Friday, July 09, 2004

DeLong 1 - Sullivan 0

Brad DeLong points us to a post by Andrew Sullivan in which he claims that Langston Hughes' poem Let America be America Again "is also clearly a call to Communist revolution." Having read the poem through, I find myself scratching my head wondering how the heck Sullivan managed to extract any such thing from the poem in question, and when Sullivan says that "The poem is rooted in the notion that the ideal of American freedom was a lie from the beginning for many people", one has to ask how a Harvard PhD like Sullivan could possibly doubt the veracity of this statement. American freedom very clearly was a lie from the beginning for many people, especially for all those who weren't white, and only in the last 40 years has this ceased to really be the case.

Sullivan's reading communist subversion into Langston Hughes' poem makes about as much sense to me as someone detecting traces of Celine's antisemitism in his "Journey to the End of Night": it may be that there are similar motivating factors at work in the work of art and in the life of the artist (how could there not be?), but it is simply ridiculous to assume that there's a straightforward relationship between an artist's politics and the works he produces.

All Andrew Sullivan is engaging in here is petty name calling - "You like Langston Hughes, therefore you're a commie!"