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
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
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.