Thursday, September 21, 2006
3 of 18 (9/20/06) for Eileen Tabios. New York City to see Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez at Cooper Union. My friend Mary Kalyna and her amazing group of activists The Global Women's Strike gave me a ticket. So few tickets, and so many others I know who would want to be here. In line for security check there's a man who has a Masters degree in "postwar reconstruction." What kind of class was that? "Before we learn reconstruction we must first learn how cities are destroyed. Let's examine some of our most recent atrocities shall we?" Did his father congratulate him at graduation, "Good pick son, you'll always have work!" The imagination wills you to sickness in little degrees, trying to determine the vultures from the other carnivores. SUDDENLY Carol Mirakove appears! Why the fuck can't Carol get in!? Can't we sneak her in? But the secret service are tearing everyone's bags apart. Carol and Jen Benka were at the UN protesting. They saw a great protest sign, "Would someone please give George W. Bush a blow job so we can impeach him?" It's good to laugh about one's dictator with friends. Why can't poets open for presidents? Carol would set the fucking room on fire reading her book MEDIATED! Can Carol and I fake conjoined twins to get in? It would be fun trying. Ticket 100296 with Chavez's smiling face big as a pinky print. They make me trade the ticket for a tag and safety pin: INVITADOS. We're handed bundles and T-shirts and flags. Someone hands me an English translation of the Venezuelan constitution, "Thank you," "No, thank YOU," she says emphatically. Harry Belafonte walks out with Chavez and the room is on its feet chanting, "CHAVEZ! AMIGO! EL PUEBLO ESTA CONTIGO!" (CHAVEZ! FRIEND! THE PEOPLE ARE WITH YOU!) Chavez walks onstage and points to the large banner of Abraham Lincoln and Francisco de Miranda. The quote from Miranda reads, "We must remember that we are fighting liberty and that all free men must be valiant, generous and humanitarian; only the cowards are (slaves), cruel, greedy and corrupted." Chavez thanks The Global Women's Strike for their hard work, and Mary and the others jump up with their banner of support. He thanks others, including a contingent of rabbis with buttons, "A JEW NOT A ZIONIST." The youngest rabbi runs a giant bouquet to the stage, which the police shift and block. Chavez roars into his criticism of the UN, how wrong it all is as a system. That is should be a round table of debates, not speeches. He mocks world leaders showing up for photo-opts, and says, "While every 3 seconds a child starves to death. THIS IS MADNESS!" He calls Bush the smell of "SULFUR" and continues to refer to the smell all around him. Sulfur, the Sulfur. The crowd erupts, "BUSH! ESCUCHA! EL PUEBLO ESTA EN LUCHA!" (BUSH! LISTEN! THE PEOPLE ARE FIGHTING!) He tells us that Fox News asked him why he is an enemy of the US. He says, "NO! I AM NOT! I am a friend of your people, the workers, the women, the students, they all have profound traditions we respect and cherish! It's your government I detest because I am an enemy of injustice!" The crowd erupts again, "CHAVEZ! AMIGO!" He tells us investigations have proven the attempted coup of his government was designed and carried out from within the Pentagon. He throws Cindy Sheehan a kiss, yells "AMIGO!" He says it is time to bring George Walker Bush to international court on charges of genocide, that this MUST BE DONE! Smell of sulfur, do you smell the sulfur he asks? He demands that the UN insist a country's budget use no more than 3% for military spending. He tells us when Mark Twain saw what the US was doing to Puerto Rico he wrote, "I AM ANTI IMPERIALIST!" And that Twain insisted the American flag's stars be replaced with skull and cross bones, the white stripes made black. Mary is almost trampled getting Chavez to sign her copy of the constitution. I shake his hand with hundreds of others, and think about how he wants Cooper Union to build a sister school in Venezuela, to make a free exchange of ideas. We need to share the truth to fight the smell of the Sulfur he says. Can you smell the Sulfur?