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Bush and the New NEA
by A.M. Siriano
02 February 2004G-Dub

The NEA, like most frivolous federal organizations, is here to stay.   Even if Bush were a hard-right conservative, he would still be working to effect change within the system rather than without.

As someone who refuses to apply for grants, and who opposes federal funding for the arts, I am torn somewhat over President Bush's latest initiative to increase the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts by 18 million dollars.   While I can't agree with it on core principle, I am a realist.   The NEA, like most frivolous federal organizations, is here to stay.   Even if Bush were a hard-right conservative, he would still be working to effect change within the system rather than without.   He understands the nature of politics, compromise and reciprocity, and it would do no good to outright decimate an organization that has become institutionalized; better to get control of it instead.

The chairman of the NEA, Dana Goia, is not what I would call a politician or a conservative, but he is far more conservative than most people involved in the arts, and he is intent upon reversing years of closed-door liberalism that has dumb-downed our culture and turned it into a cesspool of bad taste.   The Bush administration singled him out for that reason and set out the money carrot.

Jesse Helms and his moralistic tag team rightfully reduced the NEA to a shoestring budget for its mismanagement of funds and betrayal of mainstream Americans, who were sick of being forced to fund depravity.   Mapplethorpe's exhibit in Cincinnati, which was just stylish pornography and worthless (except as a document to decadence), went too far, and the feces hit the fandom hard.   Again, rightfully so.   It is bad enough that taxpayers have to pay for questionable art, but anal art?   Fist this! said the taxpayers, and the NEA got slapped hard.

Enter Goia, a poet who angered the liberal universities for criticizing their crappy, esoteric endeavors.   "Change the culture," was his mandate, and he set out to do just that.   The NEA is now far less concerned with promoting modern, anti-Western art, and more interested in promoting great work of the past in order to encourage great work in the future.   Read Goia's collection of essays, Can Poetry Matter?, and you'll quickly see that the new NEA is working in line with his very pro-Western, pro-American vision.

That's a good thing for the arts.   The new NEA intends to slowly turn its back on multiculturalism (a word that means, "We hate Western culture") by promoting Shakespeare and other great English writers, by promoting classical music and jazz (uniquely American), and by focusing on our own achievements via the American Masterpieces Program.   Furthermore, Goia's NEA is trying to change our handouts-oriented culture by educating artists on how to get funds through means other than government channels.   The emphasis is on education and self-reliance, which should be welcome news to conservatives.

Now on to politics:   With the outcry over our growing deficit, the timing is questionable.   President Bush knows he is not going to win over liberals, but he may be trying to appeal to swing voters.   To conservative purists this is reprehensible, but one cannot accuse the Bushes of being insincere.   Laura Bush has been a critical voice of both the arts and education, which is why she presided over the formal announcement of the proposed increase.

Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and other Republicans intend to oppose this increase and disgruntled conservatives are accusing Bush of perfidy.   This is hardly just, given that Bush has never shied away from his "compassionate conservative" agenda.   In an ideal world (late Forties?) the arts would be thriving in a free market system, patronization would flourish, and the cream would rise to the top.   In the real world, it makes no sense to continue punishing an entrenched federal organization that no politician would dare to abolish, especially one that has made serious strides to recreate itself as a force of good.

We must also keep in mind just where the battle is being fought:   the universities.   College students, who are being fed brain-poison by radical professors, are more likely to be liberal than not.   Grade school students are being manipulated by the other NEA (National Education Association).   Bush's modus operandi is to take control of those areas that have gone left of center.   Republicans must follow his lead and hold the line, remembering that, while we are against liberalism, we are not against liberal arts; instead, in the style of Mortimer Adler or Jacques Barzun, we must assume the role of cultural champion.

A. M. Siriano is a DBA/web developer by day and writes for his own website, amsiriano.com, by night

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