November 19, 2004
I've spent hours now staring at your name on my screen; the words "Dear Mr. Bush" blinking back at me, taunting me to write further. Some days it's easy to write you--it feels like there's volumes to say--others its hard. Today's one of those hard days. Mostly because, honestly, nothing happened.
I spent the day at home today editing a manuscript and fielding some phone calls about a different book; I stepped out only to walk the dog and grab a bite to eat later in the evening. Most of my waking moments were spent on the very couch I'm writing you from now. The view hasn't changed at all. So no news from today, Mr. Bush, let's go back to yesterday instead, as my letter to you was rather opaque.
Yesterday I almost punched a guy. I was on a panel discussion at the college I teach at--the panel was "how to get published" --and there was an older gentleman from a literary journal sitting next to me. When I urged the audience to create their own destiny, to get their stories out there by any means necessary, he urged "patience." When I offered that the power to publish was within each audiencemember's grasp--that they could create their own publications, could put things on the Internet, could stage their own guerilla readings--he spoke of "real publishers" and "the right" way of reaching them. When a fellow panelist talked about the sometimes-elastic nature of truth in storytelling, he dressed her down as "irresponsible."
And that was when I almost punched him, Mr. Bush. Right then, I'd had enough.
None of what we were saying was irresponsible. Not one word. Instead it was his message--wait, wait until your time finally comes to you, and only then, only once you've been deemed "ready" will your voice truly matter--that was irresponsible. It was irresponsible because now is not the time to discourage people to find their voice. Now is not the time to stop people from telling their stories. Now is not the time to erect barriers and build roadblocks to communication, to understanding, to creating, to connecting.
It's well over 24 hours later, Mr. Bush, and my blood still runs warm when I think about him, sitting there smug in his turtleneck tucked under his suit jacket, telling people to wait. Most people spend their entire lives waiting for permission to live them, Mr. Bush. Now is not the time for waiting.