Let’s think: what vocation or avocation is most likely to be against war – any war – war as a concept under any circumstances? Machinists? Bloggers? Human rights activists? Veterans? How about poets, whose noble pursuit of the music in language often leads down winding paths of fancy, at the end of which often lie their own sphincters:
“War you say? I’m against it! While we can’t control the actions of others, we can control our own, and we can lead by example and turn the other cheek no matter how many of our innocent men, women and children are killed for being who they are. Threat, what threat? John Ashcroft is a bigger threat than Saddam Hussein!!”
And some wonder why 99% of the population thinks that poetry has no bearing on their lives.
It has a bearing on Laura Bush’s life. She has postponed a White House poetry symposium because the poets were turning it into an anti-war summit:
- Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, said the event, originally planned for Feb. 12, had been designed to celebrate the written word. “While Mrs. Bush respects and believes in the right of all Americans to express their opinions,” Ms. Rodriguez said today, “she, too, has opinions, and believes that it would be inappropriate to turn what is intended to be a literary event into a political forum.”
The poetry symposium, planned as part of a series of White House literary events showcasing American literature, began to attract attention as an opportunity for an anti-war protest. On Sunday, Sam Hamill, a poet and founder of Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Wash., sent an e-mail message to 50 friends and colleagues asking them to send him anti-war poems or statements of protest action in Iraq. Mr. Hamill, the author of 40 books of poetry, had been invited to the symposium by Mrs. Bush.
In his message, Mr. Hamill said he felt “overcome by a kind of nausea” as he read his White House invitation, and decided the only response would be to reconstitute a “Poets Against the War Movement.” Mr. Hamill said that he had not planned to attend the White House event himself but that the submitted poems and statements would be compiled into an antiwar anthology to be presented to Mrs. Bush on Feb. 12.
By Wednesday, Mr. Hamill said he had received 1,500 responses, and had to create a Web site, which he named poetsagainstthewar.org, to handle the e-mail messages that were overloading his system. [NY Times]
While it is unfortunate that the poets chose to politicize a symposium on Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, it is equally unfortunate that the First Lady chose to run away from the confrontation rather than see it as an opportunity to bushwack the opposition by allowing them to have their say, then very calmly refuting it.
“Censorship” is that last thing the White House needs to be accused of, with very legitimate concerns about personal privacy even circulating among many who support the war. Let the Justice Department handle the accusations of creating a police state – the White House should be all about inclusion and reasoned refutation of those who oppose its policies. This is way too much like “if you don’t agree with me, you can’t come over to my house and play.” This is a Big Mistake showing a lack of faith in the judgment of the American people.