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One Last Breath For NEA

I understand that we live in a generation, and specifically in a year, in which the societal value of concepts like creative expression and effective learning is roundly rejected in public.

After all, goes the unspoken logic, these aspects of our humanity don’t contribute to the capitalist bottom line, so how could they possibly be valuable? Reasoning such as this is what has contributed to a neglected and bankrupt national educational system, and a generation of youth with no effective or encouraged way to express themselves other than through violent means, and no causes to fight for other than those which involve bigotry or attacks on other members of the human race. Even given all this, though, I was rather shocked to read Matt Craighead’s column of Dec. 7 [“Getting Priorities Straight”], in which he offers a justifiable critique of the current administration’s spending habits and budgetary ignorance.

Craighead mentions as one remedy the cutting of funds to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, calling them “silly governmental programs” that are “easy to laugh at.” With all due respect (or perhaps not), I would put forth the radical notion that positive cultural programs have but one last breath in our society, and in our government’s set of priorities. One more innocuous sign of the erosion of intellect is the current trend of mangling the English language in public forums and calling this truth and honest character (after all, such a tactic elected this president).

The NEA and the CPB have their flaws, like all (repeat: all) governmental programs. Not every American will be perpetually satisfied by the intentions of a few hundred legislators and elected officials. But flippant and arrogant comments such as the one made by Mr. Craighead represent further just how little value most Americans place on our national artists, who quietly struggle financially and emotionally so that this country might not be totally dominated by the spectres of war and violence, hatred and bloodshed.

But perhaps that is what Mr. Craighead, and others who share his beliefs, would like to see happen. He is welcome to such a society, but Congress’s last whispers of some support to its own citizens who inspire and create for a living should not go down without a fight.

Bill Whitney