When I first heard the news about the controversy over the Nassau County, New York poet laureate position on Monday, I have to say I was extraordinarily angry. The county was poised to name Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr., it's first poet laureate. But Monday, a county legislative committee voted 6-1 against Wheat when they learned of his 2004 book titled, "Iraq and Other Killing Fields: Poetry for Peace."
Peter J. Schmitt, Republican legislator voiced is objection because he felt that Wheat's book condemned the troops fighting for America in Afghanistan and Iraq. Democrat Wayne Wink was the lone legislator who voted to uphold Wheat's nomination.
Since that time, families too have squared off over the issue. But there has been support for Wheat, even from families who have members serving in Iraq.
Linda Geremia, of South Setauket, NY who has a son serving believe the committee did the right thing.
Nicole Lundin, who lost a son recently however saw not contradiction between supporting the troops and opposing the war. Nor did Elaine Brower, who has a son who served there last year.
And Mary Ann Kochman, also with family in Iraq suspected politicians were more concerned with political cover than with poetic excellence.
I've grown a little less angry over this. The reality is that many people see it for what it is. Short sightedness and as Ms. Kochman put it running for political cover. I believe it was Plato who said,"Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history."
What is sad to me is that Wheat seemed to be an excellent choice. He has written for many years on the natural beauty of the Nassau County region. The people in there will truly miss an opportunity.
There are I suppose always going to be the likes of Peter J. Schmitt, (recipient of my thumbs down award for the day) who are hell bent on defending that which is indefensible. No one I know disrespects the troops and I know precious few people personally who believe this war was ever justified. These young men and women were called upon to serve and (aside from a small handful) have preformed in very difficult circumstances honorably. But they were not the architects of this mistake. The best support was as Americans can give them is to return them safely to their families as quickly as possible.
Sources for this post: here and here