Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Personal / Writing / Satire /
pk’s letters to the president were mostly of the Swift-Modest-Proposal type of irony (which I got from Twain more than from Swift.
Kent State and the shooting of the protesting students by the National Guard reminded me that Nixon had sent the Army to the striking post offices not long before. Why shouldn’t the logic have been the same?
10 May 1970
Sir, you impress me because you surprise me. I was enthusiastic about your handling of the post office strike in New York. When I heard that you were sending in the Army, you had my full approval. It’s about time these lawless strikers saw some fist in government, and killing them would teach them a lesson about responsibility they would not be likely to forget. Bombing the post offices would relieve us of some of our least desirable architecture and the whole thing would be good practice for our non-combat troops to prepare them for the civil war. Besides, training new postal workers would reverse our unemployment trends and building new post offices would also boost our sagging economy. Imagine my surprise when you had the army do the postal workers duties! It was a stroke of Napoleonic genius. It was that creative reversal of the expected that has made me one of your most rabid supporters.
You can see how exciting it was to me when I heard that troops were being sent to the striking colleges. How wonderful to have soldiers sit in for the students. What a terrible waste of faculty time and library resources if no one is attending class or reading. I believe that having soldiers be made literate at government order is unprecedented in history. It is fantastic, even Utopian, to think of the quality of a society which would have a liberally educated armed forces: wars would practically disappear, though not moral wars like yours. I think it’s eminently justifiable if the soldiers killed a few snotty kids who were trying to keep them from going to class. If these strikes continue, you will have to increase vastly the size of your army in order to keep the campuses full. I’d “re-up” myself, but since my separation from the service in 1963, my arches have fallen.
I resist the temptation to “improve” the letter. I have merely copied. Had I labored at the composition, it likely wouldn’t have been sent. I also realize how ordinary the implicit accusations became after Watergate. Brian [aside for my son for whom I was preparing the texts], I don’t know how you can imagine the tone of 1970. Serious. Serious and sanctimonious. The protesters too. A few radicals hated the government and thought it was evil. In that case they seemed always to think that some specific political alternative was good: that they would be good in Nixon’s place and that the whole imperialist rise of civilization would improve. But most protesters convinced themselves that the government was well intentioned but had gotten a detail or two wrong. It was hard to tell what the loyalists thought: one thing for sure, they thought that the protesters shouldn’t protest.