Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Final Solution: Life of Washington

"Life of Washington" by Victor Arnautoff (Yalonda M. James, Assoicated Press)
If you're willing to elect anyone who can stop Trump, you might be unpleasantly surprised by precisely who and what's capable of doing the job. The kind of populism represented by Trump, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Boris Johnson in England with its fascist overtones parallels the 30’s. But remember that in Russia and Eastern Europe the onslaught of full-blown totalitarianism came in its wake. The current controversy about the destruction of a WPA era mural depicting Washington’s exploitation of slaves ("San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History"NYT, 6/28/19) exhibits in microcosm what life is going to be like in a thought-controlled state that could be the platform of some of the president’s potential opponents. While many aspects of the U.S. economy could benefit from regulations, particularly in the air of the environment, free speech may be the first thing to go. What’s transpiring on college campuses across the country and currently in San Francisco is an example of the attempt to reign in thought itself. Though a sanctuary city, the home of the Haight is apparently no longer a safe harbor for advocates of free speech.  The snowflakes who dissolve when triggered (even by content with otherwise acceptable intentions), continue to provide the excuse for such censorship.The politicization of both sexuality and artistic debate (for example in the attacks on Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket” ("White Artists Painting of Emmet Till at Whitney Biennial Elicits Draws Protests,"NYT 5/21/17) are further examples of the legacy of the reaction to institutionalized racism and sexism. It’s always bad to fall in love on the rebound. You may find yourself rescued from a bad marriage only to find yourself waking up next to someone worse. Isn't such repressive backlash what George Orwell was writing about in l984? As former NEA chairman Rocco Landesman wrote in a letter to The Times: "In a world of increasingly unchecked zealotry aand self-righteousness, what work of art will ever be protected from some committee of cultural vigilantes who don't understand it?" 

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