I’ve logged more experience than most with simplicity and the complexity you discover inside simplicity, minimalism and asocial behavior, endurance and landscape.
Here is the truth: I think some deep wisdom inside me (a) sensed the stress, (b) was terrified for me, and (c) gave me something new and hard to focus on in order to prevent me from lapsing into a despair coma — and also to keep me from having a jelly jar of wine in my hand.
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The poet and political provocateur Sparrow has run for U.S. president in every election since 1992. Sometimes he runs as a Republican and other times as a member of a party of his own invention — the Pajama Party, the Ear of Corn Party, the Sudoku for All Party. To his knowledge he has never received any votes, but this seems only to encourage him. He is the author of three books: Republican like Me; Yes, You Are a Revolutionary!; and America: A Prophecy. The following are excerpts from his campaign journal. A small number of them first appeared in the online journal GroundReport.
Running for President is a job (though unfortunately one without a paycheck). For me it involves finding a newspaper in the garbage every few weeks and reading it cover to cover while wondering: How would the ideal President respond to this?
During my campaign I look for subtle signs: proverbs in fortune cookies, overheard scraps of conversation, the cawings of crows. From these I build my platform.
First of all, I must beg you not to vote for me. Why? Because I disapprove of third-party candidates. Besides, I don’t even want votes. What good are votes to me? I won’t be elected!
People are often mystified by my stance. “Why are you running for President,” they ask, “if you don’t believe in third parties?”
Let me explain. Suppose you were a crack addict and spent your day desperately attempting to raise fifteen dollars for your next hit. If, one afternoon, a college student were to ask you, “Do you believe in being a crack addict?” you would probably say, “What are you, crazy? Of course I’m against being a crack addict. But I am a crack addict.” Similarly, I am compelled to run for President even though I disapprove of third-party candidates — or, rather, I disapprove of left-wing third-party candidates. Right-wing fringe candidates are great, because they help elect Democrats, and as horrible as the Democrats are, they are three thousand times better than the Republicans.
People sometimes say they want to vote for me. Well, too bad. You can support me; you can organize choruses and parades for me — that’s perfectly acceptable. But when you enter the voting booth, swallow your pride and pull the lever for Obama.
Most Americans agree that it’s inherently unfair for them to pay taxes to support government workers. Why should taxpayers have to foot the bill for expensive pensions and dental insurance for pencil pushers? Once I am President, I will begin a pilot program to run the government with all-volunteer workers. We’ll start small, with just the Department of Commerce and the Navy. Neither of these government entities seems to do much of anything, so no one will notice if they are a bit slipshod. I’m hoping there are enough young people with trust funds, panhandlers, and widows in their sixties to staff these departments.
If you visit the nation’s capital under my administration, you may notice five or six people standing outside naval headquarters asking for spare change. One of them may be a rear admiral!
Some people thought Barack Obama could never become President because his middle name — Hussein — was also the name of Iraq’s former dictator. I have an even greater hurdle to overcome: I happen to resemble Osama bin Laden.
My beard is similar to his and over time has whitened in almost the same pattern. He and I were born within four years of each other and both wore neopsychedelic polyester shirts in the early seventies, before we chose a spiritual path. I meditate twice a day and eat vegetarian. Osama prayed five times a day and ate halal. Also we’re both Semites. (I’m half Jewish, and he was an Arab.) When I was an undergraduate at Cornell University, I planned to begin wearing robes once my pants and shirts wore out. Fortunately my pants and shirts never all grew threadbare simultaneously, but I do have a thawb (a Muslim prayer gown) that I bought in Cairo in 1987, which I sometimes wear on Halloween.
Soon after September 11, 2001, a “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster of Osama appeared at a restaurant in my town, Phoenicia, New York. A teenager walking down the street pointed to the sign, then to me, and shouted, “It’s him!”
Luckily for me, in 2003 our nation invaded Iraq, turning attention away from Osama, toward the sneering Saddam.
