author bio

image for George Saunders story PRKAMANIFESTO:

George Saunders


Now it can be told.
     Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction (PRKA), orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.
    At precisely nine in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At nine-thirty, we embarked upon Phase II, during which our entire membership simultaneously did not force a single man to suck another man's penis. At ten, Phase III began, during which not a single one of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. No previously funny person was reduced to a baggy pile of bloody leaking flesh, by us, during this Phase of our operation. In addition, at eleven, in Phase IV, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.
    All of this was accomplished so surreptitiously, it attracted little public notice.
    During Phase V, just after lunch, while continuing to avoid the activities listed above, we were able to avoid bulldozing a single home. Furthermore, we set, on roads in every city, in every nation in the world, a total of zero (0) roadside bombs which, not being there, did not subsequently explode, killing/maiming a total of nobody. No bombs, cluster bombs, or rockets were launched into crowded civilian neighborhoods, from which, it was observed, no post-bomb sickening momentary silences could be heard. These silences were, in all cases, followed by no unimaginable, grief-stricken bellows of rage and loss. No sleeping babies were awakened from sleep by the sudden collapse and/or bursting into flame of his/her domicile, followed by the tortured screams of his/her family members, during Phase V.
   In the early afternoon (Phase VI), our membership focused on using zero (0) trained dogs to bite/terrorize naked prisoners. In addition, no stun guns, rubber batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, or real bullets were used, by our membership, on any individual, anywhere in the world. No one was forced to don a hood. No teeth were pulled in darkened rooms. Drills were not used on human flesh, nor were whips or flames. No one was reduced to hysterical tears via a series of blows to the head or body, by us. Our membership, while casting no racial or ethnic aspersions, skillfully continued not to rape, gang-rape, or sexually assault a single person. On the contrary, during this afternoon phase, many of our membership engaged in tender loving sexual acts, flirted happily, and even consoled, in a non-sexual way, individuals to whom they were attracted, putting aside their sexual feelings out of a sudden welling of empathy.
    As night fell, our membership harbored no secret feelings of rage or hatred or, if they did, prayed, meditated, or discussed these feelings with a friend, until such time as the feelings abated, or were understood to be symptomatic of some deeper sadness, at which time they made silent promises to continue to struggle with these feelings.
    It should be noted that, in addition to the above-listed and planned activities completed by our members, a number of unplanned activities were completed, by part-time members, or even non-members.
    In Chitral, Pakistan, for example, a new Al Qaeda recruit remembered an elderly American woman who had once made him laugh with a snide remark about an ugly lampshade, and the way that, as she made the remark, she touched his arm, like a mother. In Gaza, an Israeli soldier and a young Palestinian exchanged a brief look of mutual shame. In London, a bitter homophobic grandfather whose grocery bag broke open gave a loaf of very nice bread to a balding gay man who stopped to help him. A stooped toothless woman in Tokyo pounded her head with her hands, tired beyond belief of her lifelong feelings of anger and negativity, and silently prayed that her heart would somehow miraculously be opened before it was too late. In Syracuse, New York, holding the broken body of his kitten, a man wept.
    Who are we? A word about our membership.
    Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, insisting upon valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of a peaceful moment over the theoretically peaceful future supposedly to be obtained via murder or massacre. Many of us have trouble sleeping, and lie awake at night, worrying about something catastrophic befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, murder, or invasion. To tell the truth, we are tired. We work. We would just like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologize. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the beautiful, troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by. In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. Rushing to an appointment, remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes well with tears and we think: Well, my God, I was lucky just to have known him.
    This is us. This is who we are. This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.
    Join us.
    Resistance is futile.

© George Saunders  2007

This electronic version of "PRKA" appears in The Barcelona Review with kind permission of the author and publisher.  It appears in the St. Petersburg Review, edited by Elizabeth Hodges, 2007.

See St. Petersburg Review website and article:  Russia Gets a New Review

See also from TBR:  George Saunders' short story Sea Oak from Issue 20  

This story may not be archived, reproduced or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.

Author Bio

George SaundersGeorge Saunders is the author of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia, both of which were New York Times Notable Books, and the political novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil.  He also wrote a children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, which was a New York Times bestseller. In 2000, The New Yorker named him  one of the “Best Writers Under 40.”  He writes regularly for The New Yorker and Harper’s, as well as for Esquire, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine.  Saunders teaches at Syracuse University.

photo© Caitlin Saunders

September-October 2007 #60