The tenure of President George W. Bush has not been funny. Unprovoked war, unanswered hurricanes, tortured prisoners, richer rich, poorer poor, and top-level corruption do not make for not good punch lines. However, thanks to Santa Barbara author Virginia Dale, there’s a humorous lining to Bush’s cloud.
In her new book, The Bushy Twins Go to War, Dale-who will be reading at Chaucer’s Books on Thursday, March 29-tells the fictional tale of the twin daughters of President John Bushy who decide to enter the Army and head off to a war in Iraq. It’s a dose of some much-needed satire in today’s troubled times, and one that’s also thought-provoking and easy to read. Dale, who’s 64, a mostly retired English- as- a- second- language teacher, and an S.B. resident since 1972, chatted with me recently over the phone.
Where’d you come up with the idea? I got the idea from Cindy Sheehan. She had given her son; he had died in the Iraq War. She asked to speak with the president and was refused, which I thought was terribly callous. So the story starts in the Oval Office, with President John Bushy looking out over the White House lawn at this woman, a middle-aged housewife talking to reporters [about her dead son]. Bushy says to his secretary of state, “She’s still out there!” He’s very annoyed.
This is your second novel, right? Yes. My first, Never Marry in Morocco, was published by Fithian Press in Santa Barbara in 1996. It’s essentially about my marriage to a French national living in Morocco and my observance of Muslim culture. It’s very liberal there. : The Muslim culture is mostly indoors, but we were allowed to wear whatever we wanted. People envision women going abroad to Muslim countries and having to be shrouded, but it’s not true. King Hassan was very pro-Western, as is his son now. And now there is a parliament in Morocco.
So you seem to have some background in the Muslim world. Did that help you write this novel? It helped me envision the Iraqis and some of the language they use. I learned a bit of Arabic myself. I spoke more Arabic than the CIA on 9/11, because they spoke none!
Were you scared at all in writing this book that someone might come after you? Well, I’m using a pen name! But I am going to give readings, too. I have no idea. It’s just a small book. I don’t think anyone is going to come after me. It’s political satire, but I do not verbally assassinate anyone. It’s not a mean-spirited book.
Such a serious subject seems to be well served by a light-hearted approach. So why satire? It comes naturally to me. That’s my voice, the way of assimilating things to myself. I knew from the beginning we should have never gone to war. If you leave the Muslims alone, they will take care of things. The best thing to do is to leave them alone. The Muslim students really have been assimilating our culture, but when Bush came around, I got all these instant messages [from abroad] saying, “Who is this Bush?!?” They did an about-face, and we pushed them into a corner. Now they do suicide bombing, which is horrible, but any kind of bomb is. We are as guilty as they are. Everyone has guilt. I hope to advance the cause of peace, not with bombs, but with words.