She always was pretty naive. Still is.
Doesn't know much U.S. history.
The patterns are all there. Consistent
and plain to see for everyone.
Dr. Peter C. Montgomery
Dept. of English
3100 Foul Bay Rd.
Victoria, BC CANADA V8P 5J2
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From: Nancy Gish [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, April 07, 2003 6:30 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: OT--MARGARET ATWOOD: A Canadian Writes to America
>What Happened To America?
>A Letter, A Lament
>Margaret Atwood studied American literature, among other things, at
>Radcliffe and Harvard in the 1960s. She is the author of 10 novels. Her
>11th, Oryx and Crake, will be published in May 2003.
>Editor's Note: This essay orginally appeared in the April 14, 2003 issue
>of The Nation, and is reprinted with permission of the author.
>This is a difficult letter to write, because I'm no longer sure who you
>Some of you may be having the same trouble. I thought I knew you: We'd
>become well acquainted over the past 55 years. You were the Mickey Mouse
>and Donald Duck comic books I read in the late 1940s. You were the radio
>shows -- Jack Benny, Our Miss Brooks. You were the music I sang and
>danced to: the Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, the Platters, Elvis. You
>were a ton of fun.
>You wrote some of my favourite books. You created Huckleberry Finn, and
>Hawkeye, and Beth and Jo in Little Women, courageous in their different
>ways. Later, you were my beloved Thoreau, father of environmentalism,
>witness to individual conscience; and Walt Whitman, singer of the great
>Republic; and Emily Dickinson, keeper of the private soul. You were
>Hammett and Chandler, heroic walkers of mean streets; even later, you
>were the amazing trio, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner, who traced the
>dark labyrinths of your hidden heart. You were Sinclair Lewis and Arthur
>Miller, who, with their own American idealism, went after the sham in
>you, because they thought you could do better.
>You were Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, you were Humphrey Bogart in
>Key Largo, you were Lillian Gish in Night of the Hunter. You stood up for
> freedom, honesty and justice; you protected the innocent. I believed
>most of that. I think you did, too. It seemed true at the time.
>You put God on the money, though, even then. You had a way of thinking
>that the things of Caesar were the same as the things of God: That gave
>you self-confidence. You have always wanted to be a city upon a hill, a
>light to all nations, and for a while you were. Give me your tired, your
>poor, you sang, and for a while you meant it.
>We've always been close, you and us. History, that old entangler, has
>twisted us together since the early 17th century. Some of us used to be
>you; some of us want to be you; some of you used to be us. You are not
>only our neighbours: In many cases -- mine, for instance -- you are also
>our blood relations, our colleagues and our personal friends. But
>although we've had a ringside seat, we've never understood you
>completely, up here north of the 49th parallel.
>We're like Romanized Gauls -- look like Romans, dress like Romans, but
>aren't Romans -- peering over the wall at the real Romans. What are they
>doing? Why? What are they doing now? Why is the haruspex eyeballing the
>sheep's liver? Why is the soothsayer wholesaling the Bewares?
>Perhaps that's been my difficulty in writing you this letter: I'm not
>sure I know what's really going on. Anyway, you have a huge posse of
>experienced entrail-sifters who do nothing but analyze your every vein
>and lobe. What can I tell you about yourself that you don't already know?
>This might be the reason for my hesitation: embarrassment, brought on by
>a becoming modesty. But it is more likely to be embarrassment of another
>sort. When my grandmother -- from a New England background -- was
>confronted with an unsavoury topic, she would change the subject and gaze
> out the window. And that is my own inclination: Mind your own business.
>But I'll take the plunge, because your business is no longer merely your
>business. To paraphrase Marley's Ghost, who figured it out too late,
>mankind is your business. And vice versa: When the Jolly Green Giant goes
> on the rampage, many lesser plants and animals get trampled underfoot.
>As for us, you're our biggest trading partner: We know perfectly well
>that if you go down the plug-hole, we're going with you. We have every
>reason to wish you well.
>I won't go into the reasons why I think your recent Iraqi adventures have
> been -- taking the long view -- an ill-advised tactical error. By the
>time you read this, Baghdad may or may not look like the craters of the
>Moon, and many more sheep entrails will have been examined. Let's talk,
>then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're
>doing to yourselves.
>You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without
> your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated
>without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched.
>Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political
>intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own
> safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did
> you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.
>You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and
>pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures.
>Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air
>conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser
>when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of
>environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the
>rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.
>You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that
>will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other
>people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to
>consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both
>inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the
>United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.
>If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the
>world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that
>your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and
>therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on
>them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think
>you've fouled your own nest.
>The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn't dead, but
>sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country's hour of greatest peril,
> he would return. You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call
>upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them
> now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You
>Published: Apr 03 2003
> >---------> >--------->
>Vice President for Public Affairs
>316 Lovett Hall - MS 610
>P.O. Box 1892
>Houston, Texas 77251-1892
>E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> >---------> >--------->
>Since 1990, Rice has led the nation's universities
>in percentage of National Merit Scholars
>in its freshman classes, averaging 32.5%.
Debra J. Thomas
Director of Public Relations
Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management
P.O. Box 2932
Houston, Texas 77252-2932
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