President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
WASHINGTON DC 20520
I hope this communication finds you, your wife and your children well.
On 27 March 1994 I reduced to ashes my United States’ passport and mailed a letter renouncing my DisUnited States’ citizenship. The passport had expired that day, and I had set it to flames so that no one could find it: stolen DisUnited States’ passports can fetch a handsome sum on the black market; the possibility—although remote—that mine might wind up in a terrorist’s hand, was not to my liking. It was also my intention, at that time, to make a dramatic gesture that would mirror my antipathy and help myself realize more the seriousness of my action.
At that point in time, I thought erroneously that my connection to the United States—which I had considered breaking for many years before—had become a fait accompli, at least in one authentic mode: I had dealt my own hand. It was not until years later that I would have come to realise that my abnegation was not in any sense “legitimate.” Since 27 March 1994 my swan song to the DisUnited States of America has been true-to-life only for me! When I dwelt at first on the newly-discovered realization, I was genuinely flabbergasted! I guessed then I would have to visit the DisUnited States Consulate in Firenze (Florence, Italy) and submit to bureaucratic rigmarole! I was verily disgusted. I did not even have the democratic right to give up claim to my own citizenship! Worse, now that repudiation depended on dull, foggy-bottomed office workers set, in an aura of an institutionalised paranoia, behind bulletproof glass. I do not like to go to these sterile places. But I had to.
On 30 October 1997, I strolled to the consulate in Firenze and signed first an original of three papers and, after, two copied sets of them documenting my official request to cut the cord which binds me to my DisUnited States’ citizenship. Your subordinates, true to form, did not disappoint me by not acting pettily. When I asked them for photocopies for me of the official papers, they refused to oblige. Very unkind. When I asked them if I was then now “officially” a non-DisUnited States’ citizen, the consul himself replied curtly: “99%.” Very not nice. When I asked him to explain, he told me it depended on whether or not the DisUnited States’ Department of State would be inclined to approve my solicitation; yet, he saw no reason to believe that Washington would not approve the pleading. I was informed that I would “probably” receive Washington’s official sanction in two weeks and it, then, would be dispatched to me by post.
On 16 May 2000, I called the consulate (055-239.82.76) to check on the status of my petition. Maria (“…the one handling your case…”) suggested I should re-submit my beseechment. I propounded that she make a photocopy of the original and send that to Washington: “No.” I must come into the consulate and sign again all the forms! I asked her to look further into the matter. She said “O.K.”; and , on her own, she promised she would call me back with her findings. Still today, no word from Maria.
Why all this delay? Why the false information? False promises? Why am I not allowed to renounce my own citizenship?
* * *
I wish to take this opportunity to elucidate further on the reasons why I have decided—yet not our dauntless Department of State!—to sever my membership in the DisUnited States of America’s community. In fact, I consigned by hand, through the consulate office in Firenze, a 59-page essay, Why I Sat under an Olive Tree in Calenzano, Italy, 27 March 1994, Set to Flames my United States’ Passport, Dried my Eyes, and then Returned Home to Write a Letter to the President of the DisUnited States of America Renouncing my DisUnited States’ Citizenship. (Leslie Gore, 1963: "It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to…You’d cry too, President Obama, if it had happened to you!”) I have no reason to believe that the staff in the Firenze consulate would have been so kind as to have sent that photocopied manuscript to the White House. The following ancillary features may be annexed to those of my 59-page theme which, itself, is by no means complete. I would need a work the length of Marcel Proust’s Á la recherché du temps perdu to unravel my disaffection with the DisUnited States of America and its citizenry. The longer you, Mr. President, dillydally to grant me that demission, the more silly you and your cohorts strike me as being. I regret enormously this deadlock, and I think it is very unjust that my “case” has not yet been rubber-stamped “CLOSED.”
Here we go…
Firstly. I have neither love nor respect for many Northamerican people and, in particular, a large part of the ideals they sustain. (A Northamerican bumpersticker: NORTHAMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.)
