Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The art of resistance sometimes includes the art of resigning

I am a bit late on this one. Four weeks ago, the remaining members of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned. I recognize some of the names on the committee, notably Jhumpa Lahiri, winner of a 2000 Pulitzer Prize and the 29th annual PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

Honorary Chairman of the now-nonexistent committee is Melania Trump. What is her claim to creative fame? Well, the First Lady has her own brand of jewelry offered on QVC. Who designs it? Many creative people work in the fashion industry. You'd think someone who benefits this directly from creativity would take the side of creators. I started some online research with the keywords "Melania Trump fashion." Google came back with almost 4 million results. I quickly grew queasy reading about her "style" -- and looking at photos of her fabulous wardrobe. I looked up "President's Committee on the Arts & Humanities resignation" and found almost 500,000 Google results. That was encouraging -- Melania Trump only outdid the PCAH's action by 8-to-1. Now, this blog  will be added to both searches. In this way, electrons win.

One can get lost in the research. The idea was that this post would be an undercover expose on more Trump rottenness. But I lost heart after about 15 minutes. I need my writing time for my fiction and not the fictional reality of an oligarch and his well-appointed wife. What I can do is feature the PCAH's fine resignation letter and then move on to other things.

This is a repost from a 8/18/17 Jen Hayden post about it on Daily Kos:
In a blistering public letter, the remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) resigned. ... you can see the original letter below. It’s a work of resistance art: 
Dear Mr. President:

Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalences you push cannot stand. The Administrations refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions. We are members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH). The Committee was created in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. We were hopeful that continuing to serve in the PCAH would allow us to focus on the important work the committee does with your federal partners and the private sector to address, initiate, and support key policies and programs in the arts and humanities for all Americans. Effective immediately, please accept our resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.  
Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American. We have fought slavery, segregation, and internment. We must learn from our rich and painful history. The unified fabric of America is made by patriotic individuals from backgrounds as vast as the nation is strong. In our service to the American people, we have experienced this first-hand as we traveled and build the Turnaround Arts education program, now in many urban and rural schools across the country from Florida to Wisconsin.  
Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both. You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. The administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Action, and attacked our brave trans service members. You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country. This does not unify the nation we love. We know the importance of open and free dialogue through our work in the cultural diplomacy realm, most recently with the first-ever US Government arts and cultural delegation to Cuba, a country without the same First Amendment protections we enjoy here. Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed.   
Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 
Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.   
Thank you.

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