Whew. I have become the grinch who stole Christmas. I have neither the power nor the desire to deny voice to anyone, though, under any circumstances. There are others who have that power, and that is what concerns meand not just me, but many others, some of whom I quoted in my piece. There isn't much more to be said here, because the real subject is not art but politics, or rather art in a political climate of a particularly chilling kind.
I respect Marilyn Nelson, her family history, her poetry, her motives, and am sure that there is benefit from her presence. Of course some individuals will benefit from and feel acknowledged by this program. Our difference is our sense of the context within which individual actions are framed, and it was to my distrust of that context that I spoke. My questions remain about the political use to which this program can be put; and in what setting, and under what aegis, real disclosure can take place. Reading the glossy NEA booklet with its large claims for art and truth about war, its PR boost for Boeing, and its partnership with the Pentagon, I felt the shadow of the commissars fall across the pagea shadow too many Americans still can't see on their own ground.
I never said that soldiers "can speak or write legitimately only from the institutional base of university writing programs." Jon Peede's error reveals a bias that repeatedly attempts to connect my views with higher education and both with an out-of-touch "privilege." In fact, it is the Administration that embodies and serves privilege against public interest, whose ideology therefore attempts to discredit intellectual work so necessary in a democracy, for it enables us as citizens and writers to move beyond personal experience compelling as it isto the larger context in which governments and their funding agencies come under scrutiny. In fact, in American culture, making everything personal is one way in which political blindness is enforced.
To this writer, the proposed war anthology being designed to circulate at military bases, libraries, and schools, under the aegis of government agenciesas things stand now in Americais already shaped by its ultimate context. The frame itself interprets what is seen, what excluded, even influences a self-censorship of which we may be unaware. If the outcome proves me wrong, I shall be both surprised, and exceedingly glad.