Though I am unlikely to become President, I do have a long list of qualifications for the job: I compost. I recycle (even plastic bags). I use old envelopes as scrap paper. Instead of napkins, I use a towel. Instead of tissues, I use a handkerchief. Instead of paper towels, I use a sponge. Instead of toilet paper, I use water. I don’t have a TV, a microwave, or an air conditioner. I buy pants once a year for twenty-five cents at the Formerly Yours Thrift Shop. My wife gives me haircuts. I don’t drive; I take public transportation or hitchhike.
My carbon footprint is the size of a wild hyena’s. For that reason alone, I should be Commander in Chief.
According to my neighbor Ted, in 2012 the planets will all align, which will cause the earth’s magnetic poles to shift, leading to numerous earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and other disasters. “Nobody knows what will happen!” Ted says.
All the more reason I should be Prez.
Canada is a humble, kindhearted nation. It’s impossible to imagine a Canadian version of Mount Rushmore. Have you ever been to Toronto? It’s a city of 2.6 million and the largest metropolis in the country, yet no one there has the self-importance you see in New York, Boston, or San Francisco. They’re not competing to see who can be the best Torontonian. Even the word Torontonian is patently absurd.
Toronto is one of those cities, like Copenhagen, that doesn’t care to be noticed. The only time the world pays attention to Toronto is during its film festival, which has become a huge media event largely because Canadians can’t stop themselves from being unerringly polite.
When I am elected, I will be the first American President to move to Canada. In fact, I will move the White House to rural Saskatchewan (outside the town of Theodore). There I will have an objective view of our gruesomely tormented nation.
I have run for President five times. Each time, I have begged the American people not to vote for me. Each time, they have cooperated. In this sense I am the most successful candidate in history.
My wife and I are currently housesitting for her brother. We’re inhabiting his three-bathroom house while he, his wife, and their four children attend a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At the moment we have five television sets, two refrigerators, a jacuzzi, a swimming pool, and a pool table. (The refrigerators, of course, are bulging with food.) For six days my wife and I possess the American Dream.
And how is it? I feel sluggish and bilious from eating too much. My back hurts from sleeping on a huge, soft bed. I am lonely. We can’t get the DVD player to work, despite my brother-in-law’s instructions via cellphone.
I am desperate to return to noble poverty.
Here’s my new bumper sticker: UNEMPLOYED AND PROUD.
Under capitalism we’re taught to blame ourselves for our own unemployment. The victim of a layoff begins to feel “unemployable” after eight months. Nonsense! Unemployment is built into the American system of economics. From 5 to 9 percent of the people must be unemployed at all times for the massive machinery of our economy to hum.
When I visited the Soviet Union in 1990, every restaurant had at least six waiters, all standing in the rear, gossiping. When you walked in the front door, they’d glare at you and continue talking. Eventually one of them would resentfully grab a few menus and thrust them toward your face. There was roughly one waiter for each patron. That’s full employment.
In a Walmart there’s one employee for every three hundred shoppers.
The unemployed must gather together and fight for respect. They are the sacrificial lambs of the capitalist temple.
From reading thousands of comic books, I have learned that villains must be stronger than heroes — otherwise the plot has no suspense. Real life is the same way. The bad guys are much mightier than the heroes. My campaign for President is a perfect example. I am a single, penniless underdog up against the massive power of the military-pharmaceutical-heterosexist-McDonald’s complex. It seems impossible that I might prevail. Yet Spider-Man routinely beats Dr. Octopus.
Do you ever sleep standing up? I never have. But then, I’ve never been in a crisis situation like a war, or the final rounds of American Idol.
Once I’m President, however, I will probably find myself sleeping on my feet.
The danger of being President is that you can actually start a war in your sleep. You might hear a voice, as if from a great distance, saying, “Mr. President, shall we begin the bombing of Latvia?” and you’ll mutter, “OK.” I suspect that President Obama was asleep when he started the war on Libya.
This is why the Constitution clearly gives only Congress the power to declare war: the chance of 535 people all falling asleep at once is minuscule.
In American politics we no longer use the term “extremist,” but I would like to bring it back, because I am one. I believe in the extremes of human hope, generosity, and intuition. I believe our whole nation needs a massage: one of those deep-tissue massages that are excruciatingly painful but that “release blockages.”
The Republicans have made a tactical error by constantly using the term “Obamacare,” because it sends the subconscious message that “Obama cares.”
