I feel like it is my duty to alert everyone to something that should be of great concern to everyone in our country. Happenstance has given me a special insight into a problem and has added to my sense of urgency for telling others about it.
Over 3 years ago, during the Summer of 1996, I received a strange video in the mail. I was attending 2 seminars in Minnesota in order to complete some requirements for my Ph.D. through The Union Institute. My girlfriend, Nancy, was checking our mail while I was gone. We usually have our more important mail delivered to our post office box so most of the mail we receive at our physical address is unsolicited junk mail. While I was away Nancy found a package addressed to me with a video tape in it at our physical address. She talked to me about it over the phone and I gave her permission to open it. The video had a hand-written label on saying, "Please watch immediately. Your friend, Newt." When I got home we watched it. Newt Gingrich was on it asking me for a donation of $1,000 to help off-set "the funding advantage of the Democrats due to the support of the Labor Unions." My girlfriend and I thought that the tape was pretty hilarious. I had a performance coming up at the College of Santa Fe so I got the idea of doing another Birdman for President campaign piece. I often use the name, Birdman, for my eternal soul.
I would use Newt Gingrich's tape and juxtapose it with a tape I made sometime ago entitled, Birdman for President. I would also accompany these dueling tapes with a live performance of my own electro-accoustic music while being dressed in a brightly colored costume assembled from women's clothing, mask, helmet and feathers. My tape was of me in an equally eccentric, yet more military, costume giving a campaign speech to what seemed like a multitude of birds, followed by a post-modern dance and a David Frost-styled interview. The topic of the speech was mostly concerned with arts advocacy and the Birdman was proposing affarmitive action for the soul. I sent my tape to the return address from the video I had received in order to give my performance a little more meaning. I wrote on the label, "Hope I can count on your support. Your friend, Birdman."
Of course everyone in my immediate social circles thought that my sending the video tape was rather funny. There were some, though, who jokingly expressed some concern that my action might be considered some form of threat. However, after a successful performance, I soon received in the mail a "Certificate of Nomination" which states as follows:
It seemed a little odd that I would receive such a thing in the mail since it certainly could not be based on any of my "ideals and Principles" which are published on the internet and have been represented in countless performances. (Please see: Puppet Show, Jesse Helms Speech, Birdman for President and Art and Corporate Responsibility.) However, attached to this "Certificate" was another request for a donation so I thought that I had just mistakenly gotten onto some mailing list targeting wealthy Republicans. I am listed in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists directory as the President and CEO of EXTPOC Data International, Inc. and I thought, perhaps the Republicans got my name from there and assumed that I would have money and similar enough sentiments. Of course I have neither. I thought that my being personally addressed was similar to getting mailings from Publisher's Clearinghouse or Great Poets Society. I joked with my friends about getting the certificate laminated because "it could save me from the gas chambers when the Fascists take over."
I became a little more unnerved when I received an announcement that I would be invited to a Republican fund-raising dinner. The thing that unsettled me was that NO MONEY WAS REQUESTED. Nancy and I had just seen The Big Lobowsky and I was starting to get worried that I was being confused with some "Daddy Warbucks" named Robert H. Price. My friends assured me, though, that I had just happened onto some big impersonal mailing list. I felt some relief when the "formal" invitation came along with with another request for a hefty donation. There was also included a form which I could use to choose which Republican celebrity with whom I would like to sit. It included such heroes as Jesse Helms, Dick Armey and (who could forget) Ollie North.
I fantasized about going but the cost were prohibitive. Our family was still having lots of fun with this and it seemed that I was being provided with great material for future political performance art pieces. I cracked up the kids by suggesting that the Republicans had watched my video and thought it was a hilarious satire on a typical liberal politician. Later, I received another certificate signed by Steve Forbes with these words:
Again, this was accompanied by another request for a donation.
The situation became less humorous when I started getting phone calls from Republican Party fund-raisers. The most disturbing one was from a man who said he was raising money to help fund the Starr investigation in an effort to impeach the President. I said that I was short on funds and couldn't donate any money. Nancy was a little angry that I didn't tell him what I really thought about what he was doing. I told her that I wanted to keep getting materials from them because I thought it was interesting knowing what they were trying to do before hearing it on the news, but, now that Starr's investigation has become such a big scandal, I see her point.
After the media had become super saturated by the sex scandal promoted by the Republicans, Congress announced its approval of the release of the video tapes of Clinton's testimony for the Grand Jury. I got this news from AOL who made it pretty convenient to email a response to my congressman, so I did. The following is what I wrote to Representative Bill Redmond - R:
Please! Enough is enough! I am very tired of the Monica Lewinsky issue. Starr's investigation has degenerated into a very expensive muck-raking activity. The press seems to love sex scandals and I am offended that our government representatives are feeding them what they want in an effort to embarrass the President out of office. I am extremely embarrassed by the actions of those representatives who cry out against pornography, yet are pleased to broadcast the libido of a very important leader to the world. "Let he who is without fault cast the first stone."
