Dear Mr. President,

Everything I remember about Iraq is quiet and grainy, like old home movies. After we came here, we never went back there.

During Dessert Storm, the country that I am currently from dropped bombs on the country that I used to be from, and my grandmother fell. She broke her hip and now the shoe on her one foot has a heel that is three inches higher than the other. Mostly she’s sad because she has grandchildren that she’s never seen.

They used to call your father this word that sounds almost like Bush but, to people in Iraq, it is a word that means empty.

Last week I had a talk about the State of Things with a man. This man likes the guns his family owns and tells me how “so not afraid” he is to use them. During our talk, he said to me, “I understand what you are saying, but try and put yourself in the shoes of a real American.”

That night I dreamt about pamphlets, yellow and square, printed with the beautiful and wonderfully good principles of this country being dropped from airplanes and into the outstretched hands of blonde-haired, blue-eyed people with their heads thrown back, looking into the sun.

This is my life, Mr. President. I am standing over this stream that runs beneath me. One foot is on slippery stone and the other is on Kentucky bluegrass with blades sharp, green and plastic, like turf. I’ve got a good view and I can tell you what is on either side but it’s starting to flood.

A. Rasheed

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Dear Mr. President,

I have a hard time validating my feelings.

When I am mad at somebody, I think, “Isn’t this partly my fault? How did I help bring about this situation, directly or indirectly?” Anger is a choice, and before I make that choice I need to make sure it’s justified and that I’m really not angry with myself.

As you could imagine, all this self-reflection leads to self-doubt and more often than not I don’t express my feelings, which leaves me feeling even more conflicted.

Peter Vaeth

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Dear Mr. President,

If you’re backing out of a really busy parking lot, be sure to check your rear-view mirror, or you might end up pinning a fat man against a fence.

Every year at Christmas I worry that our chimney is going to choke to death on Santa.

My mother always said she wanted me to grow up with big healthy fingers. I never run from a button.

Gretchen Valder

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Dear Mr. President,

I am the submissions editor at the Texas International Law Journal. I help choose which articles we publish. Recently, authors have been saying to me things like, “Texas International Law Journal? I thought Texans didn’t believe in international law!”

They think it’s funny, but it’s really bad for business.

Brannon Andrews

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Dear Mr. President,

My entire life, the only real threat to world peace has come from the middle east. It has always been the most volitile spot on earth. Thank God someone finally has the courage to do something about this. The era of murdering dictators and the oppression they casue has to end before all of mankind will be able to experience the blessing of democracy and freedom.

Yes, war is ugly and it will cause suffering. But I firmly believe the suffering it causes now will pale beside the suffering, terrorism and mayhem that will ensue should organizations like A.Q. and Iraq’s regime be allowed to continue their practices of murder and intimidation.

It is our responsibility as the world’s last superpower to beat down and eliminate those that think violence is the only way to force their views and beliefs on the rest of the world. As unchristian as it may sound—peace thru superior firepower and stead fast resolve, seem the best option to waiting around for the next wave of attacks on US soil.

Despite the rash of negative letters you probably receive thru this posting, the American people are behind you—as your polls demonstrate.

God Bless the GOP.

John Taylor
Yale University

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Dear Mr. President,

I hear that you read the Bible every day, Mr. President. About 6 months ago I started doing the same thing. I just finished tonight.

One question: what version are you reading? Mine ends with the words “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” There is one part that says “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” and another that notes “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

All of this is out of something called the King James Version. Is this the right one? I figured since you are a lot more religious than me, and since you have been at this a lot longer, you could point me in the right direction. Maybe there’s a version 2.0 out there somewhere? I’m guessing Microsoft probably has one, right?

After observing most of your policy decisions and political moves I know I am not reading the right book and I want to get with the program, so to speak, as soon as possible. Please help me out.

