Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Arts and Politics, or That "Hamilton" Incident

This past month has been breathtaking in the world of American politics and elections. I don't ever recall in my lifetime anything as contentious as this year's political campaigns have been, or that a candidate for US President was so ill-qualified, ethically-challenged and ignorant. I've been working on several posts to address my thoughts and feelings about what has happened. Today, I wanted to draw your attention to a fellow blogger's response to the "incident" at the Broadway show Hamilton and the aftermath.

Scott Chamberlain of Mask of the Flower Prince covers the arts, primarily the classical music world, but also the arts world in general. His post, "On the Hamilton Incident," thoroughly plumbs the depths of the controversy from the point of view of an arts administrator and artist. I urge you to read and think about it. 

Think about the role of the arts in your life. Do you go to movies? This medium uses visual art, spoken word art, as well as music. Do you read books? This is the literary art medium. Do you listen to music -- and it really doesn't matter what kind because music is music? Or attend plays at a theater or your kid's concert or play? Surely you notice the buildings around you. They are designed by artists called architects. Doodling is a form of art, as well as drawing, painting, or finger painting. Poetry (or song lyrics). The public art we see in the public spaces of urban areas and airports, in museums, displayed by corporations in their headquarters. We are surrounded by art.

New York City skyline 2016

The best art not only entertains, but reveals truths about the human condition, provokes thought about belief systems, and encourages discussion. I'm a writer. I write to tell stories, to entertain with those stories, but my characters have issues or challenges that can provoke thought as well as insight. I don't plan it that way because I just begin telling the story. The characters have their own minds and lives.

Having said that, I recognize that there are people on this planet who don't want to think, and they don't care about the arts.  They only want to be distracted and entertained. They don't read much. They love their smartphones for the distraction they provide through the internet. They like to see crash-and-burn movies with lots of explosions and nothing more. Maybe they also love to watch professional sports. They believe "art" is elitist and are not open to discussing it. They work hard but often live paycheck to paycheck. I believe these people are the core of Mr. Trump's supporters, and he, despite his wealth, his college education, his many businesses, and whatever opportunities all that would bring him, is one of them.

As for the cast of Hamilton, they have the right, their First Amendment right, to express themselves.  So, too, the booers and hissers in the audience that evening who expressed themselves when Mr. Pence entered the theater. As Scott Chamberlain points out in his piece, when the play began, the audience became united in watching the play together. That's what art does, too.

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