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Walt Whitman was not Grandpa Moses

Poet Walt Whitman at age 37A new Levi’s commercial overlays Walt Whitman’s O PIONEERS on scenes of fashion-conscious youth, distilling substance like just another stylizing element. It reminds me of the false portraits our society is content to hang over its radicals. This week, a statue of Helen Keller was unveiled at the US Capitol. Commemorated safely for being an advocate for the disabled, Keller is represented at age seven, before she became the notorious socialist and antiwar crusader. The reverse fate befalls Whitman, who is always represented as a massively-bearded authority figure, and not the authority-challenging reprobate.

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