Tuesday, November 10, 2009

War Memorial

Today marks the anniversary of the Vietnam War Memorial’s completion – the memorial that was so controversial for its stark remembrance of the fallen. I have been struggling over past weeks to articulate what it is that has made vets issues one high on my list of concerns – as evidenced by links posted to Facebook and top organizations I donate to. By even raising the question, I reveal myself to be non-military. Still, the more I think about it, I wonder how I could be preoccupied with anything else. How could I not be preoccupied with the too-often overlooked human evidence of two unending wars gone awry? A history of focus on the homeless is tied so clearly to Veterans affairs as we bring home more troops without providing for them. Bush is out of office, and yet we still, as a nation, have our head stuck firmly in the sand.

I come home at night to messages about family drama. My sister tries to make a family with an Iraq War vet, now home two years. I come home the next night to the news that Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center, killing 13 and wounding 30. We ask: is it a terrorist attack, this killing spree by a man of Muslim beliefs? We ask: is this the state to which military service is bringing our soldiers? Do we ask how these questions are linked, whether they are two edges of the exact same sword? The Vets must try to help themselves; there are not psychiatrists, healthcare, or sensitive diagnoses to go around. Do they suffer for serving our country? Why did we send them over there? Are the rest of us going to suffer for it? We are all culpable.

This post is not a guilt trip. This is about the interconnectedness of all things. Lucy Lippard states that if the artist would rather spend his/her time at parties and bars, that is their choice, but given the fate of artists in totalitarian societies, one might think they would spend some of their time elsewhere. Does this mean each artist must soak their art in political content? No, but it means that artists, as all other citizens, better start seeing themselves as actors/enactors/and/enablers when it comes to their participation in day to day life, the global society, the body politic. Each creation of art is a political act. Art, like life, is about attention – increasingly hard to come by in an ADD culture. This is our future. There are no casualties. We coexist with the dead as with the living. I refuse to believe that violence is necessary, or even inevitable, and I will resist it in every way that I can, in acts both large and small.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Arts Funding Increases

At last there is a small bit of good news at a time when non-profits are making cuts across the board -- to programming, staffing, open hours, etc. The House and Senate have just passed increases of $12.5 million each to the NEA and NEH, raising their budgets to the highest levels in 16 years.

April 12-13, 2010 will be Arts Advocacy days in Washington, DC. Visit Arts Action Fund for more information, and add it to your calendar.