Last April, the NEA announced that it was launching an initiative to help U.S. troops serving in Iraq write about their experiences. Dubbed “Operation Homecoming” the program enables soldiers to take writing workshops with established authors, and will publish some of their writings in an anthology next year. I’ve been apprehensive about this program from the very beginning, because I tend to be suspicious of any government oversight over art. Writing in Slate, Aleksandar Hemon makes the argument much more eloquently than I have in this blog. Here’s the money quote:
There is no doubt that some valuable writing both as history and literature could come out of Operation Homecoming. But even if the good people of the NEA and their writing instructors have nothing but the purest intentions in their hearts; even if workshops serve as some form of group therapy; even if the NEA received blanket security clearance from Wolfowitz and the Department of Defense to publish whatever would further the understanding of the war experience even if all that were the case, any account of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom that does not include testimonies of the freedom-shocked Iraqis cannot avoid being a lie. A similar lie is at the heart of the Vietnam War mythology, built around the fallacious belief that the main victims of the war in Vietnam were Americans, even if for every dead American soldier there were dozens of dead Vietnamese civilians. If in those workshops the American epic of greed and power is being translated into another self-help manual of national victimhood, then the result will be nothing but therapeutic propaganda.
Hemon link via Golden Rule Jones.