Grass' poetic injustice

Why is Grass waxing politics at all and why do we care that he is?

German writer Günter Grass 370 (R) (photo credit: Susana Vera / Reuters)
German writer Günter Grass 370 (R)
(photo credit: Susana Vera / Reuters)
A more appropriate title for Günter Grass’ controversial poem would have been “What Mustn’t Be Said.” Had the Nobel Laureate heeded the adage that some things are better left unsaid, he might not have confessed—at the ripe old age of 78—to having been drafted in 1945 to the Waffen-SS Nazi paramilitary organization. 
But clearly, as Grass’ poem demonstrates, Grass hasn’t grasped the importance of silence. Penning such a poem 6 years after confessing to his Nazi past is so absurd that the logical response is to either ignore him or feel sorry for him for what is most certainly a bout of dire senility. In his old age, Grass is gripped with a leftist zeal and an apparent proclivity to project his own past sins—and that of his country’s—onto Israel.  While on the surface of things Grass’ moral pendulum seems to have swung far from his right-wing Nazism of his youth, it is but the other side of the coin.
The speaker in Grass’ poem claims to be “tired of the West’s hypocrisy.” Ah yes. The hypocrisy of the West is rather wearisome, not like the hypocrisy of say, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who waxes peace-isms in front of the UN while simultaneously torturing his own people and calling for the destruction of another state? Or say, the hypocrisy of a Nazi-turned-artist-turned-moral-authority with a righteous request to “say something” about Israel’s misdeeds - despite the fact that for over 6 decades he chose to remain silent about his own?
Or the hypocrisy of naming Israel as the “perpetrator of the recognizable danger” when it is Iran, not Israel, that has explicitly threatened to use said “danger” for the purposes of annihilating a people while Israel has only threatened to annihilate nuclear facilities – and not with the use of nuclear weapons. Not to mention the hypocrisy of pointing the finger at Israel as being the “perpetrator” threatening the “fragile peace of the world” – a world in which Darfur, Syria, Nigeria and the like wreak havoc yet remain blameless? 
So why do we care? Perhaps the poem generated such an outcry because the world still retains some vestiges of the respect bestowed upon artists that dates back to the era of morality plays; that the artist has the moral capacity to decide who and what is wrong or right and what is truth and what is lies? Surely the Wagners of the world have taught us that this can no longer be the case.
But perhaps more to the point is why Günter Grass thinks it’s okay to be pontificating politics at all in his poetry? Grass’ sordid past cavorting with a genocidal organization must be enough to disqualify him from directing critique at the very nation upon whom that genocide was executed. But if it isn’t, let it be enough to gently remind Grass that he might fare better if he sticks to what he does best and refrain from mixing art and politics.
Following that, we might also remind ourselves that Yasser Arafat was also awarded a Nobel Prize.