Sunday, February 12, 2017

Art and Hope

Cynicism must be a gene buried deep in the cerebral DNA. That tiny nodule has a pretty good hold on my outlook. How much of our condition is nature versus nurture? I look at my kids and think: Jeez, they turned out so much differently than each other, and yet they essentially had the same environment.

I'm seeing the world change. I wonder if the '60s felt like this, a similar kind of sweeping tide of impossible politics and public distaste. My parents were not protestors. My dad was too old to go to Vietnam, and my mother was busy with two little kids. Domesticity occupied them. Not that they weren't smart and didn't have opinions, just other obligations took up their time.

Asheville protest, Jan 2017
There's a collective call among my friend base to get off our duffs and do something. My plug-in goes right to the news feeds, the ones that legitimately offer objective reporting. I hear you laughing. Objective? Right, you say. But the notion floating around from on high that credible journalism doesn't exist is false. Good reporting is still out there, and the cretins who suggest that all journalists are not worth a dogpile is itself a dogpile. Facts are still verifiable. Eye witness accounts matter. Seeking the input of many sources to put news together is fundamental. Be skeptical of what you read, but be smart. Read broadly. Understand the law. The law may be our only buoy in this sea change.

Our freedom to speak and to do it in public with a poster board may look and feel whiny, but I'm glad we have the right to whine. Let's whine with all our hearts.

Last month, at the Asheville Fringe Festival, I heard protest poetry. Art becomes a tool for the political. Weave a few words into a piece, and suddenly the writer becomes an activist, a visionary, a hope-giver. In a larger sense, isn't the art of great people or the great art of unknown people what we remember? A powerful phrase? Or a compelling photograph that changes public opinion? Or a novel that raises the hair on our perspective? An unforgettable speech? Or maybe just a poster.