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February 26, 2004

I Hate "Poets" Who Hate America

Random Jottings pointed me to this wonderful essay by Tatiana Menaker, "Hate America Poetry Class," published at Frontpage Magazine. It wasn't new to me in that I had no sense that immigrant Russians (or others) feel this way. I had a friend, the daughter of a Russian-Jewish emmigre, who was involved in those circles, and through her I became very aware of their view of America. The one striking tale she told me was of taking a new emmigre to a grocery store here. He stood stunned, in tears, looking around. When she asked what was wrong he said, "they lied, they lied." The sheer variety and amount of available produce and products was stunning to someone who'd been told capitalism was a failed system. And there were no long queues! He came from long lines for a couple of products, inferior ones at that, to a plethora. This scene was repeated many times. And it was simply the most immediate, most stunning, signifier of the difference. He came from a world of want where he was told he was better off than elsewhere to a world where there was more than he'd dreamed.

And then, as Tatiana tells it, some try to tell him he's worse off. Her anger is directed at the creative writing crew that often (not all, but most) eagerly bashes American as the Western equivalent of The Great Satan. They are all eager as a school of piranhas at the taste of fresh blood to savage America for its relatively minor faults, but they never pay attention to its great virtues or the great faults of the countries they carefully never criticize. It isn't the criticism of American that infuriates the emmigres (or those of us who have spent enough time abroad to be a little different), it's the sheer presumption of judging with no perspective, no standard of comparison. People like Tatiana have died trying to get here, and these sleek, self-satisfied and self-righteous spoiled brats try to tell her she made a mistake: she was better off where she was.


America is a long way from perfect. And it's also a long way ahead of the pack.

That's one issue she takes exception to.

The other is that they call themselves poets.

Posted by dan at February 26, 2004 07:33 PM