Jessie Fillerup's column ("Support the arts, America's identity," Nov. 6) defending federal funding of the arts shows the elitism which is at the heart of opposition to the whole idea. It is not the concept that art is good for America which rankles so many people. It is the idea that tax money should be used as life support for "great art" which the American public is too ignorant to recognize which is so infuriating.
Ms. Fillerup gives the impression that without federal funding, somehow the U.S. would become some great cultural wasteland driven only by the lowest common denominator. However, art has seemed to flourish through history despite wars, repression and hard economic times. There's no doubt it can survive today, as it always has, through the faith and dedication of the artists, private and corporate patronage, and that repugnant concept of commercialism which has driven art in the past. What would the English language be like if Shakespeare had turned his nose up at that crassly commercial writing form known as play writing and stuck only to sonnets? Would the world have missed some of Dickens' great works if he had waited for tax subsidies rather than having them printed in serial form? Perhaps "Schindler's List" would never have been made into a great film if it had not been directed by one of the most commercially successful directors of all time. The list is long of great art which was "tainted" by the stain of commercialism.
In keeping with the normal scare tactics of defending federal funding of the arts, Ms. Fillerup brought out the old bogeyman of the Republican philistine dragging America into intellectual mediocrity. She criticized Republicans for their support of defense funding, and she downplayed the importance of money spent in the past on defense because it was used to protect the U.S. from the threat of Iraq, "a mere speck in the dust devil of international affairs." It is one of the truly sad things about successful military operations that we do not see what the consequences of inaction would have been. We do not see a belligerent, nuclear-armed dictator in control of half the world's oil supply. We do not see Israel threatened and a whole region of the world destabilized and on the brink of nuclear war. The success of the Gulf War prevented this scenario and would seem to be money well spent.
It would be great if there was money to fund local orchestras, ballets and theaters throughout the country, but how do we justify spending even "a couple million" dollars on the arts when we are cutting Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and other programs which provide a tangible benefit to society? As for the artists, they should stick with what they believe. They should not need government validation nor money for their talent to be nurtured or expressed. History, not tax dollars, will show which was the great art and which was garbage.
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