By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
Sit down with a couple of anti-Bush artist/activists and a pro-Bush children's book author, and you get what you play for: lots of debate about politics, war, and the election, and not so much about artistic motivation or choice of medium. At least Emma Kratz, whose new single, "You're Going Down, Bushy," is a diatribe against George W., finally took off her mask, which she swears she wears to protect herself against attacks from pro-Bush fanatics. And Lieutenant Colonel Phil Johnson (Bush fan and author of the just-published I Think Sadi Arabia Suks, a book about kids' views on war) and local artist Scott McKenzie (whose "Bush: I Lied" posters are popping up all over town) never came to blows. But the only thing that these three Phoenicians could agree on is that art matters, especially in a war against the president.
New Times: Emma, your "You're Going Down, Bushy" is sort of a protest song gone berserk.
Emma Kratz: It had to be heard! It's more important than ever to get Bush out of there. I haven't been politically active since the Sixties, but I had to do something. The CD came about because my husband grew tired of hearing me scream each time Bush came on the television. I knew I needed to turn that anger into something more positive.
NT: And so of course you wrote an anti-Bush song, sung to the tune of "Hello, Dolly!"
Kratz: Yes. I hadn't been in the recording studio in years -- I had a brief career in my 20s, but decided I didn't want to be a starving artist -- but with this Bush thing I had to do something. I'm pretty good at parody, and I listened to a lot of songs and wrote some new words, and the rest is history.
NT: Phil, your book, I Think Sadi Arabia Suks, isn't Bush-specific, but you're a Bush supporter whose new book does sort of promote war, and was published at a time when your favored candidate is being criticized for his pro-war policies.
Phil Johnson: It's more specific to the issue of war. We've had two Gulf wars in the last ten years, and fortunately we've won both of them. I wrote the book because I was in Saudi Arabia, I was in Kuwait, and I know what goes on in war. And I know the attitudes of our troops. And people speaking out against our president only encourages our enemy. Which isn't to say we shouldn't have a legitimate debate in this country about who we'll elect as president and the different issues that come up. But just because this president has led us into war -- and I think rightly so -- doesn't mean his campaign should suffer.
NT: So it's no coincidence that your book is coming out now.
Johnson: A lot of people who protest against Bush and against the war, they don't know what it's like. I'd venture to say that 80 percent of them haven't had any war experience. I think it's great that we haven't had a draft since Vietnam, but we have got to unite the way we did after 9/11, instead of divide.
NT: Your book is made up of letters from kids who wrote to you while you were on active duty on the Arabian Gulf, and your commentary on them.
Johnson: I was over there, and a teacher friend of mine had her grade school classes write to me. There's so much compassion and hate for war in those letters. It's a lighthearted look at what kids think of war these days.
NT: I'm confused. In their letters the kids tell you how much they love American troops but they hate the war.
Johnson: I know. Don't they sound just like the Democrats?
Kratz: You're funny.
NT: You mention that you were touched by the kids' disgust about the war. But you're a military man.
Johnson: I don't feel they're contradicting themselves, because they're young and they're just discovering their opinions about war. A lot of the boys wrote about their love of airplanes, and the girls primarily talked about the "weird clothing" that the women had to wear. But the message of the book is a good one to get out right now.
Scott McKenzie: The whole mindset behind the poster started because -- and I have to disagree with Phil -- it's not a war with Iraq, it's an invasion of Iraq. I wanted to do a commentary on how [in the U.S.] we have the luxury of seeing things from a wider perspective.
Johnson: We live in the greatest country going, and a lot of people here don't know how good we really have it.
McKenzie: We're perceived as a bunch of tyrants by people in other countries, and I have to agree with them. I don't think that [Bush] had the Iraqi people's best interest at heart.
Kratz: He had the interest of American contractors at heart. All the stockholders of all the defense companies are in the government. (To Phil:) Where do you own stock, Halliburton or one of the other defense contractors?