Secondly. I have not seen the DisUnited States of America since 31 December 1975, and apart from the boundless curiosity I possess to see how much it has changed since I last put eyes on it, nothing else prompts me to go back to it. (I do not have a passport!) I often call up this analogy for myself and others interested in my impasse: the DisUnited States of America is, for me, something which might be paralleled to the loss of a girlfriend once loved very much. Our story has ended; I have no more feelings for the DisUnited States; I wish her well; and, there is nothing emotive in her for me any longer. I embrace many beautiful memories from the thirty-two years when I lived in the DisUnited States. These I cherish fondly. Yet, deep down, that which dominates my sentiments is this: there were too many lies, too many times. It is over. It is finished. I see no good reason to believe why I should continue to assume being a citizen of the DisUnited States of America. I have been trying—actually for years—to obtain the official documents which will corroborate my decision—for one, for all, finally.
Thirdly. I am not anti-DisUnited States of America. On the contrary, I often defend what is the factuality about it trying always to be truthful and faithful to what is unimaginable. I would be a fool if I denied many of the fine things that have been accomplished in the DisUnited States by many brilliant Northamerican citizens. These I respect and always will. (Would I be writing this plea if I thought each and every Northamerican was an imbecile?) They also make me feel proud that once I was a DisUnited States’ inhabitant. I am anti-stupidity, however. And I believe unwaveringly that the purport of that which I once thought to be “American,” has changed inexplicably for the worse. I do not wish to be part of this on-going process. I deny it vigorously. I do not maintain that all Northamericans are “fat” and “stupid” nor do I believe that they are suffering some “moral” crisis of immense proportion. I do not even hold any more the rancor I once did for Northamerican people blaming them for the way they had treated us when we returned from Vietnam. As a matter of fact, one of the most precious memories that has been lodged in my recall is that of the doorman in front of the Essex House in New York, August 1968, who opened my taxi door, saluted me, greeted me and welcomed me home, and had sent me to my room gifted with a bottle of champagne and a bowl of fresh fruit! I felt like a King for a Day! That was all I wanted then. The “war” had been over for me. I was so happy that I had come home in one piece and had not been maimed for life. I was ready to begin a new life. The staff at the Essex House had a feeling for people. They knew very well that whatever those 1968 simpletons in Washington concocted for the worst, there was a heart-rendering story for most soldiers coming home from the battlefield. Reality would set in only a few months later. I would learn quickly enough what many Northamericans thought about Vietnam veterans. For example. A University of Miami law student (What is the difference between a dead dog in the road and a dead lawyer in the road? There are skid marks in front of the dog.) on the dean’s list ( ! ), told me, proudly, this about Vietnam: “I got out of Vietnam by taking a pill to raise my blood pressure!” He laughed. He was cocky about his actions. That lawyer (What do you call one thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the sea? A good start.) now defends, for a huge sum, the “rights” ($$$) of his clients. He, like hundreds of thousands of other Northamericans, dodged the draft to keep from going to Vietnam. These double dealing folk slid like cowards through the hoards of anti-war protestors to use them not to object to the “war,” but to aid and abet their own selfish interests. They went their merry ways and today, upholding the military arrogance of the DisUnited States, defy anyone, anywhere in the world, who will not kowtow to DisUnited States militaristic and economic bullying. Peaceniks? I do not want to live with these impostors, Mr. President.
Fourthly. I lay no claims upon the DisUnited States of America. I do not ask for Social Security benefits or aid due me as a veteran of the Vietnam “War.” (When I returned from Vietnam, it was suggested that I go to a Veterans Administration hospital and fake a back pain—an ailment difficult to diagnose. Doing so—so went the logic at the time—I might obtain a medical pension for the rest of my life. The thinking then was this: “The government screwed you by sending you to Vietnam; now it is your turn to screw the government.”) I heard it once said that one DisUnited States president offered Vietnam veterans a $25,000 “bonus” ( ! ). This probably would not have been given to me because at the time I was living in Venezuela. Should it have been proffered, however, I would not have accepted it. Trying to be true to my personal beliefs (not attempting to be boy scoutish), I would have given this reason for my rejection of that money: I heard one time that Frank Sinatra said—and I do not know if it is true or not—that he never had trouble with organized criminals because he never asked them for a favor. This makes sense to me even though I am not sure Frank Sinatra felt that way. I hope he did. The point is that it would be excessively hypocritical on my part to protest so vigorously against the DisUnited States’ government, for so many years, while at the same time take pecuniary assistance to improve my own life—frequently desperate financially. I just feel so good thinking this way, Mr. President! Please release me? I want to go my merry way in Europe; and, I am certain the DisUnited States of America will go its merry way very well without me. It is over.