My father says the rioters in London have the right idea: “At least they’re doing something!” I want to promote rioting in the U.S., but violence troubles me. For that reason I have invented nonviolent rioting, in which an unruly mob wanders through the city singing Brazilian folk songs and lighting incense.
Do only assholes succeed, or does success turn you into an asshole? This is the great unanswered question of capitalism.
In January even Americans forget to shop. After the orgy of gift giving in December — to celebrate the birth of a homeless beggar — they are sick of shopping malls. They sit in their living rooms, staring at the television as if trying to decipher a foreign manuscript. They ponder their massive debt. Occasionally they eat a piece of pie.
Then, just before Valentine’s Day, the urge to shop returns.
When I am President, I will attempt to extend the January shopping hiatus at least through April. Patiently I will teach Americans the art of nonbuying.
Jobs have become the central question of this campaign. Certainly Americans believe they should be working (though most of them would benefit spiritually from lazing around). But I am the only candidate to ask: What is the best type of job?
The answer is obvious: being a consultant. Anyone you meet at a party who modestly admits, “I’ve been doing a little consulting lately,” always beams with happiness. A consultant is a person renowned for her wisdom — and who wouldn’t enjoy a reputation for sagacity? When I am President, I promise to make America a nation of consultants.
Our new economic morass needs a better name than recession. It is, apparently, a long-lasting restructuring in which everyone gets poorer (except for a sprinkling of Warren Buffetts). So far the best word I can think of is deepression.
My wife has been reading the Psalms. I opened the Bible to her bookmark and discovered Psalm 120, which ends, “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. / I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”
How perfectly the psalmist has expressed the frustration of being surrounded by militarist jerk-offs. Centuries later I am for peace, but “they” are for war. Why do they like war so much? What’s the matter with them? Haven’t they tried collecting stamps or attending minor-league baseball games?
Back in the distant, optimistic days of 1998, most educated people believed that the new “information superhighway” would usher in an age of enlightenment and wisdom. If everyone had a personal computer and could instantly learn the “facts” about any social problem, we could finally institute a true democracy. Citizens could vote from home and run the nation with the push of a button. We could abolish the archaic House of Representatives, and possibly the Presidency!
Today it’s clear that the more information everyone has, the stupider they get. Now that we can, in .23 seconds, learn the population of Savoonga, Alaska (671), more and more of us believe that evolution is a lie, that the Federal Reserve is controlled by China, that Jesus will soon return, that Obama is a Nazi Communist, and that the planet Mars has a statue of a woman. (I have seen the Martian statue myself, discovered by an alert armchair astronomer in a NASA photograph; the woman is seated, naked, with one outstretched arm.) The information superhighway is actually a dirt road, leading up a ridge into the remote hills of Tennessee.
I don’t mind watching Hollywood movies; I just resent paying for them. I would happily see the latest blockbuster if I were given a small amount of money — as little as thirty-five cents. Instead I’m expected to shell out $12.50 for the privilege of being mistaken for a vicious child.
The last movie I saw was Tree of Life. My decision was influenced by the incessant hype in New York, a magazine I adore. Tree of Life was visually engrossing, with truly spiritual aspirations — but, like every Hollywood movie, it had zero politics. Zero! It’s a miracle, really, that a director can create two hours of human conflict that is not liberal, conservative, Marxist, Christian Democrat — nothing. (Actually Tree of Life did take a firm stand against the spraying of DDT in suburban neighborhoods.)
And even Tree of Life promulgates the myth that anyone who works hard can get ahead. Every Hollywood movie must do so since the Red Scare of the 1950s; it’s in the standard screenwriter’s contract.
Movies have now degenerated to the point where everyone agrees that television is better. People go to the movies to escape the intellectuality of Mad Men! But, I must say, Hollywood movies are still delightful on airplanes, where they’re free, and preferable to endlessly contemplating the inevitability of death.
Left-wing radicals are delighted that the American Empire is collapsing. Mainstream liberals are oblivious, because they never believed we had an empire. The right wing is literally going insane.
Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the luckless Vice President of Lyndon Johnson, lost the 1968 Presidential election to the venomous Richard Nixon. A pudgy, amiable, slightly ridiculous person, Humphrey responded to the hippie movement by articulating the “politics of joy.” No one was convinced by this slogan then, but I am reviving it now. Perhaps I will be a more successful emissary of this near-mystical concept.
