Maybe like some, I’ve been reluctant to act on or even write much about my perspective on the recent election, beyond sharing brief descriptions. The compulsion to hold onto that anger for a while longer, allow it form something useful, while at the same time reaching out personally to many who instantly became more vulnerable, has seemed to me the better course. Doing this, however, we risk a certain changed countenance and I indeed do feel differently about several things in many ways, my naiveté about many of our fellow Americans prime among them. But about other things, I do not feel differently, and in fact, my convictions have only grown stronger, and they offer guidance on how to proceed, which led me back to something by the great John Gardner:
The poet-priest had two functions: lawgiver and comforter. He had to know what laws to give, what comfort to give, what comfort to withhold as false. The poet has far less power now, but the job hasn’t changed. He must affirm, comfort as he can, and make it stick. Let artists say what they know, then, admitting the difficulties but speaking nonetheless. Let them scorn the idea of dismissing as harmless the irrelevant fatheads who steal museums and concert halls and library shelves: the whiners, the purveyors of high-tone soap opera, the calm acceptors of senselessness, the murderers. It is not entirely clear that these people are not artists. They may be brilliant artists, with positions exactly as absolute as, say, mine. But they are wrong.It’s not safe to let them be driven from the republic by policemen, politicians, or professional educators. Officialdom would drive out all of us, which is one reason that when we come out shooting we should all talk with dignity and restraint, like congressmen, and wear, like Doc Holliday, vests and ties. Let a state of total war be declared not between art and society – at least until society starts horning in – but between the age-old enemies, real and fake.