Fifthly. When I was in the DisUnited States Army in Vietnam and served as Property Book Officer for the Fourth Division in Pleiku, one of the most popular pastimes there then was sending back to the DisUnited States, illegally, through National Guard armories, weapons and other military paraphernalia earmarked for the troops in Vietnam. With tongue in cheek, I called these characters “patriotic arms dealers,” and every time I think of them now, I have to wonder how many of those armaments were used by berserk Vietnam veterans bent on revenge and keen to “zero” Northamerican citizens not appreciative of their service consummated in Southeast Asia. (They are not crazy because they went to Vietnam; those who sent them are crazy!) How many para-military and right-wing and white supremacy and fanatical religious groups are there in the DisUnited States today? How many guns are these kooks toting? How much violence is there beneath the psyches of Northamerican people? For what I have said about the Vietnam “War” in my articles, letters, manuscripts and poetry, I would be afraid to live anywhere in the DisUnited States among these crazed fringes. Would I have to spend the rest of my life wearing a bullet-proof vest if I were to express my ideas? Would I not be a dupe of the mobbing mentality wherever I worked in the DisUnited States? Who is going to give me, born 7 October 1944, a job in the DisUnited States—in the first place? I fail to see how I could live freely and democratically in the DisUnited States with the ideas I possess about it. You cannot imagine how many Northamericans themselves that I have met here in Italy—after I have told them I am a Vietnam veteran who has not returned home for years—explode: “I can’t blame you!” In the DisUnited States I would not be able to speak as openly about the Vietnam “War” as I did in Venezuela and as I do now in Italy. (Would we not have a wonderful, democratic DisUnited States of America if every DisUnited States citizen was paid $25,000 to study the Constitution of the DisUnited States for twenty-five hours!!!) I do not want to live with Northamericans, Mr. President. Can you blame me? They want their cake and they want to eat it, too.
Sixthly. I am from Europe even though I was born in the DisUnited States; I cannot erase my Europeanism. My roots are here. Why not let me be in peace where I am in Europe, Mr. President? The mother and father of my father were born in The Old Soviet Union. My mother’s mother hailed from Ireland. My mother’s father came from France. Every morning I awake in Europe, I feel the energy of Europe flowing through my veins. If I put my ear to the ground, I hear the sounds not only of Italy, I can also listen to the murmurs of all European Voices. (As I copy out this manuscript from the pencilled pages which originated it, I am listening to the Wilhelm Backhaus rendition of Beethoven’s Concerto for piano and orchestra, Number Five, (Imperatore). My education, not only in Europe but all the more in the DisUnited States, is a long list of European philosophers, writers, political scientists, poets, historians, economists, musicians, critics, ad infinitum: Sartre, Russell, Hume, Rousseau, Marx, Hegel, Nietzsche, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Proust, Stendahl, Shakespeare, Keats, Blake, Minc…remember that name, Mr. President: Alain Minc…. These are only some of the geniuses who feed my thought processes and help me to understand the vast and complicated world within which we live. Without them, I would be lost. Many of them are on the nightstand next to my bed, and I often go to sleep with their thoughts revolving in my brain, or with their music floating about me. (I am—and will always be—a fan of Elvis Presley, The Temptations, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Frank Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel and Marvin Gaye. Rock and roll is here to stay, Mr. President!) Have I not been so lucky as to have had so many wonderful experiences in Northamerica and Southamerica and Europe? Please, Mr. President, let me be with my primogenitors? Let me take in more of this complex continent where I have been fixed for the past seventeen years? Please release me? Let me go!
Seventhly. It has not been frequently easy living outside the DisUnited States what with the terrible reputation Northamericans enjoy—however unjustly—in many of the parts I have visited. Let me give you only two examples:
1. I had once just sat down to drink a cup of coffee in a coffee bar in Caracas, and noticing a beautiful lady next to me, I started to converse with her. While talking, I suddenly received a slap on my right ear that sent me flying to the floor. “Go home, gringo!” shouted the woman’s escort who had just returned from the men’s room. Did he think incorrectly that I was trying to initiate a relationship with her?