One reason there’s so little dissent in America is that we have fake socialism, by which I mean Walmart and dollar stores. The poor can buy provisions wonderfully cheap at these places — not because they are produced cooperatively, but thanks to slave labor in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Last Friday night I visited Occupy Wall Street’s encampment in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan for the first time. As soon as I arrived, I met three SUNY graduate students: Leo, Danilo, and Dan. “You look like Sparrow,” Leo said. I was shocked. No one ever recognizes me. I’m more obscure than the bass player for the Butthole Surfers.
During our conversation I asked Leo what he was reading. He said Crime and Punishment. “That’s funny,” I said. “I’ve just been obsessing on Crime and Punishment!” At that moment a woman walked by with a sign saying (about the Wall Street moguls): Crime But No Punishment.
Strange miracles constantly happen in Liberty Square (as it is known to sympathizers). The place has the air of a yoga retreat: a hopeful, asexual giddiness.
Within fifteen minutes a guy handed me a slice of pizza.
“Is this vegetarian?” I asked.
“It’s vegan!” he replied.
I sat by the shrine of the kundalini yogis and ate it. Whole wheat with peppers — quite tasty. Soon afterward I was on the food line receiving salad, couscous, macaroni and cheese, and broccoli. I returned to my shrine seat and ate while a female newscaster from Georgia (the country) filmed a report. A cop watched, smiling. I’ve been observing New York City cops since 1958, and it’s always a good sign when they’re happy. I suspect the cops support us. If ordered to, they’ll arrest us, expel us from the park, even brutalize us — but deep down they agree that Wall Street sucks.
As I finished my meal, two middle-aged women from New Jersey walked by. “Can I take your picture?” one timidly asked. They were Occupy Wall Street tourists.
“Sure!” I replied. “May I unroll my sign?”
She agreed, and the second tourist and I stood together behind my slogan — ARREST THE ALPHA MALES — while the first woman took our picture. They were delighted. It was like posing at Yellowstone National Park next to a bear!
The Right claims that Occupy Wall Street is secretly dominated by anarchists, but the real inner cabal is composed of smart academics. This movement has learned from all the failed activism of the last forty years. In the 1960s young hippies attempted to overthrow the established order, but their values were completely opposed to those of the working class. Now the young hippies have signs that say, We Are the 99%. (Besides, the working class is no longer scared of long hair.) The Occupiers also refuse to be pushed to the left. They don’t attack capitalism or even the war in Afghanistan. They just say over and over, “Why did they bail out the banks but not us?”
I’d brought a collection of my poems with me, and after I’d finished my dinner, a man announced, “The poetry reading starts at 9:30.” Another miracle!
The reading featured rappers, neoconceptual art poets, funny Jews, and a Puerto Rican mother from the Bronx. In keeping with Occupy custom, the crowd acted as “human microphones,” repeating everything that was said for the benefit of those in back who couldn’t hear. Poetry, I discovered, is improved by a group of people chanting the words after the poet has spoken them.
Eileen Myles read a brilliant poem playing on the absurdity of the audience echoing the poet. “I’m the poet!” she shouted.
“I’m the poet!” we all repeated.
“No, I’m the poet!” she insisted.
“No, I’m the poet!” we all agreed.
It felt like the first poetry reading of the New Conscious World.
O, capitalists, I wish you no harm.
I pray for happiness in your families
and for yourselves. In fact, I bring you love —
in the form of taxation.
You are sitting on billions and trillions:
billions of people, trillions of dollars.
You will pay for your theft in a future life.
So we will trim a small portion of your
fortune now; you will not miss the money.
It will be like getting a haircut.
With your excess funds, we will improve
the health of schools, the schools of health,
the roads to bridges, the bridges to roads.
Three lifetimes from now you will thank us.
Ke$ha is an R & B singer who spells her name with a dollar sign. Maybe I should do that for my campaign: $parrow.
But much more fitting would be: Sparr¢w.
