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This report is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Letter from the White House David C. Ward
The Thing Itself
The White House does security screening rather better than the airlines do. Despite the thoroughness – multiple ID checks, metal detectors, eyeballing by uniformed Secret Service agents, the sense that heavily armed men are just behind that door – it goes very smoothly and efficiently with none of the sweaty bureaucratic crabbiness that you get from the security people at the airports, the sense that they’re doing you a favour by treating you badly. The tone at the White House is surprisingly one of cheerful good humour, as if they’re really personally glad to see you and if you’ll just empty your pockets and stand here for a minute sir, we’ll have you on your way in no time. Of course, the White House is a political organism and it wouldn’t pay to have visiting constituents treated badly – but the welcome doesn’t seem forced or artificial. It’s all very low-key without the usual florid and harried bonhomie that usually envelops American political events, our political conventions for example. Nor is there the sense of panicked impatience that commonly characterises the ubiquitous security procedures engendered by 9/11.

I was at the White House on 15th June for the president’s proclamation of Pride Month and as part of the administration’s ‘courting’ of the LGBT community. (I was on the guest list for having curated Hide/Seek at the National Portrait Gallery and having done a small exhibit on gay history from the Smithsonian’s archives for the event ...


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