By Kate Clinton on November 30, 2009

Some have asked, “How did YOU get invited to the White House State dinner?” The incredulity of the question implies we were like the reality couple that crashed the dinner. They were the first couple we saw when we arrived by taxi. I’m not one of those new security behavioral observers, nor do I play one on TV, but they seemed odd.

They came with a camera crew and their exit from a black stretch Hummer limo was well-lit in the dim evening. She was a tall thin blonde in a garish red beaded sari-esque something and he was stocky, grinning junior high coach looking guy. They stood behind us in line. I heard her tell Pepsico’s CEO, Indra Nooyi how they’d just gotten back from India and that it was great shopping. Does wincing make a sound?

Okay is two paragraphs enough on that episode before the whole amazing evening gets derailed by those self-serving balloon boy gate crashers and the media makes a four day news cycle out of If-Obama-can’t-protect-the-White-House-how-will-he-protect-the-country-narrative like it was some kind of 9.11 breach? Ugh.

As an Indian and long time activist Urvashi was invited and she brought me. Since we were in a very diverse room for mainstream DC where media and government boldface names were gathered, we vowed to work it.

At the cocktail reception, we met as many people as we could and after suitably pleasant openers, pushed either for LGBT equality or for peace. Both if we had time. When we were hustled through the receiving line to meet the very cool President Obama, the very hot First Lady, and the Indian guests of honor, Urvashi thanked Mr. Obama for what he is trying to do and suggested he be tougher on the right wing. I seconded that. Urvashi and I held hands and represented as we walked past the press. We worked the dining room. At our table we again inserted peace and full equality whenever we could. It wasn’t like, “Pass the papardam, I’m a pro-choice, pro-peace lesbian, here’s the chutney.” But close.

During the entertainment, before Jennifer Hudson practically blew the tent down, I sat thinking how ironic it was that a month earlier we had been in DC for the Equality March. We weren’t gassed or thrown in jail and there we were at a state dinner sitting next to the CEO of Tata in India and the new US Commerce Secretary.

Others have asked, “WHAT did you wear?” Since you asked, Urvashi wore a red silk kurta with an embroidered shawl, and I wore a knee length black Nehru-esque jacket and pants with an orange scarf.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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