It's a strong initial point by Jenks, before it veers at the end and misses the mark. Politicians across the world have been using this game plan for years. When you identify something you don't like, make an outrageous move that will rile up your opponents, use a pawn who can take a fall, and then swoop in to make the desired change under the pretext of fixing a broken situation. McRory's disingenuous quotes about the "elites" and his subsequent chiding of their behavior ("I’m also disappointed by the way some in the poetry community have expressed such hostility and condescension toward an individual who has great passion for poetry and our state. As we continue to review our appointment process, we will ask for recommendations from the public and hope that those candidates represent talented poets from both traditional and non-traditional organizations.) is the perfect set-up that allows him to bypass the Arts Council and redefine what the position means. Which, of course, is a first step toward eliminating the Arts Council altogether.
That being said, Chris's approach in this article is necessary, and it's silly that his reaction is "helping" McRory. As Brian points out, what's the alternative? The thing that's actually helping McRory is the larger political climate that allows him to act out this farce, and you could argue that larger cultural factors are at play, and they're inevitable. What he's doing now is an obvious game against the arts (though the war has many other fronts), but it doesn't succeed because the liberals are playing into his hands. It succeeds because, largely, people want it to succeed. (This is a tangent, but I would argue the movement began in this state the moment Obama shocked the conservatives out of their stupor by winning the state in 2008. It's been a one-sided battle ever since.)
Which brings us back to Macon. My initial instincts about her have only been confirmed. First, we have to understand that she was a willing pawn. I'm not saying she was in cahoots with McRory, because that's too conspiratorial, but she never asked herself why this was happening, or examined the absurdity of it in the process of wondering whether she deserved the post. Brian's shower singing example is spot-on.
What confirmed my suspicions about her, though, was a single quote after the resignation:
""I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry," Macon wrote. "They do not need a list of prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations – just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression."
Notice the subtext? Notice the subtle anti-elite rhetoric? She's embracing the pawn role and becoming a martyr to McRory's cause. Again, her ego trumps her loyalty to good sense or art. I have no sympathy for her, and in fact I consider her an enemy of the art she pretends to promote, since her actions are furthering an anti-arts agenda.
Chris- sorry, I meant to aim that comment at Sarah, not you. I'm with your critique pretty much all the way, was just trying to point out that you were far kinder than you could have been, and that maybe Macon isn't the innocent victim some would like to believe, and that if she lacks the good sense to turn down the position, she shouldn't be off limits.
Valerie Macon deserves much worse than the tame criticism Chris leveled at her. First, she lied about her credentials, which undermines what little credibility she had in the first place. Second, and much worse, she had the massive, inflated ego to accept this position despite her total lack of experience. If Macon couldn't see how little she deserved the title of Poet Laureate (imagining her being elevated to the position makes me laugh!), then clearly her evaluation of her own talent and standing in the poetic community is monumentally distorted. Painting as her an innocent lamb-like bystander with McRory as the chief villain is actually the most condescending stance to take here, as it ignores her own complicity in accepting the position. Nobody put a gun to her head, and she should have known better.
Yet she saw herself as worthy, and guess what? Now the hobbyist (yes, that's what she is, whether anyone believes that's cruel or not) is a public figure. For refusing to recognize the absurdity of her situation, and the limits of her talent and experience, she deserves to be mocked and skewered just as much as McRory. She's the "Joe the Plumber" of the poetry world, a willing participant in a farce that has elevated her well beyond her station, and it's time for her to accept the harsher sides of the limelight.
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