During boom times I question my political beliefs. When everyone with any ambition or talent is getting rich, I think, Capitalism is a blessing. I should just admit it. Then, when the bust comes — and each bust is worse than the last — I realize that I have been right all along: the “free market” is evil.
It’s just like being bipolar. During a mania you shout, “I am a genius! I can see infinity!” Then the depression hits, and you whimper, “I am a worthless shit! Please, just shoot me!”
We Americans accept economic manic-depression as if it were God’s will.
It’s not that politicians are liars but rather that they use lying, the way an artist employs the color yellow.
I was born in 1953 and attended my first peace demonstration in 1967. As a young teenager I watched the rise of the New Left — and its decline. Though many of us wanted a revolution, the uprising never came. All the movements were either too organized and dogmatic (the Maoists, the Marxist-Leninists, the Stalinists) or too disorganized (the hippies). Sexism was another problem. All the groups were led by cocky, egotistic men, but women did much of the work: mimeographing, washing dishes, making phone calls. Eventually a number of women left and began their own movement, which was ultimately much more successful.
The revolution in Liberty Square feels disciplined but joyous. Forty years after the sixties, drugs have lost much of their charm, and so has communism. There is no word for the new system being invented at this encampment — and at all the others around the world. I am tempted to call it “cooperationism.” It’s not a paradise — there are numerous difficulties — but Liberty Square survives due to the instinct to help others. Communism divides up all the goods of a society and redistributes them (at least, in theory). Cooperationism is voluntary and spontaneous.
One day, on my way to Liberty Square, my belt broke. It was an old belt and had been weakening for a while. At the encampment I went looking for a new one and was directed to “Sanitation,” where a long-haired man produced a length of twine and a woman had the scissors to cut it.
In much of America a twine belt is a stigma, but not in Liberty Square.
At 1 AM yesterday police destroyed Liberty Square. They arrested the citizens who refused to move. They tore down tents. They threw five thousand books in the garbage.
But you can’t destroy a revolution. A little after noon I discovered a “live feed” online. An Occupy protester named Tim Pool was circling the park with his camera. Within the barricades stood uniformed police. One of Tim’s friends said, “It’s a cop-upation!” A second person shouted at the impassive cops, “Get a job, hippies!”
(Have you noticed that young people can have long hair, play in rock bands, sell pot, and live without working, but only when they join Occupy Wall Street does the media call them “hippies”?)
Early in the morning a sympathetic New York Supreme Court judge had issued a court order demanding that Liberty Square be reopened, but Mayor Bloomberg was appealing that decision. All day Tim continued filming, often worrying about his camera’s battery. Meanwhile hundreds of people were communicating with him through Twitter. One suggested he interview a police officer. Tim obediently approached a cop and said, “I’d just like to chitchat.”
The cop shook his head.
Tim walked up to another one. “Do you think we could chitchat?” he asked.
Tim tried two more police officers. Each time, he used the old-fashioned word chitchat. I began to love Tim.
At 11:59 PM the police allowed the Occupiers back inside the park.
In a revolution the “territory” you fight for is both symbolic and real. French revolutionaries broke into the Bastille on July 14, 1789. They liberated only seven prisoners, but that day will be remembered forever.
The European Union is learning what all married people know: You meet someone when they’re young and healthy and, in a sudden sparkling moment, ask them to marry you. You have a small but festive wedding. Two months later they get sick for the first time. Suddenly they’re not sexy anymore. All they do is lie around ordering you to bring them another cup of tea. How tedious is matrimony! you think. I could be out at a disco having fun.
This is how Germany feels about Greece, Spain, and Italy.
Our main foreign-policy problem is that we fight ordinary wars, whereas our enemies fight holy wars. In a holy war the religiously motivated nation always wins. God beats $83 million Black Hawk helicopters.
A weakness of our electoral system is that we choose Presidents based on debates. How much can one glean from argumentative words? A more profound measure of a woman or man is silence. When you watch a silent person, you sense her or his soul’s center. I challenge all the other Presidential contenders to a wordless debate.
One mistake Obama made in his stimulus package was failing to include federally funded movie ushers. When I was a child, a stout, scowling woman with a flashlight would guide you to your seat at the movies. Tens of thousands of secure jobs were lost when the theaters heedlessly jettisoned these dignified servants.