Chris Cutter

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Dear Mr. President,

Although Stephen Crane is, when anthologized, incessantly thrown in together with James, Wharton and their ilk, I have qualms with him being classified as a “realist”, in that sense of the word, and am much more comfortable with the label (because we must of course label everything) “impressionist.” A classmate and confidant of mine who has hitherto concurred on most literary issues disagrees, claiming that Crane’s work is derivative of Henry James’ early work, most realistic in style.

Please inform this typically insightful citizen of his blunder. Your eloquence is always appreciated.

You can hit respond, and address your letter to Paul.

Casey Ward

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Dear Mr. President,

Hi, I wrote before to thank you for your current foreign policy towards North Korea, since I’m currently teaching English in South Korea. Anyway, as soon as I walked in the class today, the kids blasted me with, “Did you know American celebrities are saying bad things to Korea?” to which I responded, “Huh?” Well, it took a lot of explanation, but apparently that incident with two American soldiers, and two middle school Korean girls, and one tank got back home, and people are talking about it. Rest assured, my first question to them was where their sources were from, to which they responded newspapers and the internet. What ensued was a long lesson teaching that journalism does not implicitly entail “truth”, which I’m pleased to say the children understood rather quickly, considering the oldest of them is twelve.

Inspired by their outspoken mood, I thought to direct their concerns to the one person whose job it is to answer those complicated questions, like why two soldiers who ran over girls here during peacetime are not being tried by local authorities. Anyway, a few of the children have written letters to you. I haven’t edited them, so if you would like to help some wonderful children improve their grammar, please feel free to send back their corrected letters, or at least some encouraging feedback. Here they are:

1. This letter is from Mike. He is a smart boy, 12 years old, but he still can’t figure out how to use the present progressive (ex. “I am going”, instead of “I go”).

Dear Bush—
Hi Bush.
Why innocence the accident of armored car kill two middle school girl I think correspondence is well, but why American people (lawyer) says "A correspondence is not well, and decision this accident is innocence. I don’t understand this happend. This judgment is disadvantage for korean, because american judge, american public prosecuter, and american lawyer, all disadvantage for korean. again think about this accident, please.

2. This letter is from Lillian, who is usually busy drawing some very good Japanime-style pictures of girls and fairies. She is 10 years old (It’s actually funny the way Koreans talk about their age. From birth they consider that to be age 1, and they don’t really count birthdays, but years, so I’m 24 in Korea, even though I won’t turn 23 until December 29th).

Hello! Bush the president.
Bush the president do you know girls being killed by U.S.A. soldiers!
This is very bad.
If this is suddenly happen, this is a crime.
But this is not a crime.
Korean is very very sad.
And a U.S.A. action have bad words to korea
This is very very bad.
It think deep. It well just American.
President please think one more time.
So bye president.

3. This next letter comes from Julie, easily one of my smarter students. Julie seems genuinely affected by many things in the world, yet she’s always very charitable. The other day she was describing a girl who picks on her, punching her all the time, but she insisted on calling the girl her friend. She called the girl her “bad friend,” which I thought was sweet.

Hello, I’m Korean. America and Korea have very many big event. I’ll write a big event. That is 2 girls being killed by U.S.A. soldiers. We don’t understand this event of decision. Korean people are can’t understand. That is no justice. We want justice. That event demand justice decision. Your a president in America. But Korean people not agree your decision. I’m very angry. So I want a justice decision, thank you, Bush,

4. This letter is from Kevin, who we also call K-Dawg. He’s a pretty funny kid, and sometimes I think he’s good at English, but other times I have my doubts. I still can’t tell if he writes sentences for his vocabulary words by copying from the dictionary or internet, or if he’s actually writing the sentences himself. If you write to him, call him K-Dawg. He’ll find it very funny.

Dear Bush,

Hi! I’m Korea person.
I’m thirteen years old.
America did many accident.
First Salt Lake Olympic’s Ono accident
Ono push down Kim Dong Sung.
And Ono run to finish line.
So he had Gold medal.
But Kim Dong Sung must had Gold medal.
Salt Lake IOC said Kim Dong Sung is out.
Oh! It’s very surprise to me.
Last, two girls being killed by US Army. US Army kill two girls two times!!! You must apologize to All Korean people. If you apologize to us, we’ll forgive you.

