Darwin’s theory of evolution; he’s against Boyle’s law of gases!) People love Huckabee because he’s Southern, folksy, semi-humorous, and deeply religious. But I’m a bigger friggin’ God-believer than any Republican bassist! I simply haven’t exploited my spiritual beliefs in my previous four campaigns — because that’s one of my spiritual beliefs. Nonetheless, to beat Huckabee, I’ll change my tactics.
I challenge the ex-governor to a pray-off. Both of us will sit in a quiet, darkened room and pray. Whoever’s prayer is answered first becomes president. Come on, Mike. Put your money where your website is. Let’s see whose “personal relationship with Christ” is greater!
Populism is a recurrent force in American politics. It represents a struggle of the “ordinary working people” against the vested interests: big government, big business, the unions. But populism has its drawbacks, such as a tendency toward xenophobia, racism, and fundamentalist Christianity.
I represent an emerging trend in American politics: unpopulism. The stands I take — against men’s right to vote, in favor of splitting the U.S.A. into fifty sovereign nations — are unpopular. Why? Because they are visionary, unique, and (let’s face it) slightly nuts.
Defeat populism with unpopulism! Allow Sparrow to take the helm of our bleary, disoriented nation!
The people have spoken in the Iowa caucuses. Mitt Romney garnered a dismal 12 percent and is fading like fourteen-year-old drapes. Hillary Clinton suffered an embarrassing third-place finish. Why? Her campaign emphasized the importance of experience. But Americans have experienced experience. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove have had years of experience turning our nation into a shopaholic version of Stalinist Russia. Iowans want inexperience.
America, if you are searching for inexperience, search no further. I have barely held a job, let alone governed states and nations. Trust the man with the most inexperience! Sparrow for president!
I have a new offer to the American public: buy one, get one free! Elect your true, actual president, and I will be a second president free of charge. Don’t worry, I’ll still live in my house in the mountains of upper New York State, and my edicts, decrees, proclamations, and writs will not have the weight of law. Also I will work for nothing. (I have a lot of free time.)
What do you say? Only one president is free: Sparrow! You have nothing to lose!
I have thought deeply on the thorny issue of immigration, and there is only one fair solution: each time someone immigrates to America, one of us must emigrate from America. A lottery will determine who leaves. For example, if a new immigrant arrives from Cambodia, a large wheel will be spun in Washington, D.C., and someone — perhaps Erica Cosgrove of Cape Charles, Virginia — will be deported from our nation. Erica will be able to move anywhere in the world she chooses. She may come to enjoy the colorful climate of Queensland, Australia, with its views of the expansive Coral Sea. Erica may awake every day, listen to the cordora birds, and think, Thank God for Sparrow’s radical immigration policy.
Many critics ask me: “How do you finance your campaign? Do you accept donations from special-interest groups?” Unfortunately no one has ever offered me anything — not even a jar of mayonnaise — so I have no idea how corrupt I am. Probably I am slightly more corrupt than some people and somewhat less corrupt than others. That’s why I have the slogan: Choose a candidate who is completely uncertain about his level of corruption! Sparrow for president!
There’s been a lot of discussion in this election about saving the middle class. Let me confide in you, my electorate, that I have always found the middle class slightly annoying. I am running to protect the hobos, stevedores (I’m not sure exactly what a stevedore is, but I love the word), opera singers, prostitutes, people who dress up as rabbits, and experts on Chaucer. The middle class, with their comfortable couches and macaroni casseroles, can probably take care of themselves.
America is dangling from an icy precipice of steep verticality. She must take a leap of faith across the yawning abyss of multiple despairs and land on the fern-filled plateau that is me, Sparrow.
I know this is a complex metaphor. You may ask, “Sparrow, if we are dangling from an icy precipice — that is, hanging by our fingers from a shelf of ice — how can we take a leap of faith?” That’s a good question. My guess is that you must push off with your legs and hurtle backward across the yawning abyss of multiple despairs, then at some point flip over, face forward, extend your arms, and glide onto the fern-filled plateau that is me. It won’t be easy, but nothing in the realm of politics ever is.
Here’s one thing I’ll say for George W. Bush: he kept his word. President Bush promised not to “tax and spend,” and he didn’t. He only spent. In fact, spent is hardly the word for it — he actually threw money out the windows of the Treasury Department and into the waiting hands of greedy military-gadget hustlers and corporate ass-smoochers.
