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U.S. poet Maya Angelou speaks during a ceremony to honor South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu with the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding Award in Washington November 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES) - RTXAU11
You know, wags of the National Review, you don't have to do an obituary for someone you didn't like. It is likely that nobody went looking to the National Review site this morning for the segregationist rag's tribute to Maya Angelou. As another wag once said, back in the dark days before the idiot box was invented, 'tis better to remain silent, etc. The effort is physically painful to read. You see, she was:
[...] a widely recognized cultural ambassador who advocated for participatory literature and dispensed sound if unspectacular wisdom of the type that is said to boost childrens’ self-esteem. [...]

I will confess that Angelou’s writings did not generally keep me up reading all night, but she had an impressive career and earned celebrity in a business — poetry — that is not known for catapulting its practitioners to megastardom.

I do not respect poetry, but I respect celebrity. It feels like Maya Angelou might have had something pithy to say about that, something warm and lyrical and so cutting that it would take the listener aback, if they parsed the pretty words, but no matter. That ought to be the phrase we carve on the tombstones of all our great thinkers. A tedious fellow, that one, but I shook his hand once.
Angelou also emerged very late in life as an off-hand supporter of the right to bear arms. In a 2013 interview [...] she recounted how she used a gun for home defense: [...]
I heard someone walking on the leaves. And somebody actually turned the knob. So I said, “Stand four feet back because I’m going to shoot now!” Boom! Boom! The police came by and said, “Ms. Angelou, the shots came from inside the house.” I said, “Well, I don’t know how that happened.”
Our obituary then ends with a collection of quotes of comedian David Alan Grier saying things in the style of Maya Angelou, presumably because the gun thing was the only thing Angelou herself ever said that rose to the level of interesting. It's still better than Jonah Goldberg's attempt.
I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of hers — or any other poet of the last 50 years. But she always struck me as a dignified and impressive lady. What did come to mind was her treatment on The Simpsons (I’d hoped she played herself, but apparently not). It was at a book fair, and Angelou was on a panel along with Tom Clancy and Amy Tan. Kent Brockman was moderating:
God, man, you are a parody of yourself.

So what we have learned is that Maya Angelou was a famous person referred to by other famous people and who once shot two bullets through her own front door. That singular title-worthy tidbit seems to be meant to establish her bona fides as a patriot, or at least as someone stalwartly conservative readers ought to not fully despise. (A poet is a suspicious-sounding sort of person, you see, but an armed poet sounds considerably more interesting. Whatever your place on the political spectrum, this is indisputable.) Or, equally possible, it is the one gathered scrap on which conservatives 20 years hence will lay claim to the famous person who said too many vaguely unpleasant things about race and culture and society, things that were not worth noting in comparison to her status as the owner of a gun.

Oh—and we learned that one of the nation's greatest modern literary minds was known to National Review readers and editors almost exclusively via other people's pop culture references to her.

This is how not to honor a person upon their death. This is a posterboard demonstration of when the better part of respect is a good dose of clamming up. This is in fact the precise reason that we so often have a moment of silence in the wake of someone's death, a tradition less meant to honor the fallen than to encourage the living to go five or 10 or 60 seconds without saying something stupid about them—just to see what that would be like. Maya Angelou may not give a damn, but try to have a little consideration for the rest of us.

Originally posted to Hunter on Wed May 28, 2014 at 12:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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