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Art and Politics

Activisim. Root word, ACT. While justice has been important to me in life, I am sad to say activism has not been part of my reality. For this post to make sense, I must share some history on what and who has moved me to choose activism over pacifism. I must also warn you that at this point I am angry.

As you can see from yesterday, I started out with a request to boycott Palin. I am on a tear and I know it, but I don’t take death threats lightly and expect any leader to have higher standards. Due to my pacifism in the past, probably more accurately described as apathy, I’ve begun to see that there is consequence, even if I consider myself as one out of billions, in our system, a vote counts, a voice counts. Is that not the point of democracy? This is not rhetorical questioning. As a spiritual peacemaker, I am novice in my understanding of the importance of our voice in today’s politics.

So, imagine my surprise when I write a small paragraph about boycotting Palin and received a reprimand from an artist of all people. Do I also misunderstand art? Has the importance of art lost its voice in the din of commercialism? Gosh, I am more outraged by the comment than by Palin now. This artist has viewed my art and read the writings of my reflections that are not focused on outrage, or justice, just the beauty of life. The challenge comes when others do not realize that sometimes life is so exquisitely beautiful BECAUSE life is also so hard. Politics. Like life, politics are everywhere in every place and time. As long as we live we can’t escape politics. We must stop hiding our heads in the sand when our world is being subject to dangerous politics.

Just so you will know, I did not remove that journal writing. In fact, the person’s complaint made me so angry that I wrote five more articles on why all of us, artists, writers, teachers, accountants, mothers, fathers, students, homeless, veterans, etc. must speak out. We must speak out against injustice where ever it may be.

My art, whether it is writing, photography or music, is part of my voice. Picasso in his painting Guernica was in outrage. Alexander Solzenhitzen wrote as he did to give the people of Russia a voice. There are so many artists that we could list throughout all of history that had something important to tell us about life and how politics could change beauty into tragedy. Elif Shafak was imprisoned for writing Bastard of Istanbul and it wasn’t because the book was overtly political. She merely used Aramaic words that were offensive to the Turkish government. Do we tell her to stop writing her beautiful stories because they aren’t pretty and because they bring in politics? I don’t think so. Shall we write Woody Guthrie and say, “take all those songs back since they talk about politics.” One of the most moving religious concerts I ever attended had nothing to do with religion or spirituality, but Holly Near sang songs of justice, hope and empowerment of the poor.

I can only hope that the voices of justice speaking out can merge into one that can “be loud as thunder, but soft as butterfly sneezes”(1) , that somehow our voices of justifiable outrage can bring us to our senses, or at least make us stop and remember we are all one voice and it is human.

1. Quote from children’s book

Old Turtle: A Story by Douglas Wood with Illustrations by Cheng-Khee Chee

Old Turtle: A Story By Douglas Wood, Cheng-Khee Chee
Illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee
Contributor Douglas Wood
Published by Scholastic Press/Scholastic, 2001
ISBN 0439309085, 9780439309080

Art and Politics

JRobinWhitley

Joined August 2007

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Warning: Political Content and Outrage

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