I see from a forwarded e-mail message that Sharon Olds’ refusual to make a presentation at the US White House is making the rounds. In 2005, because she objected to the US war policies, Ms. Olds declined to attend a National Book Festival event hosted there by First Lady Laura Bush. She published a letter in the Nation explaining her views:
I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness–as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing–against this undeclared and devastating war.
But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.
Ms. Olds’ regrets followed by a few years similar regrets sent by Cartoonist Jules Feiffer. In a November 2002 message that wasn’t quite as eloquent as Ms. Olds’ but still awefully powerful, Mr. Feiffer similarly refused to attend an event, indicting the misuse of language to promote the then-impending war.
But I find it unbearably ironic that, while the uses of language are celebrated by you and your renowned guests, elsewhere in the White House language is being traduced and transformed to nudge us into war.