OK I’m really trying on Maya Angelou, trying to be respectful, trying to remember that in theory at least the intention of the gesture is more important than the skill of its execution, etc. (A friend wrote me two days ago: “Should we get you going on Maya Angelou, or wait?” “Wait.” said I. “I’m going to try try try to hold off.” It appears I’ve failed.) Literary concerns aside, and they are large, I cannot help with every encomium remembering the decoration she provided for Clinton’s first inaugural (in Harper’s back in the 90s, in a piece about African American literature, describing her role that day, I used the term “lawn jockey”; I was young, and perhaps that was too strong). Here was a president who, to get elected, especially in the aftermath of Dukakis and Willie Horton, made it as plain as he could that he would be no friend of the African-American community, making sure, in the midst of the New Hampshire primary, to be on hand in Arkansas for the execution of a brain damaged black man, promoting mandatory sentences and minimal probation opportunities as well as the death penalty (Barry is also pro death penalty by the way…), promising to end welfare, and more…. and no one, that I know of, in the black intellectual and artistic communities criticized her. Her performance lifted her from literary fame to world wide international celebrity status, and, though it might not have been her intention, made her scads of money. As mothers with children fell off the welfare rolls and food stamps were cut back again and again — Clinton having been the “new” Democratic who made all this possible — I never heard of her talking about how they’d all somehow be raised from the dust. Perhaps she did; perhaps she realized the inauguration was an insulting mistake and said so, and I just missed it.
Sentiment is easy; it goes nicely with morning coffee while logged in in springtime. And all year round. I can’t help but notice that the M. A. pieties have completely supplanted the CA-shooting pieties on my social media pathways. Let’s all take the weekend off and see what easy pieties present themselves next week.