20 January 2017

A new era

by Marc Masurovsky

As the transition in political and economic power unfolds in the United States, the world is apprehensive, wondering what the new administration, one unlike any that has set foot in Washington, DC, Congress and the White House, has in store for the average person living on American soil and for the rest of the world. A unique event in American history, not an unexpected one, but, nonetheless, one that has taken many people by surprise, not the least in the United States proper.

For those who are unfamiliar with the dynamics inherent to right-wing populist movements that operate on emotions, machismo, raw power, and domination games, you are in for a long ride. The potential for violence is high, intolerance is at our doorstep, and the opening of deep rifts along ethnic, social, cultural, religious, political, and economic fault lines is imminent. The new folks in Washington have no desire to heal wounds produced and salted by the most egregious presidential campaign in American history. Make no mistake, they are set to dominate, intimidate, and rule like a theocracy.

Intolerant, dogmatic, populist movements are driven by hatred of the “other” and resentful of the “educated”, those whose views extend far beyond those of the village, the local church and its requisite cemetery, fields pockmarked with farms, small towns with few distractions available to a restless youth, minds shaped by myths and legends of once glorious nations fighting bloody battles, overpowering real and imagined enemies, always on the defensive, considering other peoples as too different, not enough like them, and frankly ripe for enslavement and/or extermination. Constantly fed a mantra of negative stereotypes pertaining to “those” people responsible for their perceived or actual misfortunes, these folks have now unleashed their petty revenge on the alleged guilty ones, they have freed themselves of the shackles of their own failures by deflecting them on the “others.” 

It is not at all surprising that the first targets of the new administration’s ideological fury should target government funding of the arts and culture across the United States. The Nazi regime indulged in such bloodlust against culture--Kultur!--for 12 years both inside the Reich and in territories its troops and security henchmen occupied and devastated. Obsessed by difference, these "purgers" seek homogeneity, they yearn to create a monolithic echo box in which they can see and hear themselves every morning and not fear the "other", no longer. Difference must be quashed at all cost. How will the art world react? No one knows for certain.

If the new administration does actually plan on gutting Federal funding of the arts, it will destroy in one fell swoop a vast landscape of creative cultural and artistic expression across the United States, in small towns, large cities, in rural and urban areas alike, red States and blue states. The crusade launched by the enemies of culture in the works for decades now has finally found its articulation in the incoming administration. In short, to satisfy a Puritanical fundamentalist agenda, they will end up throwing the baby out with the bath water and isolating the United States as a dark place with which the rest of the world wants nothing more to do.

American museums, concert halls, public art and cultural activities, will all be affected as much as State-level arts initiatives and local arts programs. Artists of all kinds, traditional and unconventional alike, will be the victims of the hatred of these ideologues whose sole inspiration is a faith-based fundamentalism that resembles more the outlines of Calvinist orthodoxy and belief in the eternal sin of man on earth than anything else. Should this massacre of the arts unfold, it will be unlike any other in American history.

A new "obscurantism" is about to take hold in the hallways of American political power, one that appears to sate the cruelty and viciousness of the current leadership in the US Senate and House of Representatives, as much as in State legislatures across the red expanse of the United States.

Joseph Goebbels would have been proud. Were he alive today, Joe McCarthy might wonder if this incoming administration is not going too far, too fast, despite the fact that his mentee is now about to be enthroned as the 45th president of the United States.

Stay safe.