Drooling on the Pillow

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Art of Moral Preening 

I read this morning that the poet Sharon Olds has decided to decline an invitation by Laura Bush to read from her works at the National Book Festival in Washington. Her RSVP was printed, inevitably, in The Nation.

She first enumerates the prestige and readership she is sacrificing for her ideals, then gives herself a pat on the back for working with Handicapped-American poets and finally explains why she cannot break bread with the Administration:
What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I
would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady
who represents the Administration that unleashed this war
and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of
permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to
other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country
now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of
blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at
your table, the shining knives and the flames of the
candles, and I could not stomach it.
Okay. You're against the war. The administration offers you an extraordinary public platform to make your case. But you can't make use of it because you are on a higher moral leval than the barbarians in Washington. To participate, to break bread with Laura Bush, is something your delicate stomach rejects. This isn't the act of a poet, but of a spinster poetaster. Throwing a little sermon to the choir at The Nation isn't really engaging your foes. Her piece doesn't really make any sort of a case, either. It doesn't have to. The war is presumed to be a bad thing and those who support and perpetrate it morally deficient.

Obviously, I disagree with her concerning the moral presence of the war and the motives of it's prosecutors. Honest people can disagree on this, but if you are placing yourself on a higher moral level than the First Lady, I think you've got to make more of an effort to show us why this is so. Ms. Olds is either lazy in this regard or underexposed to conflicting views.

Personally, I never heard of Sharon Olds. Here's a sample:
The Pope's Penis

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver seaweed, the hairs
swaying in the dark and the heat -- and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.
I took a look at some of her work here. Turns out she's pretty good.

For a prig.
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