Bringing back movie ushers will be part of my program to Get America Back on Its Feet — Or at Least into a Crouching Position.
Polls show that I am trailing all the other candidates — even Rick Santorum, who most people don’t believe exists. My strategy is working perfectly!
My friend Martin Michaels and I recently organized an Occupy Wall Street gathering at the Town Green in Woodstock, New York. This is the speech I wrote for the occasion but didn’t have the courage to deliver:
Friends, nomads, countrywomen, lend me your tears! Yes, we must weep for America, where 6,600 innocent women and men are evicted from their houses every day because they can’t pay the mortgages sold to them by swindler banks. “They should have read the small print!” the smart people tell us. Well, screw the smart people! Not everyone has eyeglasses and can read the small print. Not everyone has a lawyer. That’s why our movement exists. We are one big lawyer, and we are suing for justice.
More than two hundred years ago, we fought a war against princes and kings, but the princes and kings have returned. They live in palaces and fly high above us in private aircraft. They have chauffeurs in the air, chauffeurs on the ground, and chauffeurs at sea for their yachts and pleasure craft. But we must not hate the rich. It is bad karma to hate anyone. It’s good karma, however, to hate a system that creates princes and kings, and also widespread poverty and weeping.
While staying at my parents’ house, I saw an interview with Ron Paul on The Tonight Show. Ron Paul had the cheerfulness and certainty of a five-year-old — just like I do!
During World War II the U.S. fought fascism. Since the 1950s our country has opposed socialism — in Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, et al. Fighting socialism is the opposite of fighting fascism, but no one noticed this except a few Marxist professors. Americans are not very observant.
Mitt Romney seems to be running on no platform whatsoever. He says he will bring jobs to America, but how? This is the old “secret plan to end the Vietnam War” strategy, which propelled Nixon into the White House in 1968, only retooled for the contemporary perma-recession. Americans, beware! These “secret plans” are secret for a reason. I know you won’t believe me, because I’m a sad-sack neo-anarchist from the boonies, but this time I’m right.
When I was a boy, I studied hard at school and often had the best grades in my class. I assumed that when I finally finished school and entered the “real world,” I would be prepared. When I got my first job at the age of fifteen, I was shocked. Working in the real world required the intelligence of a six-year-old! All the education they’d given me was for naught. They’d taught me The Portrait of a Lady and Newtonian physics just so I could forget it all and bag groceries at Pathmark.
I’ve been imagining what sort of debate I might have with Rick Santorum.
Santorum: If God had intended us to use contraception, we would have each been born with 2,700 condoms.
Me: If God had intended us to use contraception, She would have given us the intelligence to devise it. She did.
Americans have “deficit-attention disorder.” In other words, they pay far too much attention to the deficit. Money is an imaginary construct. Yes, we have fancy pieces of paper that we carry in our purses and wallets, but the “moneyness” of currency cannot be seen, because it is a social agreement. Americans have convinced themselves that the trillions of dollars we “owe” (to whom?) is our most severe problem.
America has the strangest empire that’s ever existed. Consider the Romans: They would take over a country by force, extract payment in gold, build straight roads, and impose a system of laws at spearpoint. Brutal, but logical. What does the U.S. do? We enter a country and build a military base, where our soldiers spend all day playing video games. The only purpose of the military base is to add to our national debt — which is useful mainly to the geniuses on Wall Street who’ve figured out how to make money by selling debt. In fact, one of this country’s largest businesses is the packaging, marketing, and reselling of debt.
What do the American people think of all this? They have no idea it’s happening. They’re too busy watching Kim Kardashian on TV. (If you don’t have a television, Kim is a pleasant, talentless woman, about as pretty as the average dental hygienist, with whom all of America is obsessed.)
Mitt Romney’s most recent gaffe was when he told out-of-work Floridians: “I’m also unemployed!” This was not a joke. Romney gets paid $21.6 million per year for doing absolutely nothing.
Newt Gingrich is making it difficult to be a joke candidate for President. He has proposed declaring the moon the fifty-first state! Why didn’t I think of that?
The Democratic Party is not really a party. It’s more of an Irish wake.
