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Eve Ensler Headshot

Please Don't Go Back to Sleep

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Dear America: I am longing to reach you -- crossing this river of indifference and consumption and denial. I am trying to find you, reaching out through the desperate limitations of words and descriptions, swimming through the rhetoric of terror and God.

I need you to wake up. The house is on fire and you are still sleeping, lulled by the intoxication of smoke and mirrors. I need you to wake up and I know that shaking you, scaring you will only make you cling to your sleep and sleep more.

How then do I tell you what's going on? How do I tell you about the one hundred thousand dead Iraqi people that you and I are responsible for murdering. Each one of them valued their life, longed for their morning, cherished their first cup of milk or coffee or tea. In what way shall I deliver what I learned? The substance identical to illegal napalm that melted tender five year old skin; the cluster bombs that have left their murderous and disguised offspring, throngs of bomblets set to explode, scattered on the Iraqi earth; the depleted uraninum from the Bunker Busters we dropped that now lives in lungs and livers and soil.

How do I tell you about the strategic planning of such atrocities in the boardrooms, the backrooms, the back seats of limos, the organized take over and looting of Iraq right out from under the terrorized, hungry, thirsty Iraqi people. How do I get you to listen to the stories of our soldiers who are trying to kill themselves now, longing to escape the madness of murdering and maiming for no reason.

Please don't go back to sleep. I know how hard it is to hear of the massive black holes, called prisons we have dug to hold thousands without charging them, without trials or the torture, the meanness, the cruelty we are inflicting upon them.

America, those who now control our country have changed and ended law. I do not believe you are so calloused or selfish that you do not care. Your sleep is induced. You are distracted and derailed. The corporations have concocted and perfected these sleeping potions for years, developing ingredients to make you despise every bit of yourself, to feel ugly and fat and stupid and poor and not enough. And so you spend your time and every bit of the money you do not have buying products that will make you better, skinnier, lighter, whiter, tighter. And as you consume and consume, the corporations consume you. They take your money and your time and your voice and your instincts and your outrage and your sorrow and your anger and your grief. They consume your courage and leave fear in its place. They devour your conscience and your memory and your compassion.

And how do I speak when they are sure to tie my tongue? When they will say I do not love my country or support the troops or honor the dead or believe in their God? How do I break through your sealed wrapping, your self-obsession, your TVheadphonedDVDcell pod?

America I am getting desperate and I know this will not get me published or heard. Those who control the information will say I'm extreme, that I've gone mad. But I have heard the cries of children in the exploding houses of Falluja. I have seen the agonized faces of the sleepless Iraqi women who still clutch the outline of their charred dead babies in their arms. I have watched as we as a nation grow more isolated, despised and alone.

America, there is not much time left. The fire is spreading, consuming the world. We are the arsonists. We will need each other to find our way out through the lies and haze. It will take our greatest imagination, courage and skill to subdue these flames.

This letter was written immediately after The World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul where I served with thirteen others from around the world on a jury chaired by Arundhati Roy. The Tribunal consisted of three days of hearings investigating various issues related to the war on Iraq, such as the legality of the war, the role of the United Nations, war crimes and the role of the media, as well as the destruction of the cultural sites and the environment. The session in Istanbul was the culminating session of commissions of inquiry and hearings held around the world over the past two years.