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U.S. poet laureates criticized the White House on Thursday for
postponing a literary symposium it believed would be politicized.
Poets Stanley Kunitz and Rita Dove characterized the decision as
an example of the Bush administration's hostility to dissenting
or creative voices."
-- Associated Press
Shortly after the terrorist attack of 9-1-1, we warned that the terrorist attack would radicalize the left. But never could we imagine the extent and boldness of anti-American hatred expressed by the left, especially those in the arts and entertainment communities. Now comes the cancellation of a Feb. 12 symposium on "Poetry and the American Voice" which was to have featured the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman. No future date has been set for the event, to be held by first lady Laura Bush.
The First Lady was wise to cancel the event. The event had morphed into an anti-war exercise. In announcing that the symposium had been postponed, Noelia Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said: "While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum."
Poets Stanley Kunitz and Rita Dove criticisms of the symposium show that political correctness now applies to war as well. Or more politely, call it selective memory. For these noted poets, Bush's war is evil. But Bill Clinton's war in Serbia was politically acceptable. Both the possible Iraq incursion and the 1999 Serbian bombing involve cruel and unstable depots.
During the bombing of Serbia, these noted poets were silent. Silent even though 30% of the 1,500 civilian casualties of the Serbian bombing were children
Then a year after the bombing of Serbia, poet Stanley Kunitz accepted the Clinton administration's invitation to be the country's poet laureate.
Here was the opportunity for Kunitz to protest war, which he finds so dispicable. But Kunitz accepted the position. Was he aware that the Serbian air attacks used cluster bombs near populated areas; attacked targets of questionable military legitimacy, including Serb Radio and Television, heating plants, and bridges. Human Rights Watch reported that the bombings "did not take adequate precautions in warning civilians of attacks; took insufficient precautions identifying the presence of civilians when attacking convoys and mobile targets; and caused excessive civilian casualties by not taking sufficient measures to verify that military targets did not have concentrations of civilians (such as at Korisa)." Kunitz and his colleagues were silent.
The American people clearly were skeptical about the Serbian mission. Prior to the start of the bombing of Serbia, sixty-two percent in an ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll said the United States should not bomb Serbia if it refuses to go along with a peace plan for Kosovo. Only 26 percent say they would support that kind of attack, which NATO was threatening. The bombing lasted for 79 days, dropping 23,000 bombs and firing missiles in 36,000 sorties. Where was protest from former poet laureate Rita Dove?
Other poets joined in the boycott and attack on the White House symposium. One of the invitees was poet Sam Hamill, publisher of Copper Canyon Press and a self-described former conscientious objector. Hamill, who says he is ''nauseated'' by the prospect of war, fired off an e-mail asking colleagues to contribute statements or poems to protest President Bush's stance toward Iraq. ''I am asking every poet to speak up for the conscience of our country and lend his or her name to our petition against this war,'' the message said, ''and to make February 12 a day of Poetry Against the War. We will compile an anthology of protest to be presented to the White House on that afternoon."
Hamill says he's against "this" war. But from our net research, Hamill never protested against the civilian casualties from the Serbian bombing. Facts for Mr. Hamill: A NATO raid on the mining town of Aleksinac (125 miles south of Belgrade) left 17 civilians dead. The Pentagon said a 250-kilo (560-pound) laser-guided bomb, aimed at a nearby barracks, had missed its target. The bomb hits town of Aleksinac; 12 dead. NATO hit homes near a telephone exchange in the Kosovo capital of Pristina. A train was struck on a bridge near Leskovac killing 55 people. Why didn't Hamill organize a poets' protest campaign at that time? Why the selective protest?
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Beat poet and founder of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, said the idea of inviting a group of poets to the White House as the administration prepares for war was naive in the first place. "The poet by definition is the bearer of freedom and love, and ... by definition he has to be an enemy of the state and everything the state does, and one of its primary activities, which is war." Facts for Mr. Ferlinghetti: During the Serbian bombing, on April 28, scores of homes destroyed or damaged in Surdlica leaving at least 20 civilians dead. On May 1 NATO bombs a bridge at Luzane near Pristina people aboard a bus which was travelling along it; killing 47. NATO, without confirming the figure, admitted the following day having targeted the bridge. Where was the protest from Ferlinghetti?
We can only conclude that these poets and others protesting the White House symposium have selective memories. Republican wars are wrong and objectionable. But Bill Clinton's war justified poetic silence.
In reality, the war against terrorism, which includes the proposed pre-emptive strike against Iraq, has radicalized the left especially many American artists. Their battle has been with traditional America. Our prediction in 2001 is was accurate: "There remain Taliban sympathizers on the left, those who share the Taliban's contempt for America.. For them America is an imperial, immoral state terrorist organization. They object to our right of self-defense with empty rationalizations. The sympathizers see the attack as punishment for past American foreign policy actions." ("Liberal Crackup," Rightturns.com, Bruzzone, December 1, 2001.)
Award-winning TV producer, talk show host, and Republican leader Arthur Bruzzone has written over 150 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political issues for American and European television and radio networks. His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications. He is the former Chair of the San Francisco Republican Party.
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