Many Republicans ridicule Obama for having once been a community organizer. They themselves are community disorganizers, spreading coded racism and religious hysteria to prevent neighborhoods from uniting.
I am the only candidate willing to face the challenges of the twenty-second century. (The twenty-first century looks a little tricky, so I’m skipping to the next one.)
Christianity and communism have had similar histories. Both began as noble causes led by zealous visionaries, then became established, vicious, and dogmatic. (Christianity merged with the Roman Empire, communism with the Russian Empire.)
Everything we feared about communism — that we would lose our houses and savings and be forced to labor eternally for meager wages with no voice in the system — has come true under capitalism.
America is no longer an economic titan, even with its army of undocumented workers and seven underclasses. Capitalism has decided it’s cheaper to manufacture everything in China and locate customer service in downtown Bangalore. Americans chose to trust the capitalists, and guess what? We got exploited! He who lives by the credit card dies by the credit card.
When I am President, I will sponsor legislation requiring every congressperson and senator to spend two years as an undocumented worker in a Latin American country. They must learn to survive in the underground economy, to evade the immigration authorities, to speak the language. Only then should they have the right to make American laws.
Americans are probably the greatest animal lovers in the history of the world — if by “animal” we mean cute pets. (Most citizens of our nation are not so thrilled about alligators and rats.) To exploit this sympathy for charming creatures, I have founded the ASPCTLA — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Two-Legged Animals. People will finally become concerned with the homeless and oppressed workers once they see them no longer as humans but as huggable two-legged animals.
In the same way that wealth is distributed unequally in our society, so is neurosis. A few people are very neurotic, while most are not neurotic enough. When I am President, I will propose legislation to redistribute neurosis, so that the most disturbed may donate tics and irrational fears to their too-normal neighbors.
I recently attended an exhibit by Greg Girard, a Canadian photographer who has spent much of his life in Asia. The exhibit highlighted his photographs of American military bases in Korea, Japan, and other Asian countries. I realized that, though our nation has military installations in more than 150 nations, we never see photographs of them in this “age of information.” I was shocked to see that actual U.S. mailboxes are on the streets of these bases, because they are technically “American soil.” The PX resembles a mini Walmart.
What is American imperialism? And is imperialism even the right word? A significant portion of our 1.4 million soldiers spend their time guarding people who don’t need protection. How do the Japanese feel about this never-ending “occupation” of their land? Are they relieved that they don’t need a military? Are American servicemen and -women an ordinary part of life there, like azalea bushes? Is the American military just a socialist scheme to put hundreds of thousands of unemployed people to work? And what exactly is their “work”? Aren’t they basically just sitting around?
These bland, lower-middle-class subdivisions are vaguely reminiscent of colonies on the moon. Seeing them, I recalled the glorious covers of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine from my youth — impossible images of undersea houses and squidlike Venusians. Our nation has become a battalion of space aliens invading other cultures. But are we good aliens or evil? Looking at these photos, I discover that I am unqualified to assess our moral status. I’m torn between guilt and nostalgia, seeing little Americas constructed outside Yokohama.
Rick Santorum has dropped out of the Presidential race. How disturbing. I thought he was on a mission from God!
I’ve come to enjoy Santorum’s genial intolerance. He harbors no ill will toward individual females, though he would happily return them all to a state of near-slavery unseen since the eleventh century. He has always struck me as a Christofascist version of Mr. Rogers. I’d hoped he would, like me, continue his quixotic campaign long after it had become futile. Besides, his blunt attacks on Romney were hastening the implosion of the Republican Party.
On a visit to Spain my wife and I stayed with Nestor and Chris, a married couple who are both men. Spain allows gay marriage, which I can happily report has not destroyed the institution of heterosexual wedlock there. The Republican position on this is irrational. How can more marriages destroy marriage? Even if men could marry goats, I would not suddenly desert my wife.
I’ve written a new bumper sticker: STOP THE WAR!*
*Did you forget we’re at war?
The story has just emerged that, while at the prestigious Cranbrook School in 1965, Mitt Romney led a vigilante attack on a suspected gay student, holding him down and forcibly cutting his hair. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong! Just look at him!” Romney told a fellow student. Suddenly Romney’s entire personality comes clearly into focus. He’s gay!
