Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Gitmo" and American Pop Culture

Yesterday, "On the Media" presented a story on how the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities (a.k.a. "Gitmo") has become a pop cultural touchstone, whose meanings continue to develop. I've already blogged on the anthology of poems by Guantanamo Bay prisoners, edited by Marc Falkoff--one of the cultural products discussed on the program. But there are a host of others, including a feature length film, a cameo in Michael Moore's latest agit-doc, memoirs, and a few songs.

Writing about this today, I am finding it hard to believe that there are still prisoners who have not been tried in a court of law, some six years after 9/11. It's hard to imagine that there isn't more outrage about indefinite detention. What will they say about us in the history books, when this chapter is written?

Here's Stephen Coffee's satirical Christian-fantasy of the Muslim detainee's conversion to Christianity in "Guantanamo":

The stars for my blanket
I lie here on the ground
The sun’s the only thing
Allowed to move around
I don’t cause no trouble
Don’t even make a sound
Could be years to go, Guantanamo
A few more years to go, Guantanamo

I fought for my country
I fought the infidel
I heard Allah calling
Like the ringing of a bell
But now I found Jesus
Right here in Christian Hell
He loves me this I know, Guantanamo
Jesus loves me this I know, Guantanamo

The blue Caribbean
It soothes me in my rage
Its tropical breezes
Find me in my cage
An endless vacation
To pay the sinner’s wage
Everybody sing Swing Low, Guantanamo
A few more years to go, Guantanamo
Everybody sing Swing Low

*Stephen R Coffee ©2004

And check out some recent poems of mine published in Coconut 11, part of a series called "Ibn Gitmo Flarf Stations." It's actually more about the culture of imperial domination that we saw in the photos of Abu Ghraib, but Abu Ghraib is "ibn gitmo,"--son of Gitmo, since apparently many of the procedures were transplanted from Gitmo. Only we didn't have the forensic evidence. Thank you, Joe Darby. Here's one from the "Ibn Gitmo Flarf Stations":


So this is where you come to escape. He pointed
to my t-shirt while saying something in Arabic
sounding like "sling them" to the rottweiler
who had chewed through his leash. I smiled
at the dog. When I looked down, I found
Kathleen Turner on the other end of the leash,
smiling at me. People who go into Starbucks
do not see it's a quasi political show
of Sadomasochism that has nothing to do
with religion. I'm the centerpiece, you're
a mortice, I'm a pitbull off his leash.
All poets say: my legacy is latency.
A peculiar form of sadomasochistic sadness,
leather clad ashen and publicly.

*Philip Metres

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