Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Poet's Political Questions

Poets are even more notoriously naive and/or misguided about politics than "the average citizen," whoever he or she might be. Percy Shelley claimed that poets were "the unacknowledged legislators of the world," but I think most people would add "and let's make sure we keep them unacknowledged." Especially poets in the Anglo-American tradition have not-so-great political reputations: Ezra Pound, for instance. I don't know that other traditions are much better in this regard, but Pablo Neruda and Vaclav Havel seem to be writers who combined literary and political careers well (Havel is not a poet, but is a fiction-writer and a dramatist)--but I know much is contingent upon your literary and political points of view.

To support the claim that poets are naive and/or misguided about politics, I hereby submit questions I would like presidential aspirants or even Congressional aspirants to answer--I mean really answer--not just the canned non-answer. For instance, if one asks, "How large is the national debt, and how do you propose to cut it?", one does not want to hear, "My candidacy represents change." By even entertaining the possibility of a straight answer, I am being naive, of course. Questions:

1. How many American military personnel are deployed worldwide, and in what regions is this deployment unnecessary, misguided, and/or wrong? Take your time. Be specific.

2. What is the month-and-year in your administration when everyone in the U.S. who is ill or might get ill will have affordable, guaranteed access to the appropriate doctors, nurses, equipment, therapy, and medicine? No hedging, and no excuses, please, and don't bother mentioning "Canada" or "socialized medicine"; that just wastes time.

3. What is the most cynical piece of advice from your political team you have accepted and acted upon?

4. Specifically, what Executive Branch powers that Bush II has expanded will you retract--when and how?

5. What are the three most severe erosions of civil liberties in the last 8 years and how will you insure that they are repaired?

6. How many nuclear weapons does the U.S. own, and, in your opinion, how many of these should be incapacitated--and by what date?

7. In your opinion, what are the acceptable numbers of a) homeless persons and b) persons who live below the poverty-line in the U.S.? Why are these numbers acceptable? What will you do to reduce the numbers to those levels permanently?

8. On what date will you reveal what all of the interrogation techniques, incarceration practices, and "rendering" practices of the U.S. government are and explain why all of these are both morally and legally acceptable?

9. What is the emptiest piece of effective speech-making, sloganeering, and/or political advertising your campaign has used so far?

10. What are the chief differences between your political campaign and a cult? What are the chief similarities?

11. In your political life, what is the most shameless thing you have done?
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