No Comment 17.3

Poetry Cancelled

The White House cancelled a poetry symposium planned for February 12 because of concerns that the poetry might fuel protests against the war on Iraq.

A spokesperson for Laura Bush, who organized the symposium, was quoted as saying, “Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions . [but] believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum.”

The poetry would have focused on the works of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman. Some of the invited poets either turned down the White House invitation or planned to speak in favor of peace.

No to Muslim Youth Camp

A plan to build the nation’s first Muslim summer camp in Iowa has drawn protests from residents who say it would threaten the environment, their lifestyle, and national security.

In 1999, the Cedar Rapids-based Muslim Youth Camps of America filed an application to use a vacant property formerly used as a summer retreat for Girl Scouts. But after Sept. 11, 2001, neighbors raised concerns about religion and said that noise and construction from the campsite would destroy their neighborhood’s quiet appeal.

“Not everyone thinks of the United States in the best eyes,” said Coralville Lake resident Bob Lisenber. “In this day and age, we have to think about those kinds of things.”

Pledge Punishments

In January, a California teacher told a middle-school student to stand outside the classroom after he refused to stand and say the pledge of allegiance in history class.

Jim Woodbury, in the Lake-port Unified School District, protested and handed his teacher a packet of information about students’ rights to refuse to say the pledge. But his teacher threw them in the garbage and told Woodbury to leave the classroom.

Woodbury’s parents have asked the district for the teacher’s dismissal and have pulled him out of school. Even though California law requires students to participate in patriotic exercises, the Lakeport superintendent sent the teacher a written warning.

“I believe the flag is a symbol of the government,” Woodbury said. “And I think it’s corrupt and I don’t agree with some of the choices it made.”

Care Packages for Iraqis Diverted

Bryn Mawr, Penn., officials cancelled January plans to send care packages to children in Iraq after angry comments from parents and community members.

The elementary school students were going to put together care packages for Iraqi children and refugees as part of a Martin Luther King celebration and were going to ship them through a Philadelphia-based Quaker social justice group.

After a letter was sent to parents explaining the project, one parent called a local radio station and called the project “un-American.” In order avoid the controversy, the school arranged to send the packages to a local shelter for victims of domestic abuse.


“Some time will go by and the press of world events will cause the astronauts and all they represent to slip again from our consciousness, which is too bad. It would be so much better if this terrible tragedy could somehow prompt a renewed commitment to America’s “high and noble” ideas and aspirations. One quick example: The nation’s great wealth and good fortune could be used to build a sparkling new generation of schools to educate the millions upon millions of young people whose talents and energies will have to be called upon if the U.S. is to continue to flourish.”

— Bob Herbert, Feb. 2, 2003, New York Times

“The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.”

— President George W. Bush, Jan. 30, 2003, The Boston Globe