In Boston this summer, an Irish comedian staged a one-hour show in an orange jumpsuit and a crown of thorns. He played Jesus Christ at Guantánamo Bay.
As the son of God, he has returned to Earth and rattled nerves at New York's Kennedy Airport by making the mistake of saying, yes, he's willing to die for his ideals.
"Let's be fair, " the comedian said, delivering his shtick from a stool, in a black-lit theater. "The guy works for U.S. Immigration, and he's just seen a single male Palestinian traveling alone with suspiciously little hand luggage. Not very reassuring in the present climate."
In the five years since the Pentagon started holding war-on-terrorism captives at the isolated U.S. Navy base in southeastern Cuba, the policy and the place called Guantánamo have seeped into popular culture -- in America and beyond.
Fed by the Internet, the phenomenon has spread across the planet with blinding speed, transforming a place into an icon, perhaps like never before. Not Nuremberg. Not Pearl Harbor. Not the Watergate.
Post-9/11 Guantánamo has inspired a book of poetry, several stage productions, a punk-rock songstress, a country song, a movie, two novels, more than a half-dozen memoirs and a hip-hop concert in Washington.
It even made a cameo in Michael Moore's latest shock documentary, Sicko, as a metaphor for American health inequities.
Collectively, they convey antipathy for the policy, a political theater of sorts -- far removed from the remote base whose message is of humane custody of would-be anti-U.S. fanatical terrorists.
An example: singer-songwriter Patti Smith's dirge Without Chains, about life after years at Guantánamo for the German-born Muslim ex-detainee Murat Kurnaz, whose tale captured the New York artist's imagination.
"I wrote as a citizen, " Smith told The Miami Herald while on summer tour in Boulder, Colo. "I don't have any political rhetoric, or deep knowledge about these things. But just as a human being, and a mother, I found it horrifying.
"I think that the idea of some kind of political prison where people can just be, put there because there might be some suspicious activity and just be left there, to me is horrifying."
Kurnaz's homeland, Germany, has in fact been fertile ground. He has already published his memoirs, in German, with an English translation due out early next year. Meantime, a 2004 novel by the German literary critic Dorothea Dieckmann, about life behind the razor wire as seen by a fictional prisoner, Rashid, is due out in English this year.
Australia, the homeland of former captive David Hicks, has also been a lab for artistic enterprise -- sculpture, dance, music.
And, as with most political popular culture, the message is overwhelmingly dominated by opponents of the policy, from the left.
When country legend Charlie Daniels entertained at the Navy base in 2002, signaling his support for the prison camps, he improvised new lyrics to an old hit and came up with this:
The devil went down to Gitmo,
just looking for a Taliban....
The troops roared with delight. But Daniels told The Miami Herald recently that he performed the song only twice, both times at Guantánamo -- "a spur-of-the-moment thing" -- and never recorded it.
It never occurred to him to record it, he said, calling entertainment as opposition "just a Hollywood thing. I ain't afraid of no kind of backlash, I ain't afraid of anybody. I'm not a politically correct person. I'm 70 years old and I've been pilloried by the best."