In closing, the kids are afraid your secretary will delete their letters and you will not read them. I didn’t know how to answer this concern, so I told them that maybe it is more important for them to write the letter than for you to read it.

Eric Silver

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Dear Mr. President,

Just a line from a supporter, letting you know that I think you are doing a fine job.

Thomas W. Wynn

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Dear Mr. President,

I suppose that by writing you this letter, I am doing something positive for the American economy. After all, you have a staff of people who have to read these sorts of letters and tally them up. And so, by creating more work for those people, I’m creating more jobs. Like how having to make all the boats for World War II pulled America out of the Great Depression, supposedly. And how some of the people you work with think a war with Iraq would boost our sagging economy. And how, when they wanted to build a new stadium for the football team here, everyone voted for it. “To create more jobs!” they all said.

So, are we just trying to make more work? Is that the plan? Because if it is, maybe instead we should have passed a measure to build a new stadium, then immediately tear it down, then build it again. Wouldn’t that have created even more jobs? And instead of bombing Iraq, maybe we could bomb Tallahassee, or Louisville, or Saratoga Springs. Believe me, there are evil-doers in all those cities. (I went to high school with some of them.) And that way, we can not only create the bomb-building jobs, but all the fire-dousing, shrapnel-cleanup, house-rebuilding jobs, too.

David Khoury

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Dear Mr. President,

English is my favorite subject, but I’ve had mediocre teachers in the subject all my life, until this year. His name is Mr. Schwartz and he teaches my AP English class. When he plays the part of Lear on days we read King Lear in class, he gets so into it—he rolls his eyes, and shakes with rage, and really puts on a show for us.

Mr. Schwartz played “Alice’s Restaurant” for us the day before Thanksgiving vacation and we talked about its political significance. I appreciate him for doing this because I’ve been going to the Thanksgiving Parade every year since I was four, and my dad always played the song on the drive there. I never really thought about the song having any sort of meaning behind it. I just liked the “Kill! Kill! Kill!” part. I still do.

Also, when I was two I ate a spider. My mom saw me sitting in the corner with a leg twitching out the corner of my mouth, but before she could take it away I swallowed it. It’s really embarrassing when she tells this story to people outside my family—which she does often.


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Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to soar to new heights, so I went to the library and checked out a book called, How to Master Your Life, but when I got home I discovered it was in Braille. This wasn’t as big a deal as you might think though, because my body is written in Braille too. You can read my muscles. My muscles spell out a big fat slice-of-life nineteenth century novel called, Quest for Grace. Actually, it’s just a rough draft.

In the first chapter we see a boy sitting on a dock fishing. The boy rips an earthworm in half and sticks one half on his hook and throws it in the water. He throws the other half over his shoulder and it lands in some bushes. The novel follows the adventures of this half, the one in the bushes, as it gradually regenerates itself and sets out on its new life of freedom, eating dirt.

In chapter three, Danny, the earthworm, narrowly escapes a fatal head on collision with a snail. In chapter four, we see Danny coming to terms with the fact that nobody can tell the difference between his ass and his face. In chapter five a caterpillar tricks Danny into thinking he too will one day become a butterfly. And at the end of this chapter we see Danny happily wrapping himself in his freshly made cocoon, which is really just his own poop. In chapter seven nothing much happens, it’s just a bunch of long-winded pastoral descriptions. In chapter nine Danny sits helplessly by as a horse’s hoof stamps out his newfound love, Rhonda. Hopefully you’re starting get the picture.

In short, the book is poorly written. The sentences are clumsy and out of control. The descriptive passages are monotonous. The language is outdated. The author’s use of plot device is cliched, and the main character is a buffoon. Nobody in their right mind would bother with Quest for Grace, which is why the only people who ever pull it down from the shelf are super drunk at closing time.

Sincerely, Chad Morgan

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[NOTE: The opinions expressed in these letters do not necessarily represent those of McSweeney’s, Knopf, or Gabe Hudson.]