Those of you who know me know that I have been an active participant in the local arts and culture community for many years. For a conservative, white male Republican, it is not exactly a safe space which has made the experience interesting. It has become more interesting since the past election…but locally we have been able to continue to work for common goals. More importantly, over the years we have become good friends and acquaintances.
Although conservatives are found in the entertainment industry, they are few and far between usually found standing in the roped off country/western corner. Most of those in the Arts and Culture community are not only liberal, but extremely liberal…many of whom have no filter and feel compelled to express their views inappropriately and at inopportune times. Case in point…what happened to Vice President Pence when he and his family attended a performance of Hamilton.
Some of the vilest political commentary has come from many prominent members of the Arts and Culture community often expressing violence and name calling of the worst kind. A “critically acclaimed” version of Julius Caesar in the Shakespeare in the Park series depicted the assassination of Caesar dressed as President Trump. I have quit watching award shows of any kind or late-night television because it is, at least to me, deeply disturbing.
Lost in the “let’s tear down some statues” kerfuffle of this past week, President Trump announced he and his wife would not attend the Kennedy Center Honors events this year, nor host the traditional dinner at the White House because he did not want politics to get in the way of those being honored this year. This was done in response to comments made by three of the honorees, television producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, that they would not attend the event if the President was in attendance.
In response, the Chairmen of the Board and President of the Kennedy Center stated they were grateful that the President chose to remove himself from any political controversy surrounding the event so the spotlight would shine only on the honorees. So much for building bridges.
How sad. Arts and Culture should be a safe space for all Americans. Whether those on the left want to admit it or not, sixty million people voted for Donald Trump in the last election. We buy tickets. We donate money. We influence our elected officials as to where public money should go. We enjoy art. We enjoy music. We enjoy theater. We enjoy dance. The Arts is not the sole province of liberals.
If there is a place that shows how divided America is, this is it. So these folks have made their point. They have spewed their hate. They have disrespected the office of the Presidency notwithstanding who is the President. They have given the proverbial finger to those who voted for the current President.
The Kennedy Center is the pinnacle of the Arts and Culture community. It receives public funds, including my tax money. It should be made a requirement that those who are receiving these kinds of honors put politics aside and join in what should be America’s safe space of Arts and Culture for all Americans.
But that’s not what happened. That is a shame because half the nation is now alienated from one of the most outstanding Arts and Culture organizations in the country. It has made my position in local activities that much more…interesting. If no common ground can be found here, then where?