Posting this as a full rant here since my twitter imports snipped it to a single post

Posting this as a full rant here since my twitter imports snipped it to a single post. This one is set to public, so you can share it if you’re inclined:
Since I’m in a mood given proposed budget cuts, and discussions of who is elite & who isn’t…lemme step up on my crate for a second.
There’s always been an attempt to convince people that artists are somehow both majorly elite, and also useless & unimportant to society. It’s pretty easy for artists to convince ourselves that our work isn’t The Real Work, because of the same level of many-decade convincing. But as a kid in rural America, the art I got from the larger world was funded by the NEA & NEH. It was the art that taught me empathy.
It wasn’t elite. It was public broadcasting and puppets. It was Mister Rogers and Sesame Street. It was the art of accessible science.
That art went on to make me into an artist who does all kinds of work – both the kind that makes kids believe in themselves- and the kind that makes adults imagine worlds better than our own. The work I’m trying to do is the opposite of elite. It’s about poverty, disease, hunger, & about beauty throughout the human experience.
I’m not elite. I grew up in rural Idaho, in a family of 5, making 12k a year. I grew into a writer because I know that stories of the full spectrum matter. That’s not an unusual backstory for an artist and storymaker in America. Many of us are bootstrap mythmakers.
For us to have a society that actually works, we need to be telling all kinds of stories. Most of the artists I know are listeners first.
“Elite” isn’t artists. Elite are the people who don’t listen to the individual voices of the poor. Who don’t see beauty in the underserved.
To be articulate is not to be “elite.” It is to be lucky in your communication skills. That’s a gift. It’s one that artists often have. And usually, we’re trying to use it to communicate experience simply. We’re translators of complexities, not censors of “The Truth.”
Yes, there is privilege in being someone whose voice gets to be loud on the topics of justice, beauty, and diverse experience. I get to make up stories, and it’s true: I get to decide which stories I tell, and which I make shine. I help decide how we move forward. Defunding the institutions that help support art will not make artists less loud. We shape the national story because we were born to.
It is our nature to sing for those who can’t sing. It is our nature to tell the stories of those who can’t tell a story in two minutes. I was telling stories for twenty years before anyone paid me to do it.
Do you want me to tell the story of art-destroying Fascists? I am happy to tell that story for free. That’s a story I know. It’s an old one.
Defunding the NEA and NEH is a way to try to injure the minds of real people who need art to imagine a more just & innovative world.
We ALL need art for that purpose. That’s what it’s for. But take away the funding and imagine you silence the storymakers? You don’t.
We are born to blaze and to bring people with us, voiced, seen, and knowing their rights. We dream in public.
You will not make this country dreamless by impoverishing artists. We are fucking everywhere, and we don’t do it for the money.
We do it because we were born like this. We analyze your hearts, Fascists, & we know how to break them.
You want us to tell stories of how heroic you are, but the stories that will live are the ones in which you fear the poets & painters.
You’ll be in our cave paintings, Fascists, and in our Odysseys, but you will not be winning. You will be sad. There are more artists than you think, and art changes the world as much as anything else does. More. In the beginning was the word.
You can try to take the word away from artists, but we have already spoken it, and it will echo. We whisper. We shout. We roar.
Stories don’t end with silence. They begin again. Your children call for them. You long for them. Without stories, there’s only the dark.

2 thoughts on “Posting this as a full rant here since my twitter imports snipped it to a single post”

    1. “Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.” -Barry Lopez

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