- Feminist writer
- Author of the book Fear of Flying
The middle child of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, Erica Mann Jong was born in New York City on March 26, 1942. After attending New York’s High School of Music and Art, she earned a bachelor’s degree in writing and literature from Barnard College in 1963, and a master’s degree in 18th Century English Literature from Columbia University in 1965.
Jong, who has been married four times, skyrocketed to fame with her 1973 novel Fear of Flying, a fictionalized account of an unpublished poet who, on a trip to Vienna with her second husband, decides to seek sexual and emotional fulfillment with another man. Candid in its descriptions of unattached sexuality, the book became a literary bible to Second Wave feminists, sold over 27 million copies worldwide, and was translated into more than 40 languages. Since then, Jong has published more than 25 additional books in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Politically outspoken, Jong views the United States generally, and the Republican Party in particular, as forces of immense geopolitical evil. On the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for instance, Jong wrote an article titled “Wrapped in the Flag,” in which she said: “I have always had fantasies of New York felled by nuclear bombs, flooded by rising sea level, toppled by meteors if not by terrorists. I always knew our grandeur might well be fleeting…. I have always been able to imagine a crater where New York City used to be. Now everyone else can imagine it too.” In that same piece, Jong asserted that: “George W. [Bush] has been truly lucky to have the terrorist attacks happen on his watch. They have provided perfect cover for his environmental depredations and made him seem a hero rather than an inexperienced international leader…. For the sake of his poll numbers, Bush needs to drop some more bombs on brown-skinned people halfway across the world.” “My greatest fear is that George W. Bush will blow up the world,” Jong said on another occasion during Bush’s first term in office, adding that she detested the president for his “ability to lie with a straight face.”
Angered by the Spring 2004 revelations that a small number of American soldiers had mistreated some Iraqi war prisoners in the Abu Ghraib detention facility, Jong intimated that the scandal represented the death knell of American democracy, even referencing the atrocities of Nazi Germany in her condemnation of what she characterized unequivocally as “torture.”
Likewise regarding America’s enhanced interrogation techniques (like waterboarding) during the George W. Bush administration as forms of barbaric torture, Jong wrote in 2005: “Of course Nazi Germany asked doctors to experiment with Jews–thrusting them into freezing water, performing useless operations without anesthesia. But they were Nazis and we’re Americans in love with liberty. Right? Also the Nazis thought Jews were subhuman so they got no benefit of empathy. So now we’re doing that to Muslims. The Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales, approves.”
In October 2005, Jong was a signatory to a World Can’t Wait ad campaign titled “Drive Out the Bush Regime.” Promoting coordinated “protests in cities all across the country,” the ads exhorted Americans to skip work and school in order to participate in demonstrations aimed at bringing “to a halt” the Bush administration’s alleged pursuit of “endless wars,” its routine use of “torture,” its indifference to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and its quest to transform the United States into a “theocracy.” Other signers included Sean Penn, Gore Vidal, Harry Belafonte, Edward Asner, John Conyers, Michael Lerner, Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West, Howard Zinn, Jane Fonda, and Cindy Sheehan.
In a 2006 interview, Jong praised actor Charlie Sheen for having recently suggested that the U.S. government may actually have been responsible for the 9/11 attacks. “I think he’s a brave man to even question this aloud in an environment where anyone has been saying that anyone questions the government is a traitor,” Jong said of Sheen. “… He’s speaking truth to power…. Throughout all of history the basic premise of tyrants has been—dictators, shall we say, and I think it`s fair to say that George W. Bush is a dictator—has been if you tell the people they have an external enemy, they’ll follow you anywhere. That was what Goebbels told Hitler to do. Back in ancient history, that’s what Roman emperors did.” “Most of the [American] people do not believe that this country should be a theocracy,” Jong elaborated. “Most of the people in this country do not want to be in Iraq. Most of the people in this country are pro-choice. And yet, he [Bush] blithely goes on ignoring the will of the people. I call that a dictator.”
In early 2008, Jong expressed support for Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama‘s longtime pastor who had recently made headlines as a result of his past assertions that the 9/11 attacks were in essence a form of justified retribution for American transgressions against foreign peoples. “Wright seems utterly sincere to me,” wrote Jong. “He strikes me as having a true spiritual calling. When he says, ‘America’s chickens have come home to roost,’ I can’t fault his logic. Haven’t we been squandering hard earned taxpayer money on overseas adventures while we starve poor children? Haven’t we been supporting dictators while prating of democracy? Haven’t we been enriching profiteers at the expense of health care and education? You betcha. A week ago I told my audience in Rome that in the last several years, I’ve been ashamed to be an American. A cheer went up from the amphitheater. It was such a relief, audience members later told me, to hear an American speak the truth for a change.”
In an interview on the eve of the 2008 presidential election, Jong said that President Bush “has transformed America into a police state” by means of tactics ranging “from torture to the imprisonment of reporters, to the Patriot Act.” Moreover, she expressed concern that if the “Republican Mafia”—“after having stolen the last two elections”—were to succeed in defeating Obama at the polls, the result would be a “second American Civil War” where “blood will run in the streets.” “And it’s not a coincidence,” Jong added, “that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets.”
Jong has long admired Hillary Clinton, whom she once described as “stronger than Queen Elizabeth I of England, a greater strategist than Catherine the Great of Russia, [and] braver than Boadicea or the Amazons of old.”
Over the years, Jong has donated money to the political campaigns of a number of Democrats, including such notables as Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Kerry, Joe Kennedy II, Charles Schumer, and Barack Obama. She has also supported the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Planned Parenthood.
By Jong’s reckoning, the best ways to change the world for the better and eventually “achieve world peace” would be to “get rid of organized religion,” “tax the churches in the United States because they create so much political trouble,” and “get rid of the Vatican,” adding that the pope “is really not good for women.”
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