Feb 082003

Of the many intelligent replies to the New York Sun’s editorial advocacy of censorship, Arthur Silber’s gets nearest to the heart of the matter:

In effect, the Sun announces its own, newer version of preemption: let’s destroy civil liberties now, and with absolute certainty, so as to avoid the possibility that those same civil liberties might be destroyed later. To identify the nature of this argument, is to realize how truly ludicrous it is, and it would be laughable if the matter were not so serious. Yet certain conservatives make this same kind of argument with profoundly disturbing regularity in connection with a compulsory draft, for example. They say: “But if we don’t forcibly conscript people, how will we be able to save our free country?” — thus ignoring the fact that by establishing the precedent of slavery yet again, and by establishing the principle that no one has the right to his own life, they have destroyed the very concept of a free country at its core — and that once this was accomplished, there would be nothing left to save.

(Update: Silber comments on the comments.)

Feb 082003

Sam Hamill was right. He had no business at “Laura Bush’s tea party” — not because of his fatuous politics, but because of his fatuous poetry.

State of the Union, 2003

I have not been to Jerusalem,
but Shirley talks about the bombs.
I have no god, but have seen the children praying
for it to stop. They pray to different gods.
The news is all old news again, repeated
like a bad habit, cheap tobacco, the social lie.

The children have seen so much death
that death means nothing to them now.
They wait in line for bread.
They wait in line for water.
Their eyes are black moons reflecting emptiness.
We’ve seen them a thousand times.

Soon, the President will speak.
He will have something to say about bombs
and freedom and our way of life.
I will turn the tv off. I always do.
Because I can’t bear to look
at the monuments in his eyes.

I’m not sure how you repeat cheap tobacco, I’m quite sure I don’t want to investigate the question, and I’m 100% sure that’s not what Hamill’s repeating here. This is actually worse than Andrew Motion, worse even than Harold Pinter: those were still possible to parody. Give me the actors against the war. Some of them can actually act.

(Update: Emperor Misha and Cinderella comment. Frederick Glaysher protests to The New York Times, which predictably sided with the poets, and maintains a useful list of links on the whole sorry affair.)