2. For years, I have been a client of the Deutsche Bank in Firenze on Via Strozzi. A few months ago, when I went to make a deposit, the teller there, who I have known for years, began lambasting Northamericans thinking, all these years, that I was an Englishman! He told me point-blank: “I hate all Americans.”
These are only two cases. There have been many, many others both in Venezuela and Italy. It must be pointed out, however, that not all Venezuelans or Italians are so violent or unsavory when confronting Northamericans on a one-on-one basis—especially when Northamericans are flashing their dollar bills in the air! I have enjoyed innumerably beautiful and rewarding occasions, naturally. I cannot help to think, nevertheless, that during these not noble situations, if I had had my citizenship renunciation papers in hand, I might have been able to bring them to the attention of any anti-DisUnited States interlocutor and assuage his/her feelings at least towards me! You will be doing me a great favor, Mr. President, if you sign those pages officially documenting the renunciation of my DisUnited States’ citizenship. Thank you.
Eighthly. I am decidedly against the death penalty, and I have been so always. It rattles me enormously that more than seventy percent of Northamerican citizens are proponents of capital punishment. If you do not know why you should be contrary to it, then you are more insensate than I imagined. (There is this “joke” going around Europe: “The dean of the Yale University Law (Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? Out of professional courtesy.) School is addressing the in-coming class. He says that lawyers (It was so cold last week that I saw several lawyers with their hands in their own pockets.), wanting to make politics a career, should not take the Ethics and the Law (How was copper wire invented? Two lawyers were arguing over a penny.) course. You, Mr. President, stand up and say: ‘I’m going to be President of the DisUnited States.’ The dean replies to you: ‘Then you can do whatever you want here.’”) Yet, there is something even worse I have to say to you on this score, and I wish to quote to you from that ever-mind-roaming Newsweek: 12 June 2000; pps. 30-31: “…In January 1992, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton interrupted his presidential campaign to return home to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a black man convicted of killing a police officer. Rector had lobotomised himself with a bullet to his head; he was so incapacitated that he asked that the pie served at his last meal be saved for “later.” By not preventing the execution of a mentally impaired man, Clinton was sending a strong message to voters: the era of soft-on-crime Democrats was over. Even now, Al Gore doesn’t dare step out front on death-penalty issues.” Here we have something really outrageous. President Clinton, substantially, pandered to the basic instincts of those Northamerican people whom he wanted to vote for him. He used a debilitated individual to better his own self interests and those of his political party, the Democratic Party—long regarded by many as one of the champions of the underdog and the underprivileged. How could he have been so crass? Does he not know that two other rabble-rousers in the last century, Hitler and Mussolini, stooped to similar depraved orchestrations before they went on to killing enfeebled personages en masse? How could he have been so fatuitous? I do not want to live in the same country that he inhabits, Mr President! And I do not want to live with those lame-brained characters who voted for him and were happy to see Mr. Rector executed.
Ninthly. In the autumn of 1967, I was serving as an artillery officer with an infantry company dug-in on the Vietnam-Cambodian border. (For an almost incredible story, read my “How Jacqueline Kennedy Saved My Life,” on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/mycentury. Jackie O went on vacation in Cambodia while we, the troops, were there the same time! Was she a Rhodes’ scholar?) If I am not mistaken, at about the same time, Bill Clinton was studying at Oxford University (as a Rhodes’ scholar!) in England smoking Cuban cigars, banana peelings, and marijuana. Lucky you! When I set off for Vietnam in August, 1967, I did not know whom I should have believed: the hippies; or, the establishment. Bill Clinton knew better whom to believe, obviously. He was a little rascal! And, he was right. The hippies were on the mark, too. I did not wear flowers in my hair when I went to Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco in August, 1967. Bill Clinton did! He was smarter than me. After all, he is a lawyer (What is a difference between God and a lawyer? God does not pretend to be a lawyer.) ! Clinton yelped about peace and civil rights while the likes of Henry Kissinger (Noble Peace Prize winner! Jean-Paul Sartre is right about the Noble Prize!) were carpet-bombing millions of innocent Northvietnamese civilians. Bravo, Bill. He was anti-military, anti-establishment—with a perfect alibi. Today, Secretaries of Defence, say that Vietnam veterans have nothing to be ashamed of for having served in Vietnam! Notwithstanding Clinton’s interesting approach to the nuances of historical reality, there are two knotty nitty-grittyies that perplex me tremendously when I think about Clinton, and I would like to air them here:
1. Who went in his place, President Obama? A nineteen-year-old farm kid? An Afroamerican? A high-school drop-out? A “Do you want to go to jail, or do you want to go to Vietnam?” A Northerner? A Southerner?
