7th April 2017
One of the areas of American culture that Donald The Chimp is frog marching to his guillotine is the arts. No surprise there. He would take the media there, too, if he could do it in the dark. Thankfully, the Fourth Estate is somewhat protected by the tradition of free speech in this country. Okay, then, he says, watch this, and draws his scrawl of a signature across a bill defunding the arts.
But the arts are part of the Fourth Estate, part of the check and balance that a democracy is supposed to rest upon. Taking away Sesame Street is one thing, but squeezing artistic expression amounts to an impingement on free speech. Unless, that is, it used as propaganda like we saw in fascist Italy or Hitler's Germany.
Hermann Hesse saw art as the "universalising mirror." It is for this reason that totalitarian leaders are scared of the arts. They notoriously lock up writers, send them off to freeze in Siberia like Solzhenitsyn. They ban them and burn them, because they see themselves reflected in their art and they don't like the unflattering image.
In America, you can't lock up artists, and thank God for it. But apparently you can starve them out. And that's what Trump is trying to do by defunding four central arts programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He wouldn't mind funding state news like Fox, but he doesn't want anyone pointing their finger at the emperor's clothes in which he struts.
You can't ultimately suppress art, though. You can't stop story-tellers telling it like it is. The truth will out, and that's the job of art in all its branches. Art speaks, is classless, and allows for the gates to the third estate, We the people, to open, as they did during the French Revolution, as they have done in every revolution.
It's what we're seeing in America now with the women's marches, airport protests, town hall meetings - the failure of the HealthCare Bill. And that's the threat to leaders like Trump or Putin who are pushing their own narrative. You can't hold us back, though, Mr. President. The artists will hold up the mirror, and like Belle in the fairytale will show us the beast.