"I don’t do idiots," says composer Philip Glass, is the latest in a long list of derogatory comments by prominent artists about President Trump. Recall all the performers who self-righteously announced their intention not to perform at the inaugural, even if asked, including Elton John, Garth Brooks, Kiss, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Charlotte Church, The B Street Band, Jennifer Holliday, Rebecca Ferguson, and, sadly, the Rockettes.
Bearing in mind that 62,979,879 Americans voted for the Trump-Pence ticket, is it going too far to say that in turning their backs on the new president these artists are dissing his voters as well? I don’t think so. There is more to this disrespect than immediately meets the eye. Throughout the entire arts community, including film, music, museums, theatre, literature, critics, and academicians, there inhabits a deep disdain for the Americans who value the defense of innocent life and marriage, the value of patriotism, respect for the military and police, the rights of parents to educate their children, and reject the threat of globalism.
To put it more simply, if you can be labeled Republican, pro-life, pro-marriage, conservative, or a traditionalist, the artistic world will turn its back on you, unless, of course, you happen to be wealthy. The wealthy are treated with respect as long as the checks arrive on time onto the desk of the development director.
Some months ago, I addressed this situation from another angle, "A Cultural Outcast Asks: Who Can I Turn To, When Nobody Loves Me?" This complaint was prompted by the barrage of articles disparaging Trump shortly after his election in the magazines and on the websites I regularly read about books, music, films, and other cultural matters. Messages sent to a few editors received either no reply or snide ones declaring that "artists have always been on the side of the progressives…"
Am I the only one to notice that it has become tiresome practice in reviews of anything artistic to throw in an aside that it "has become terribly relevant to the age we live in," meaning Trump and Brexit? I dare anyone to cite a single issue, since November 7, 2016, of the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books (et al) that does not take a cheap shot at President Trump and, by implication, those who voted for him.
Here you have millions of Americans, many of whom love the arts, engage the arts, donate to the arts, and look to the arts for insight and inspiration who are being told, basically, "you’re an idiot" ("but we will take your money"). Why is there such a deep disconnect between artists and the social conservatives in their audience? If they are such idiots, why do they still read good books, collect classical CDs and downloads, buy films from the Criterion Collection, attend concerts and operas, go the theatre and the ballet, and visit museums around the world? Why do they listen to the music of Philip Glass, which I first met and admired in his score to the 1988 documentary, "The Thin Blue Line"?
Could it be, after all, that artistic taste is not determined by moral and political outlook? Going even further, could it be argued that the extreme liberal attitudes of some artists doesn’t get in the way of their creation of beautiful works of arts? I think that is exactly the case, with one caveat: There are artists and audience members who allow their morality and politics to overly influence their creativity and receptivity.
Thus, they view the making of art as primarily a platform for delivering a message, while the audience takes all it sees or hears and filters it through moral, political, or religious criteria to determine its worth. When neither the artist nor the audience put the beauty first, the artistic experience is inhibited if not destroyed completely.
After calling President Trump an "idiot," Philip Glass went on to say that he was grateful for his election: "It is wonderful: for the first time even children are getting politicized. Even my children, who used to be sunk in video games, now go to demonstrations and get involved politically. We should be grateful to Trump for having shaken us up."
It’s sadly ironic that an artist would celebrate his children’s embrace of politicized art. I’ve read countless pleas for donations from groups that celebrate the arts as a vehicle for human solidarity, freedom, unity, transcendence, and the overcoming of divisions within society. Music itself is supposed to the "universal language of mankind" according to American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Music also contains in innate spirituality, or as Leonard Bernstein put it in his 1973 Norton Lectures: "Through music you can reach the unreachable and communicate the unknowable."
According to Philip Glass, President Trump, evidently, does not quality as worthy of being exposed to the wonder of great music, and neither do the rest of us "idiots" either.
I supposed if Trump decided to quadruple the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts some of this nonsense might be tamped down, but not that much. Trump would be accused of attempting to buy respect. The disdain in the arts community is far too ingrained to be mollified by gestures of good will from "idiots."
I’m saddened that I don’t have a solution to this state of affairs. I will continue to seek out and promote good books, music, films, and plays regardless of what these artists think of my president and me. After all, what the artists themselves seek is far more important than the politics hold as absolute.
Dr. Deal W. Hudson took over Crisis Magazine in 1995, leaving in 2010 to become president of Catholic Advocate. While at Crisis, Hudson led the Catholic voter outreach for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and later advised the campaigns of both John McCain and Donald Trump on Catholic outreach. In 2014, he began his weekly two-hour radio show, "Church and Culture," on the Ave Maria Radio Network, and launched www.thechristianreview.com in 2015. His books include "Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction" and "Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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