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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain On the Arts

Okay, my little lambs, let me preface this blog with the following statement. Support for the arts and arts education is my hot-button issue. It may not be yours (though I hope that you have begun to recognize its importance through a few of my blogs here). There are many other issues that are of equal if not more importance in the coming election. I just don't know what the right answers are in many of those issues. "Drill, baby, drill" or make cars that run on cooking oil? I think I know what we ought to do, but I don't know. I've done my research, and I still see both sides.
Support of the arts and arts education, however, is a topic upon which I know where I stand. I have read the statistics, and I have seen the influence of the arts with my own eyes. It's an important issue to me. I'd like it to be an important issue for everyone else, too, but we each have our own issue that is dear to our hearts and minds.
So before I get into discussing John McCain's policy on the arts, I just want to say that, whatever his policy may be, I do not expect that it will necessarily change or affirm your vote one way or the other (though I do hope that it will influence it).
Okay, John McCain's policy on the arts is, as near as I can tell, that he doesn't have one presently. He has shown in his senate career a tendency toward not providing for the arts, but he has no official policy that I have been able to locate.
In fact, the last word from John McCain on the arts that I have been able to dig up comes from 1999 in regard to the NEA:

”I have opposed federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts because I believe it is not proper to use tax dollars for what many Americans feel are the obscene and inappropriate projects this organization has supported. I support providing federal block grants to the states for arts education and artistic endeavors pursued by state and local authorities, while assuring that federal tax dollars are not spent on obscene or offensive material.”

Okay, that seems reasonable enough, but here's where I may have to nitpick just a little bit. What is obscene or offensive? Who makes that determination? Further, even if we can all agree that something is obscene or offensive (which we can't), is it without value? Shouldn't art be allowed to challenge boundaries set by societal ideas, strengthening those ideas that make sense and obliterating those that do not?
See, I have a good friend in town who is also a director. Recently he directed a show that some people found obscene and offensive, and he found himself in some pretty hot water for it at his day job. Now, it all worked out eventually, but the problem arose because his artistic expression wasn't fully grasped by a small group of very vocal individuals.
I guess I would be curious to know what John McCain's definition of "obscene or offensive material" would be. I expect that John McCain would not have liked my friend's show, and would have opposed the SCFD funding that allowed it to come to fruit.
I am glad to hear that John McCain supported federal block grants for state arts education in 1999. I think I would like to hear it more often in 2008.
If anyone has, please comment here or e-mail me. I want to give Senator McCain his equal time.
In the meantime, maybe someone could direct the senator to the Americans for the Arts website.

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