I have continued to receive like correspondences; a Certificate of Nomination to the Republican Presidential Roundtable and a much more disturbing letter. This letter appeared to be handwritten and was from a man who claimed to have been court-marshalled for refusing to wear the UN uniform and participate in the UN special forces in Bosnia. It was a very patriotic sounding appeal for donations to be applied to his court costs, yet, it could not disguise the fact that he had disobeyed an order from our politically elected Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In fact, there was quite a lot of Bill Clinton bashing in his letter. The main point of the letter seemed to be about portraying Clinton as the traitor and this man as a hero (something like Ollie North?).
I think that I have read enough history to know that the "bad guys" often win simply because they are not restricted by the same ethics which limit the actions of people with better intentions. They often get away with their deceitful actions because they are so thoroughly deceitful that they can make their lies heard louder than the quiet persecuted truth. For example; it is very possible that even the immortal Shakespeare very artfully amplified the Tudor propaganda against the House of York in the play, Richard III. Since our media is so influenced by rating, which gets them the greatest financial gain from their sponsors, they seem to play to our lowest, most common interests. Behavior modification experts state that these lower basic interests are in four categories called the four f's: feeding, fighting, fleeing and mating. The press is obsessed with sex because it sells. The press can be easily manipulated by being fed stories which satisfy their need. Since the Republicans best represent the wealthy, who are mainly interested in keeping as much wealth as they can and becoming richer, they are obviously the best investment for those already in power. No matter who is in the White House, the Republicans are always likely to be the best funded and most powerful political party in the country. They now seem to be trying much harder to show a return for their sponsor's campaign dollars by using their power against the elected Democratic president. The wealthy have bought themselves a vicious group of fanatics who I believe would do anything to acquire more power. The constant attack against the President by the Congress through the Judicial system seems to be a violation of the system of "checks and balances" provided by our constitution. Starr's original investigation began with a suspicion of possible misdealings in real estate. After years of bad press and great expense all that the investigation could find "impeachable" was a mistake made by the President in the process of being investigated about something which was irrelevant to the investigation. All that the Republican dominated Congress needs is unfavorable publicity about the President to damage his popularity and his party. Impeachment would be even better for them, but they expect to win either way. Their main objective is to, after the next election, have a Republican president to go along with their Republican Congress. Then we'd see some real changes that would make the "Reagan Revolution" seem like a high school debate.
I lived through, and was greatly affected by, the plague which ensued from Reaganomics. I was affected when Reagan quickly and quietly cut the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts by one half. It was already only one sixth of the budget for military marching bands. I lost my teaching position when my university's Arts and Humanities department was cut by one third while the physics department got a $10,000,000 grant for Star Wars research. I was affected when the Atlantic Richfield Foundation cut their corporate giving to non-profits by two thirds because ARCO was downsizing due to threats of hostile takeovers. This was due to Reagan's weakening of anti-trust enforcement. My bank went under along with other savings and loans associations when HUD was being run by unscrupulous Reagan cronies.
I grew up being naively optimistic and thought that helping others was a good thing which would also earn one some praise from society. In my adult life I have watched funding for public health, public education and the arts go down to dangerously low levels. It seems that helping others just for the sake of goodness is no longer fashionable; that if one is of any real help to anyone they should get paid handsomely for it. If people can't afford to pay for it, it is because it is their own fault for being lazy or stupid, and who wants to help those people. Which is more immoral or unethical, trying to be discreet about having an affair or cutting back health and education services to those who need it the most? Which affects the most people?
Any alternative to the Republican Party automatically has several disadvantages. The Republican Party's concepts are rather simple and the opinions and ideals of its members are relatively the same. Whereas, the democrats, Greens, Libertarians, etc. represent a greater diversity of opinions. When a person's choice of a candidate, who best represents their ideas, is not elected in the primaries s/he can easily become disillusioned with the whole political system and choose not to vote in the general election. Political apathy helps Republicans because they obviously cannot really represent the majority of the people. However, Republican politicians do represent the majority of the wealthy of this country and, thus, they have the means to flood the media (and our mailboxes) with materials which appeal to the greed and prejudice of their constituency.
It is very unfortunate that the US elections are styled so that we must chose between people with their personalities instead of parties and the ideas they represent (as in Germany). We are much too susceptible to mud-slinging and character assassination. If this were not true there wouldn't have been a Watergate or our latest call for impeachment. During Watergate a call was made to impeach a President because his people broke the law trying to get information that would be damaging to the President's opponent. The call for Clinton's impeachment is the culmination of an attack on the character of the President by his opponents. If the public is sufficiently embarrassed by their popular choice, there will be plenty of apathy to help the Republicans at the next elections. I feel more strongly that I should fight back through voting and getting others to vote.
The other day I got a call from a parent of one of my clarinet students. My student's mother was calling to find out how her son was doing in class and finally found my phone number after calling three other Dr. Robert Prices listed in the phone directory. I hadn't realized before that, in the Santa Fe directory, three out of the five listings for Robert Price are listed as Dr. Robert Price. Although I also have a Ph.D, I am listed as Robert H. Price. One of these Dr. Bobs (whom the parent called first for obvious reasons) complained to her for some time that the Dr. Robert H. Price, the music teacher, was trying to steal his identity. "What a world! What a world!"
O well . . . now I more strongly suspect that the certificates, invitations, etc. were not intended for me after all. The next mailing I get from them is going back marked "NOT AT THIS ADDRESS." I can now stop playing games with the Republican Party. I hope others will do the same.