The Super-Burqa and the Big Tent

In Afghanistan, as of this writing, women have not yet been bombed out of their burqas. It is risky to be the first in one’s village to shed the uniform of anonymity.

At The Dancing Bare establishment, in Portland, Oregon, no one wears a burqa. There are no “women of cover” at the Dancing Bare. (Is there a “cover charge”?) Yet it is equally hard to discard the uniform of anonymity.

The sign outside The Dancing Bare tonight says, “Proud to be Americans.” Whether the sentiment refers to the management or to the live nude dancers, or to all of them, is left to the imagination.

That nude dancing could be construed as an act of patriotism has not perhaps occurred to everyone. What exactly is the patriotic message of nude dancing? “We must uphold men’s unlimited sexual access to women (and children?), otherwise the terrorists win”? Is that it? That can’t be right. I must be tired.

On the Internet, too, the smut merchants love their country, to such an extent that to distinguish between pornography and patriotism can seem difficult if not pointless. Obscene depictions of Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush have turned up on Usenet newsgroups where people upload and download what were once called “dirty pictures.”

What are we not seeing while we look at these ubiquitous pictures where everything, literally everything, is visible? The humanity of the participants? Besides that. Photos of civilian casualties? Acknowledgement of civilian casualties? Accountability for civilian casualties?

Photos would be “too disturbing.” We must remember our “objectives.”

Here is the operative principle: “War is Hell. Knowing that, we do not need to know it.”

Just get it done and spare us the details. Comes down to cases, what’s worse? Knowing or not knowing? Therefore we leave all that to the Three ‘R’s — Rather, O’Reilly and Rivera — and place the entire American people inside a super-burqa. This is the Big Tent, for sure.

“Son this ain’t a dream no more, it’s the real thing,” as the poet, our only reliable source of news, tells us.

It feels safe inside the national super-burqa, sort of. We have dirty pictures and football to look at under our “cover.” We’ve got hymns and handguns and Paul McCartney to sing about “Freedom.” It’s a little weird that we can’t see out, at least not clearly, and sometimes we have to fight back a panic reflex when they come and take somebody out of the Big Tent, like the poor Enron people or that Arab-American Secret Service agent, but we’ll get used to it.

We’ll have to. What’s the alternative?

After all, it’s risky to be the first to take off an invisible burqa. We might see what’s going on under all this “cover.” And where could that lead? Next thing we know, somebody next to us might be saying, “Let’s roll.”

David Vest is a regular writer for CounterPunch, a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs. Visit his website at

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.