2. I will admit, again, that Bill Clinton was faultless about not going to Vietnam. He trod on the heels of the anti-war demonstrators, let his hair grow, hopped on the peace bandwagon…. Great. But I believe, Mr. President, that Bill Clinton climbed too high the heights of pretence ever since he began rallying against the DisUnited States’ intervention in Southeast Asia. For the two terms he served as President of the DisUnited States of America, every wish or whim of Pentagon generals was adhered to by him. As if he was doing everything possible to give the impression that he was not in congruence with his peace-loving Sixties’ days. Had logic gone amuck for him? Come on, Bill, get back on the Peace Train. Is this what they taught you at Yale University Law (Why do they bury lawyers under thirty feet of dirt? Because deep down, they’re really good people.) School? How could he act like such a nincompoop and still be alive? And he called himself a Leader of the Free World! The most powerful individual in the world! This world must be going to the dogs! Could he not see for himself? More than fifty percent of the Northamerican people do not vote! For decades they have been choosing between the “lesser of two evils.” And that is what they are left with now: overbearing tactlessness. Who is going to follow this act? A psychopath? A John McCain? A presidential Oliver North? (Someone worse than Richard Nixon!) Bill Clinton pertains to a long list of presidential featherbrains, and the only thing left for him to do—if he does not go to jail—is to construct a presidential library (Egads! No! Not another presidential library! No! No!! No!!!), filled with computer disks and reams of paper, and pose for pictures with other presidential goofballs—naturally, under the protection of Secret Service agents. God bless Northamerica! God help it! Stop! I want to get off! I refuse to live in the shadows of this crippling speciousness. Mr. President, please sign those papers TODAY before some nitwit is elected again and tries to fry me in one of his Texan electric chairs famous all over the world.
Tenthly. There is one thing I like about Bill CLinton. I will never forget that belly-laugh he “spasmed” for us next to that éminence grise, Boris Yelstin, as they both bantered about before the press in the White House. I guess being a lawyer (What do you have when one-hundred lawyers are buried up to their necks in sand? Not enough sand.) is a sort of compensation. It helps to pal around with other lawyers (What is black and brown and looks good on a lawyer? A Doberman.) and get to meet important political celebrities. I will bet a lawyer (What do lawyers and sperm have in common? One in 3,000,000 has a chance of becoming a human being.) presented Bill to Boris. Bill showed that he had a sense of humor, and this is a wonderful asset.
You hold in your hands just another unfinished chapter in a book of shame about the Vietnam “War”—that tragedy that has blemished the reputation of the DisUnited States perhaps for all time and has guaranteed that all DisUnited States’ foreign policy must be regarded as suspect: under suspicion of being in the interest of the politically and militaristically powerful, untrustworthy for being in the interest of a world economic order that threatens to destabilize millions of workers and bring more misery to millions more destitute people throughout the world, and suspected of being in the interest of an attitude (DisUnited States Army slogans: “Might is Right…A Good Defence is an Offence…Once You’ve got Them by the Balls, Their Hearts and Minds will Follow”) that perpetuates a pervading influence of fear among people who are economically and politically defenceless. No wonder your diplomats must hide behind bullet-proofing wherever they go! They are feared; they are not respected. On this very day, fascists, totalitarians, revanchists, dictators and chauvinists all cluster around one precise conceit: “The DisUnited States is just as depraved as they say we are. In the end, all that counts is that might is right.” DisUnited States’ foreign policy, sadly, has degenerated to this disgusting level. It lacks courage; it is lacklustre.
I ask you, President Obama, to instruct your muddleheaded dependents in the DisUnited States Consulate in Firenze to cease lying to me and quit hiding behind bullet-proof glass. If we must meet again, I will be happy to return to the consulate and sign “new” renunciation documents provided someone promises me that those official papers will be sent to me within thirty (30) days of my signing them. Thank you.
Anthony St. John
1 August 2000