Zwaag Prison (NL) “Potatoes or Rice?”

By The Old Goat

In 2015 an American prosecutor’s abusive indictment led to an unlawful extradition attempt, which forced the author, a gay American novelist, into hiding for almost three years. In 2018 a Dutch court ruled unanimously that the U.S. indictment violates basic human rights law, and the author’s rights were restored in the Netherlands. But that didn’t open a way to return home: the Americans refuse to acknowledge or remedy their human rights abuse. [UPDATE: In May, 2021, the American prosecutor withdrew all charges and the author’s rights were restored completely. He now splits his time between the Netherlands and the U.S.]

The story of this ordeal is told anonymously to keep the focus off private conflicts and on systemic problems—as well as potential solutions—that (while highlighted by the author’s own experience) are by no means limited to this case. As the author puts it, “The U.S. action shocked me, though I soon discovered that it was not an aberration, just business as usual. Citizens lose their rights everyday, sometimes fairly through a due process of investigation and reasonable suspicion, but just as often unfairly and without cause. Racism, systemic corruption, personal bias, or, increasingly in the U.S., the mere zeal of prosecutors empowered to detain and threaten anyone they choose, strip citizens of their rights every day.”

Lacking the rights guaranteed by the state, expelled by the threat of a wrongful arrest, the author ultimately found citizenship, agency, and belonging inside a “polity of literature.” That polity is the subject of this essay, and it is what we invite you to consider in the focused inquiry that will follow. Every week or two, at regular intervals, Arts Everywhere will add further essays, art works, and other documents, to interrogate the problems and prospects of both widespread statelessness and the kinds of “profane citizenship”—in the arts and elsewhere—that might lie nascent within that crisis.

Potatoes or Rice?

1 March, 2022