Why? Because Republicans nowadays believe that Jesus will return and bail out our government. But I have news for them: Jesus is penniless! He worked for about three years as a carpenter back around 30 A.D., when wages were pitiful. Plus he didn’t save anything. And since then, he’s been in heaven at the right hand of God. Do Republicans believe that there’s some celestial mint where currency is printed? They’d better think again. Heaven is pure communism.
The Second Coming of Christ will actually place further financial burdens on our nation. As we read in the Revelation of Saint John the Divine 20:13: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
Did you follow that? Billions of people will be returning from the dead! They will be hungry, disoriented, probably in need of therapy, and the U.S. government will be bankrupt. What then?
In the midst of the highly contested Ohio primary, Hillary Clinton has dredged up a photo of Barack Obama in African tribal attire, which he wore while visiting Wajir, his father’s village in Kenya, in 2006.
I hope no photos emerge of me dressed as a pepperoni for Halloween 1973!
We are close to the fifth year of the disastrous American occupation of Iraq. Nearly four thousand U.S. soldiers have died, and an uncounted number of Iraqi citizens. Why is there so little public outrage in the United States over this ruthless, heart-stabbing war? I can see but one reason: only human beings are dying. Unfortunately we must demand that cats be sent to Iraq. If each U.S. Army soldier carried a defenseless kitten on his or her shoulder, or attached to a belt in a small cage, millions of Americans would be marching in the streets with signs saying, “No Kitten Blood for Oil.”
That’s why I insist: Ship pussycats to the Middle East! Show America that war is real! Sparrow for president!
Our economy is in deep crisis. Our only hope is a government- sponsored program similar to the New Deal projects. But in today’s ecologically wakeful world, we can’t build dams and highways. That’s why I announce my long-awaited plan: teams of government-funded flower strewers.
The art of delicately tossing flowers has been nearly lost, but how many public events would be improved by young women in pretty dresses — or men in drag — strewing roses? Football games, county-board meetings, and AIDS-awareness seminars will be aswim in petals. “Here come the flower strewers!” will become a common phrase, like “Fuck you!” is now.
All our lives we have been taught to admire and mildly fear the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But have you ever wondered: Why all this constant searching, questioning, investigating? Aren’t these “detectives” missing the most essential quest of all, the one for inner knowledge? Imagine if, instead of collaring suspects, lingering in pizza parlors, and muttering into walkie-talkies, our agents simply sat in dark rooms with eyes closed, searching within? Under my administration we will change the name of this agency to the Federal Bureau of Introspection. Agents will seek out glimmers of truth inside their own souls. I predict they will prevent just as many crimes as the current FBI.
Over the last few weeks Hillary Clinton has been asking, “What if the phone rings at 3 A.M. in the White House — who will be ready to answer the call?” I realize this jibe is directed at Barack Obama, but I feel I’m also being questioned.
My phone has rung numerous times at 3 A.M. over the years, and I’ll tell you what I do when it happens: I ignore it. I’m going to be a president who sleeps through the night in order to be fresh and ready for any crises in the morning.
Look how much President Bush has accomplished without interrupting his steady eight hours per night: two unending wars, dismantling the Constitution, the largest budget deficit in the history of the planet. A willingness to wake at 3 A.M. is highly overrated.
The Democratic primary has devolved into a battle over who can best impersonate a working-class American. On April 13 Hillary Clinton drank a boilermaker at Bronko’s Restaurant in Crown Point, Indiana. On March 31 Barack Obama went bowling at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
But I’ve actually been in the working class! I’ve worked as a house painter, ditch digger (to be honest, I dug only one ditch), roof-truss builder, migrant farmworker, and telemarketer. I’m currently a substitute teacher and gossip columnist for the Phoenicia Times. In fact I might be below working class: I make only $9,322 a year.
The workingwoman’s and workingman’s friend is also a workingman himself! Yes, that’s right: Sparrow!
Many curious voters ask: “Sparrow, your ideas are cogent and well integrated, but what about your healthcare plan?”
Believe it or not, my healthcare plan is me. I promise to go door-to-door curing the ills of the American people, relying largely on mustard plasters, baking-soda baths, and other home remedies. Not only that, but I will be the first president to institute posture parties: genial gatherings of friends and neighbors who improve each other’s posture. Delightful games like “Balance the Pie Plate” and “Blindfolded Tiptoeing” will make standing upright fun.
