Thursday, April 27, 2017

Message to Sen. Mike Enzi: You are no help on the Senate HELP Committee

Received this letter from my U.S. Senator Mike Enzi today. It was a response to my postcard appeal back in March to Sen. Enzi, a member of the Senate Arts Caucus, to save funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which Trump has targeted in his draft budget. Every time I receive a Congressional response, I frame it with  drawings of the human body in the excellent big-format book, "Wall Chart of Human Anatomy," 24 charts of "3D anatomy based on the National Library of Medicine's Visible Human Project." It's a very sciencey book which is appropriate due to  the hundreds of marches for science we had last weekend. Republicans have yet to show that they have human circulatory systems. 
I received a nice note from Sen. Enzi today. It was short, but I understand, as Sen. Enzi had an action-packed week advising Wyomingites the proper attire to wear (or not to wear) to a Wyoming bar. He was specific about the attire -- a tutu -- but not specific on which bar. It could be the railroaders bar in Bill or the cowboy bar in Cheyenne or the brewpub in a barn in Ten Sleep. He told high school students in Greybull that anyone who wears a tutu into a bar in Wyoming gets what he deserves. We know he was talking about Wyoming's Larry "Sissy" Goodwin, a heterosexual Wyoming man who wears women's clothes and has been beat up several times by drunks who don't think that Wyoming men should be walking around in tutus. Sissy and I have spoken at Democratic Party and union meetings. Sissy is quite a dresser.

So Sen. Enzi has been busy apologizing and, in turn, not apologizing.

So I will forgive the abruptness of his response. But I do want to deconstruct it as it includes some strange statements. Some non-explaining explanations, if you will. Maybe even some alternative facts.

Sen. Enzi points out that he is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. As such,
"I believe that the arts and humanities are an important part of a quality education for our children."
Who can argue with that? Children need the arts just like they need to breathe. But it's not just the children -- all of us need the arts. Republicans know that they can get into the least amount of trouble by saying they are for the children and education. If they said, "I love the arts for art's sake" at the local bar, they would be beat to a pulp. Or if they said they supported the rights of artists to artistic expression -- the same result. They might be spared if they said they supported their local arts councils which sponsor much-needed artistic performances in some of the smallest communities in the state. But then if they told the mugs at the bar that the money for these activities came from taxpayer dollars, they might object. Tax money shouldn't support the arts and artists. That's something they might say. Or this: The arts should be self-supporting. This is funny coming from a Wyoming taxpayer, who annually receives more in federal funding than they contribute.

Does anyone find it odd that the Senate has a committee called HELP? There might have been a time when Congress looked out for people's health care, public education, the rights of labor unions and the ability of seniors to support themselves after a lifetime of working. Those days are gone. If you need any proof, just take a look at the Repubs' latest healthcare legislation. None of us will get any HELP from this bill. Keep your eyes on Sen. Enzi's vote when it comes to the Senate. Let's see how much HELP he offers to his constituents. He was a foe of Obamacare and will probably gush over the latest cruel version of Trumpcare.

Here's another statement from Enzi's letter:
"In Washington, I am working to encourage people across the country to get more actively involved in the arts."
As James Baldwin once said, "I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do." This is a notable writer saying that "actions speak louder than words."

The statement that really got me riled was this one:
"As we celebrate the arts, culture, and humanities that are native to our land, we encourage our young people to learn about the past and develop their own artistic abilities."
What exactly are the "the arts, culture and humanities that are are native to our land?" You have to admit that the native artists who etched the petroglyphs were talented. Native artists to our land created beautiful baskets and pottery and jewelry. They built Mesa Verde in Colorado and the mounds in Indiana. The medicine wheel on the crest of the Big Horns.

Not sure that's what Sen. Enzi means. The man reads books and he attends arts events around the state. As a mayor, he energized the arts in Gillette. But his statement smacks of the Nativist mentality that got Trump elected. When they say native, they mean white men. White Protestants founded this nation, by God, and we are the native race. All those other cultures don't count. Witness the Arizona law that forbids schools to teach Latino culture. Are African-American art forms such as jazz and blues and hip-hop counted among the arts native to this land? Salsa dancing? Non-representational art created by New Yorkers and Coloradans and Wyomingites who may find their influences in art from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Japan, Iraq, or Ukraine?

The U.S., surprisingly enough, did not invent the arts and humanities. We come from many cultures, many lands, many religions. We all deserve to be heard and seen.

Sen. Enzi wraps up his letter with a cautionary note that "the president's budget is always just a starting point." OK, so get started and do something to ensure that arts and humanities thrive in these United States. Make a stand and say that you will no longer follow the voting patterns of the Republican right-wing kook caucus. Tell your constituents you will no longer follow Trump as he marches us off of a cliff.

HELP us!

And I leave you with this artistic image, which I thought was hilarious.

This from Wyoming Equality: LGBTQ friends and straight allies put a tutu on, we're going out!
Find a #ToLiveAndLetTutu party near you:

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