Don’t Let Trump Trash Our Culture

Our diversity in arts and culture must flourish for the next 4 years to keep our Democracy from drifting into a conformist nationalist template overlaid upon us by the federal government. America’s vibrant democracy is the direct result of encouraging all of our communities to express and celebrate their culture; cultural diversity has built a great nation.

That basic democratic principle may be compromised by the Trump administration if the report from The Hill is true: http://thehill.com/policy/finance/314991-trump-team-prepares-dramatic-cuts.

They reported that Trump’s administration is floating a plan to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA/NEH).

CPB created the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the National Public Radio (NPR) network consisting of more than 1,400 public radio and television stations.

A report outlining Trump’s main budget priorities is due within 45 days. It describes Trump’s blueprint to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

This plan closely resembles the ideology espoused by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition. It has published their own report for guiding the Federal budget in 2017 stating “government should not use its coercive power of taxation to compel taxpayers to support cultural organizations and activities.”

The Heritage Foundation also is a major funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) dedicated to limited government, free markets and federalism, but apparently not in favor of public support for promoting our culture. That would be left to the free market, i.e. private money will pick and choose what type of art and culture will prosper and grow.

This is the time for citizens to become activists in opposing any Federal government attempt to halt public support for sustaining and promoting arts and culture. We do not have to wait until the dye is cast. We must cast one first.

Here are six strategies complimenting each other and building toward a national campaign to NOT privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NOT eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA/NEH).

– The first action is to reach out to others in your neighborhood, your PTA, your school, your church, etc. and let them know of this possible threat and why you are concerned.

– Second, write a simple one-paragraph statement that you ask those above to email to all Congressional representatives, of course be open to amending it to get more people to participate.

– Third, create an email list of every artistic group (and their board members and staff if accessible), including individual musicians, poets, artists, art teachers, and performers. Reach out to them and ask them to help with the second task above. Do not limit your efforts just to your town or city, if you know people in other cities or states, let them know of your efforts and ask them to duplicate these strategies in their communities.

– Fourth, organize a cultural celebration or a panel discussion in your library or town hall to highlight the importance of publicly funding these 2 national institutions. Invite politicians, including your congressional representative, to attend. Work with community newsletters, community papers and radio stations to advertise the event.

– Fifth, conduct a survey of your city or county through the Internet or other means to measure public support for promoting local cultural and artistic activities. See if an elected official would sponsor the survey if not with funds then at least with an endorsement.

– Finally see if a councilmember would have a poem read at the start of their committee meeting to call attention to the importance of culture even within city hall. If there are no rules prohibiting it, why not try? In Seattle, I was able to have poetry read at the beginning of my committee meetings for the 18 years I served on the city council.

All of these activities must convey the singular message to Congress: our diversity of culture and art are important to not only sustaining vibrant communities within the US, but also to stop us from just looking just inward and ignoring the world around us to our disadvantage. Both NPR and NEA/NEH play critical roles in keeping our democracy an open one to all cultures and views; without that openness our nation becomes dependent on too narrow a set of beliefs and thus becomes brittle and weak in the face of new ones.