How the Patriot Act is being used
One of the more obscure things I subscribe to is a book arts mailing list. Most of the postings are on issues like archive-quality paste or finding bookbinders in Portland. Today, however, came something very different from a book artist called Beverly Schlee:
“As some of you know, I make artists books as a member of a group called Critical Art Ensemble. Besides books, we also make videos and do performance art. Lately, the topic of much of our artwork has been to make people aware of genetically modified food. Recently, Hope Kurtz, who wrote most of the text for the books, died suddenly of heart failure. Her husband, Steve, is also in the group, called 911. The paramedics saw some of the props for our performance art in his house, including petri dishes and a machine that analyzes food for genetically modified ingredients, and called the FBI. The FBI, armed with the Patriot Act, searched Steve’s house, office, took his artwork, his wife’s body, and even locked up his cat. Steve is a professor of art at SUNY Buffalo. He is going to be indicted before a grand jury on June 15 on charges of possessing materials that can be used for bioterrorism. The rest of the group has been subpoenaed. So far, I have not, but the FBI was in my neighborhood on Saturday, asking the neighbors about me. The whole story can be read at caedefensefund.org.”
If I didn’t have a good idea of how perverse the Justice Department seems to be these days, I’d think this posting was a particularly unusual piece of agitprop performance art.
After reading Richard Clark, it’s quite clear there is a vast amount the government should be doing to combat terrorism. Pursuing the Critical Art Ensemble shows that instead of concentrating on the important tasks, the FBI is sinking lower than the days when they hounded such potent threats to American society as my father (see below) for his anti-war activities.
Postscript: The New York Times has good coverage of the case.
D-Day + 60
I spent a good portion of yesterday watching the coverage of the D-Day commemorations. There’s no need to add to the encomia for the soldiers who made the decisive step in the liberation of Europe 60 years ago. But I have a personal reflection.
My father was one of those soldiers, landing at Utah Beach in the first wave as a first lieutenant in the 4th Infantry Division. It was always clear to me that his participation in D-Day and many subsequent battles in the Second World War was a matter of great pride. But, perhaps characteristic of his generation (and certainly characteristic of my father), he rarely, rarely talked about his experiences. It was natural reticence, but I suspect now it was also because the experience remained too overwhelming to really talk about.
I knew about D-Day, I knew he became captain of his company when his captain was killed by a sniper in Normandy, I knew he was wounded later in the Normandy campaign, recovered in a hospital near Oxford, and rejoined for the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge and, ultimately, the liberation of Germany. I have his Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals. But details or anecdotes were scarce.
My father went to the fortieth anniversary of the D-Day landings, twenty years ago. I remember him saying that he thought it would be the last of the big ceremonies, since many of them wouldn’t survive until the fiftieth. I now feel an extraordinary loss for not having seized the opportunity to go along with him in 1984.
The numbers I watched parading yesterday were, as my father predicted, far fewer than 20 years ago or even ten years ago. My father died in 1990. Although in my lifetime he was a great anti-war campaigner, particularly against the American folly in Vietnam, his small role in ridding the world of fascism was still a signal achievement. At his request, he was buried with a military tombstone, as was his right as a proud veteran.