Embrace mustard plasters and blindfolded tiptoeing! Sparrow for president!
The truth is, the U.S. is not losing in Iraq. We’re winning. But fighting an insurrection requires the continual death of our soldiers. The U.S. could keep “winning” in Iraq for eighty years, and Americans still wouldn’t be safe there. The British never lost the American Revolution. They simply grew tired of winning.
In battles with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the NATO forces repeatedly bomb and strafe the enemy, but the guerrillas always pop up again with their inaccurate small-arms fire. It’s like a tragic version of a Bugs Bunny cartoon: the NATO forces are thousands of Elmer Fudds, helpless before their lithe, rabbitlike enemies. The problem is simple: the NATO forces strive to win the war, whereas the Taliban are content simply to fight on. The war itself is a victory for them.
In 1973 I flunked out of Cornell University. I’d been a halfhearted biology major, and science classes had bewildered me. (I hadn’t done too well in medieval history, either.) I hitchhiked to Gainesville, Florida, where I found a job at the Acme Truss Company. I thought I’d be manufacturing corsets for women, but when I reached the site I learned a truss is a wooden structure that supports a roof. My job was to hammer metal grids called “nail plates” onto long planks of wood.
I hadn’t been working fifteen minutes when the guy next to me asked, “Excuse me, I have a question for you: Do you eat pussy?”
I admitted that I did.
The rest of my career at Acme was a series of taunts and unfunny jokes on the subject of cunnilingus. Each day at lunch, for example, someone would ask: “What are you eating today — a pussy sandwich?” Often a co-worker would approach me and ask, with apparent sincerity: “Tell me, what does it taste like?”
Later I hitchhiked a great deal in the South and discovered that this obsession was not unique to the Acme Truss Company. The two main topics of highway discourse were (1) how the Jews control the world and (2) the evils of eating pussy. Since I was a Jew who ate pussy, I learned to be circumspect in my conversation.
“What I can’t see is how someone can put their face down in between a woman’s legs,” a guy smoking a cigarette would confide in me as we cruised down Interstate 10. I would nod in complicity.
“Eating pussy” was the only term I ever heard used. I got the impression (perhaps incorrect) that in the rural South sucking a man’s penis was slightly less humiliating than licking a woman’s vagina.
My question today is: Has this debate ended? Does everyone now accept oral sex as a wholesome activity, like knitting? Or is this aspect of American life still lurking on the dark underside of our national conscience?
My suspicion is that American political life is subtly dominated by this question. Republicans don’t “go down on” women, whereas Democrats do. All the debates about tax reform, the housing crisis, the war, and so on mask this essential divide. It’s not the “blue states” and the “red states”; it’s the “pussy- eating regions” and the “pussy-fearing regions.”
Barack Obama has opened up a dialogue on race in America, but I am the only presidential candidate to demand: “Let’s talk about eating pussy!”
Most candidates for the nation’s highest office are determined to look “presidential.” But if we elect only presidential-looking presidents, how will our notion of the presidency ever change?
I avoid looking presidential. Or even vice-presidential. Or, for that matter, secretary of the treasury-al. In fact, I don’t even look American. Every time I take a cab in Manhattan (once every three years), the driver excitedly asks me: “Where are you from?” He invariably believes me to be a Punjabi shepherd from the village just west of his own.
“I was born in Manhattan,” I mutter in embarrassment.
If our nation were more emotionally mature, we’d choose the candidate who most resembles a Punjabi shepherd.
Cynics demand: “Why, Sparrow? Why run for president in every election since 1992? Your chances of winning are minuscule! You have, in sixteen years, received only one vote! Why?”
“I enjoy affirming that I will take responsibility for the whole world,” I reply.
I have been ceaselessly advocating change throughout this election, but now that both major candidates have embraced the change message (John McCain thundered to the Republican National Convention, “Change is coming!”), my only hope is to switch gears.
I’m against change! I’m for stasis, the status quo, changelessness. If you’re delighted with the world exactly as it is — every eyelash and quivering oak leaf — vote for me! If elected, I promise to alter nothing. The universe will be unaffected by my presidency.
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]
2004 — “Why I Am Not President” [January 2006]
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]