According to psychologists, one cannot be a homophobe without experiencing gay impulses. It’s a horror toward one’s own attractions that spurs the hatred.
Everything about Romney suggests deep repression and personal discomfort: his physical awkwardness, as if he were an extraterrestrial inhabiting a body he found unconscious in a ditch; his indifference to his long-suffering wife, Ann. Poor guy. Were he not a fanatic Mormon, Romney could be a happy, fulfilled gay man, living with his husband in Santa Monica.
It’s taxing to run an international empire. It’s much easier to open a humble shoeshine stand. That’s why I suggest that the U.S. withdraw its army, navy, and air-force personnel from the 150-plus foreign nations where they are stationed and instead operate a small, two-seat shoeshine business — perhaps in Portugal. This plan, I guarantee, will end terrorism.
In his novel 1984, George Orwell introduced the concept of “permawar,” a global battle that continues forever. Our nation has invented a variant, the “permawarlet,” a conflict — or numerous conflicts — so small they’re barely noticeable. In 1984 every citizen was barraged by hysterical propaganda. Today we all blissfully ignore our inextinguishable (but pint-size) wars.
Bad news. I just received my membership card from the American Association of Retired Persons. I have been over fifty for eight years, but they finally have tracked me down. Apparently I will now have to retire — in the middle of my Presidential campaign! This is a tragedy for the American Republic, but I have no choice.
The actual mano a mano election has now begun. We have lost the self-contented bloviations of Newt, the innocent misogyny of Santorum, even the triumphal pieties of Ron Paul. Now there is just the slow chess game between Obama and Romney. One announces his support for gay marriage; the other insists he won’t tax the wealthy. The entire struggle is over 1 million “independent” voters. Thank God I need not appeal to a bunch of latte-drinking web entrepreneurs and bitter high-school assistant principals!
I have compassion for right-wingers. I can imagine how it feels to have your government hijacked by a Kenyan-born socialist. Why? Because I feel the same way, except my America has been kidnapped by conniving tycoons. We all sense that our nation has been stolen from us, because it has.
Lately I’m not sure I even want to be President. Careful historical studies reveal that the presidency is enormous fun — for the first two years. After that, the job becomes almost as melancholy as being a night watchman. Nonetheless my campaign is still in full swing. I awake each morning seeking new ways to sabotage the insatiable Mitt and the billionaire bomb throwers behind him. I listen to the crows outside and plot revolution. Pray for me!
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]
2008 — “Buy One, Get One Free: A Journal of My Presidential Campaign” [December 2008]
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]
For years I’ve read Sparrow’s contributions to The Sun with the hope that this time I’ll finally get his humor. “Please Don’t Vote for Me” is so funny that I actually laughed out loud several times. I thank God for the gift of his wit in these politically terrifying times.
I must apologize in advance for ruining Sparrow’s consistent record of receiving not a single vote each year, because on Election Day I’m writing him in. I’ve finally found a candidate who reflects my own values and sensibilities.
Having just read Sparrow’s political diatribe “Please Don’t Vote for Me” [November 2012], I am disturbed by what I see as a distasteful trend in The Sun. The first issues I read in 2008 were enthralling. The fiction, interviews, and essays grabbed my attention, stimulated my imagination, and prompted me to begin a creative-writing career. Now I find the magazine filled with political rants, biased opinions, and divisive rhetoric. What does this accomplish but to drive a wedge between open-minded thinkers on the Right and Left? How can we expect our leaders to reach across the aisle when authors like Sparrow fling invectives?
Thank you, Sparrow, for the first smile and breath of hope I’ve had regarding this election. Whether or not you receive any votes, your genuine genius and great heart win every time.
“Please Don’t Vote for Me” educated me on the issues our country faces this election season in a way that two years of laughable hyperbole, embarrassing rhetoric, and fifteen-second sound bites couldn’t.
With each passing year I feel a growing apathy toward the whole political process. Sparrow’s view of the issues is refreshing, insightful, and humorous. Unlike the candidates, with their deceptively squeaky-clean images and fill-in-the-blanks speeches, Sparrow speaks the uncensored truth with a naked honesty that would make him ill fitted for the Oval Office. As he requests, I will not vote for him.