I tried to hide from the poet laureate mess.
I kept my head down, continued clicking ‘publish’ on my own work, kept this saga just on the edge of things that bother me, because, I mean—it’s silly and a little outrageous that the Governor would select someone grossly ill-equipped for the position, but he’s shown himself a little clumsy, and it’s an honorary position, no biggie. Sure, he didn’t follow the normal process of choosing a candidate for the position, sure the website for the NC Arts council has been altered in order to remove steps the Governor skipped in the process.
But it was just a ‘thing’ at that point—I was able to keep it at a distance. It was noise that bothered me, but I’m a grown man, I shouldn’t get upset about an honorary position about poetry, right?
And then three things happened.
1. When the poetry community1 reacted in outrage, which I believe is an understandable reaction, the Governor turned this into a statement.
Note the time of occurrence—DHHS employee Valerie Macon is unveiled in a press release on a Friday. This is when organizations make public news they hope gets lost over the weekend.
No fanfare. No big to-do. This is how I would tell my wife I forgot to pick the baby up from daycare, muttered at my shoes, not how I’d announce a decision I’m proud to have made.
The Governor had his opportunity to make a statement then—at the announcement. But, perhaps (likely?) the ‘statement’ was choosing Macon in the first place.
So, after people who know what they’re talking about get upset and take to social media and NPR (liberal arts!), the Governor defends his decision, saying that Macon’s outsider status can bring new vision into the position. Which makes as much sense as nominating a 4th grader for the Nobel Peace Prize in physics because “dammit, aren’t we all tired of those ‘scientists’ winning that thing?”
2. Macon resigned.
Can’t say I blame her. If anything, she’s the one who got screwed over the most. Her name has been all over state news, she spent a week hearing that she has no business being poet laureate (and the thing is, she doesn’t), and she had to pretend that this was a blessing.
The public learned about Macon, and her self-published books became talking points. We learned she has a heart for the homeless and a fire to serve others. She seems like a good woman, and what she got was shoved into the spotlight of an entire state without even knowing her lines. Yeah, she told a bit of a fib on her personal website about her credentials (since deleted), but if this process unfolds the right way, she would have been vetted, ruled out, and saved a lot of embarrassment.
Pat, screw you for that, really.
Just leave the position vacant, next time.
Don’t drag someone—a real person—into games like this.
Really, screw you.
Anyway. Macon resigns, and the Governor, instead of shrugging and saying “Ya know, I blew this one. My bad,” comes back with how sad he is:
“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.”
Pat, you need to pick one. You either support passion for poetry and the liberal arts in North Carolina, or you don’t. You picked a scrub to play varsity. That’s not our fault. You don’t get to tell the poetry community it’s being condescending when you discredited the position of poet laureate and you feigned ignorance over the process.
3. I got pissed.
Macon’s resignation had me teetering, and the above quote from the Governor sent me into a seething rage of couplets and iambic. It’s one thing to be condescending (I’m doing it right now, aimed at Pat), it’s another to be condescending and claim to be above the fray.
I’d like to revisit a few of the Governor’s other quotes and actions in recent history so we can decide who’s actually being condescending and who’s responding to things like most normal and rational adults would.
Pat, remember that radio interview you did when you said the following?
“If you want to take gender studies, that’s fine, go to a private school and take it, but I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
I’m not sure if I’m nitpicking, but that sure doesn’t read like a ringing endorsement for the liberal arts. Maybe you’re talking specifically about jobs at DHHS, and then, I guess you’re right—I’d have just needed to throw you some campaign dollars. Otherwise, it sure sounds to me like you view the arts with some contempt.
Oh, this is a good one! Pat, remember the time you took cookies2 to a group of protestors picketing for women’s healthcare? And you said, “God bless you, God bless you, God bless you?”
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been given a platter of cookies or told “God bless” me by someone who saw me as an equal. That has a bit of the ‘pat on the head’ feeling that I’d usually equate to being condescending.
And, of course, we have our most recent event of a poet laureate resigning (She wasn’t forced out, Pat. The situation you put her into was so uncomfortable that a woman who loves poetry chose to leave the position. In less than a week.) and the Governor pointing the finger at everyone but himself: Calling others elitists while doing whatever the hell it is he’s doing.
* * *
I would gladly take up the now vacant position. Just in case you need a hand.
Thanks for already being to a point where you can’t mess this up more unless you name an inanimate object or fracking the next North Carolina poet laureate.