An Open Letter to Stanley Cohen

Establishment forces are trying to silence Stanley Cohen, a lawyer for those who resist.


Hey, so I was on Youtube listening to the unforgettable Amiri Baraka, the late playwright, jazzman, truth teller and mounting flame who never sold out, reciting his great poetic indictment “Somebody Blew Up America” against the backdrop of a plaintive Joycian beat generation sax riff. It’s the poem that got him defrocked as New Jersey’s Poet Laureate not too many years before the light of that noble life left us all the worse for its extinction. “Who, Who, Whoo, Whooooo”!

And then, I thought of you.

Now frankly, the connection isn’t very clear and upon reflection is absurd and as much a mystery to me as I’m certain it is to you. But who cares what synaptic pathways bring us together. I’m in Costa Rica and you’re in a Pennsylvania gulag doing a year on a plea deal over some trumped up bullshit.

And I’ve developed a habit of corresponding with a handful of political prisoners like you whenever the quality of writing for my own account has degraded to a prosaic shitbroth barely rising to the level of travelogue. And for that, I get to write to inspirational souls who have thrown themselves into the gears of the machine Mario Savio exhorted us all to do and you, well, you get me at my absolute worst, my most self indulgent. And I feel badly about that. I do. I sabotage relationships constantly like this on the left as well as the right.

Like the time I killed a nascent intellectual tete a tete with Norman Pollack by referring to him in my private correspondence as Sidney, who, importantly, has been dead for a long time. It’s hard to be taken seriously when you make mistakes, or even joke like that. I get it; I’m my own worst enemy.

All I’m saying is you deserve better than this. Much better. And if I could somehow extricate myself from the goo of this abysm, blacker than the devil’s excrement, I’ve been marooned in since my mother took leave of time and space a week ago today, I would. I really would. I’d levitate this meditation to one of timeless significance and be that selfless, other regarding light unto the world that could share words of deep pathos, love and solidarity with you. But the truth is, the real truth is, Stanley, that if I could write from that place, that space, from the deepest well of my heart, I wouldn’t be writing to you. I’d be writing my opus or at least a critique for publication radiating atavistic moral outrage at the war mongering sausage machine our shared country has become, and in truth, has always been from its genocidal inception. And I know, beyond the thickest wall of hubris and delusion imaginable that if I live to be a hundred, at my very, very best, I’ll never be Edward Said on his worst day in front of a broke dick Corona wood chipper.

But then again, that great Sequoia of a man is dead too, and thus won’t be writing to cheer you up in the carceral state of Pennsylvania any time soon. And while I’m sure I won’t be receiving many postcards from you, other political prisoners like Mumia, Chelsea, Leonard, Albert or thousands of other encaged men and women who came on the hegemon’s radar for one reason or another, I am certain of this. While I can expect no words of encouragement from the ghost of Edward Said, or Sidney Pollack for that matter, I know if the good professor were alive today, your incarceration would not have escaped his notice, because nothing ever did. I’d be willing to bet money against the advance for the book that may never get written that Edward would be crafting some world class prose of love, outrage and solidarity on your behalf right now.

But till that day comes, you’re stuck with me, Stanley. Me and literally hundreds of your personal friends all over the world who love and adore you and write you letters of support and encouragement every single day. Friends. Letters. Every day.

You know what I have, Stanley? Cats. A high school degree and cats!!

But I’m not an embittered, unpublished author, Stanley. I’m not a cliché. I’m the real deal and have actually been published in the finest on line dissident venues my last living parent never heard of. And while I never made a nickel that stuck and could never afford some much needed, and oft recommended, therapy, I’m pretty sure I no longer live in the shadow of their shattered expectations. I just survive in the shadow of my own.

I’ve tried impossibly hard to make it in a country that’s finally become its own fully paramilitarized reality T.V. show. And now that there’s a new monument to fascism, white supremacy and depraved indifference, Donald Trump, as its host, it’s finally clear the U.S. has become virtually uninhabitable for those few left who can still think critically. It’s time to go, and even I can see that. The cracks are everywhere. The sky is a carpet of black swan.

So, Stanley Cohen, we may likely never meet but while I still have breath, I want to thank you. Thank you too on behalf of all those who would if they could – but can’t. In the face of tyranny, the accused all deserve a thorough, committed and capable defence. And for so many, and for so long, when all the others who shoulda, coulda and woulda stepped up but rather chose to hit the tall grass instead – you were that guy, you were the man who said, “I’ll stand with you”. And in a world of craven malice, cowardice and moral indifference, that’s no small thing.

So I hope when its time for you to walk out that door, that you take your family someplace safe, somewhere far from the hegemon where, maybe, you can smile a little more often, keep fighting the good fights and live out the rest of your days unmolested and unmaligned.

As for me, I think I can feel this insoluable case of writers’ block starting to thaw. And I owe you for that. I’m getting my voice back. I’m warming up, Stanley, I really am. And if I have enough time and get really, really lucky, I just might get it right. I might just get it right. I might just. I might.

As-salamu alaykum
& Up the Rebels!

Anthony Tarrant no longer toils for healthcare in retail fashion's corporate mills. He lives and writes in Costa Rica, a poor country filled with incredibly happy people with no standing army since 1948. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Anthony.