M I C H A E L   K A T A K I S

D I S P A T C H E S   F R O M   T H E   W O R L D

Paris 4 April, 2004

To: M.P. London

Dear Michael,

I suspect that you are puzzled by my decision to leave the United States for a time so I thought that I would try to explain my frustration and decision. As you know, I have had a number of serious complaints about my country for some time now and felt I could no longer just sit and complain. Seeing that I am not a wealthy man the decision carried some hardships but thankfully, Kris and I were in agreement as to the complaints and the remedy. I do hope that it will be temporary.

At the time of this writing I am sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Paris. Behind the polished front desk a man is on the phone.  His tone suggests a lingering affection or, perhaps, regret. I think it is an old lover. The one-way conversation drifts in and around me and I think about my country and how similar my feelings are to the changing tone of the man’s voice. At first there is tenderness in the exchange, then frustration and a brief flash of anger. The muted second voice is raised and then faintly heard through the phone sobbing. The man’s voice again turns tender. 

I am an American there is no changing that nor would I wish to, and there was a time when we were in love, before the lying and deceit. A time when the world was young and everything seemed true and forever.

My relationship with my country is not dissimilar to that of the man and the mysterious woman on the phone.  Like old lovers we know each other too well and there was no place left for our failings to hide. We became infuriated with each other, she with me, because of my dissent and me with her because of her lying and criminality done in my name. 

To leave ones country and friends and the ones you love is always difficult but that difficulty is compounded when a loss of hope and belief are also left behind. While Bush and Cheney, cowards and opportunists of the worst kind, were the last straw on the proverbial camel, my disaffection, had been growing for sometime.

My liberal friends put much faith in Clinton and could not bring themselves to admit that his recklessness had contributed much to where we find ourselves today. In the end he was a huckster having a good time and I grew tired of everyone waiting for the next political messiah and using the non -appearance of said deity as an excuse for their, and my own, inaction.  You know my feelings on critical thinking; Socratic questioning and stoicism that, I wish America would embrace. The immediate benefit from such a philosophy might be a more reflective and intelligent citizenry, which is desperately needed now. My naiveté aside we both know it isn’t going to happen.

I am not anti-American, how could I be, what I am however is anti the people who have diminished the potential of what America could be because of personal greed and careerism of the most grotesque kind.  After the election and the attacks Gore Vidal told me, regarding the Bush administration, that the greatest criminal class in United States history had “Just ascended to the White House”. At the time I thought his comments over the top but now, sadly, I find that Mr. Vidal was engaged in understatement. What was I to do then with the liars pushing us into war with a country that did not attack us and watching as Americans and others died while others inside and outside of government profited from that war?  Perhaps the definition of treason should be expanded to those predatory capitalists, government officials and religious zealots who treat ordinary lives as something expendable in pursuit of their own increased profit and power. There were those on the left who, while not contributing to substantive debate and elucidation, wrote books about the ‘liar’s lies’ and made a good penny out of their efforts. It seems that both sides have found the tearing apart of the country profitable. Increasingly I was watching my country evolving into a non-country, and becoming a giant store where everything was for sale, every principal, ethic and friend. A place where Americans were increasingly reduced to nothing more than a cash crop and with each misplaced step a bit more of our humanity and potential lost. What was I to do then, sit at home, pay taxes and turn away? I simply could not. And as many of my countrymen and women willingly allowed themselves to be manipulated, and the supposed press did nearly nothing that approached courage and doing their jobs (except for the brave Susan Sontag), the country seemed to slip into a giant football game mentality but, of course, the stakes were much higher. Not to fear. I gather none of Bush, Cheney’s or immediate family members of congressmen, senators, corporate heads or fundamentalist religious leaders would serve or die. Oddly, they, like the all-purpose boogieman, Bin Laden, (who is never mentioned now) get others to die for their twisted visions and, dare I say, profit. Those who never sacrificed or served their country trashed the reputations of those who had by lying and depicting ‘them’ as cowards or fabricators and the ‘public’, with the help of ‘news organizations’ bought it. It is disturbing to see ones countrymen and women so easily and willingly become fools and suckers. I felt like an impotent stranger in my own country.

The New York Times and Washington Post, useless. Fox television with its pro war propaganda and the silly Thomas Friedman’s assessments. The press and corporate types and ‘god fearing’ Americans as well as the oh, so wrong Brits in America (Christopher Hitchens) talking and talking rubbish, moving us toward war with no evidence, none, and citizens on either side cheering that which coincided, not with truth, but rather their own prejudices and interests. News anchors and talk show hosts talking to the ‘insiders’ we were to believe were giving the ‘true gen’ on television to the intimate millions and the ever arrogant Rumsfeld, the zealot Ashcroft and an ever growing assortment of despicable characters.

What was I to do surrounded by such scoundrels and rank solipsistic careerists? I could not be part of the charade any longer and I used the only power left to me. My defiance.

I apologize very much for the tone of this letter for in the time we have known each other you and I have always talked about the wonders of the world and have always known the difference between politics and everything else but I have turned the page, it is ‘Lorca’ and it is ‘five o’clock in the afternoon’.

The real sadness for me is as I travel the world I am often asked about the United States with a kind of hope and longing. When this occurs which is now less so, I think of my immigrant father and his dreams following those dreadful days on Crete in WWII. My father loved America but once told me that it was a delicate idea rather than a country. The noble idea he said was one of inclusion and a promise of an evolving society propelled by ideas, education and justice, in short, a place where everyone had a chance to improve, prosper and then contribute. He went on to say that if the ‘idea’ were betrayed or abandoned the country would become nothing more than geography. 

In London, at a hotel where I was staying, I spoke to a lovely man who was the bartender. I believe that he was from Eastern Europe. He was saving to go to the United States and had some pretty wonderful dreams. His view of America was romanticized and I did not have the heart to set him straight. Besides it is people like him who will make the States better, and who am I to saddle him with my realities anyhow? If I had the power to deport people I would deport the likes of Bush, Cheney, the criminal corporate types and our own religious zealots who steer this plutocracy and let the likes of the bartender in. It is the look in people’s eyes and their dream of America that breaks my heart for they have what I have lost, belief and faith.

So, what was I to do?

Love to you both,

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