Is Art Worth Dying For?
Art is an expression of the highest ideals of a civilization. It endures. It defines. We can’t know who we are unless we know where we’ve come from. This is why invading armies destroy a civilization’s artifacts, to wipe away memory and meaning. The Babylonians carried away Israel’s artifacts for a reason, and it instructed Israel’s best and brightest in its “language and literature” for a reason as well.Art is freedom and it empowers. It is no surprise that one the central figures opposing Russian totalitarianism now is the band Pussy Riot. We wonder, but should not be surprised, that art was central as a salve and a stated by the prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt. Their spirits were liberated through art even though their bodies perished.Art is unique to truly understand, seek truth and develop empathy. There is no other way for a society at large to walk in someone's shoes than through art. Several of this year’s Oscar nominated films for best picture do just that: The Dallas Buyers Club (AIDS), 12 Years a Slave (human rights) and Nebraska (aging).In my engagement with art and entertainment, what I have found elusive in the policy and political spheres is possible … shared experience. We can put away the hard edges, the sharp elbows, and understand together. We may not always agree, but shared experience creates understanding.Conservatives are known for critiquing and cutting art, not creating it. I wish more members on the Republican side of the aisle would have championed the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus to preserve America’s greatest film, television, video and musical art. We need to preserve our artist legacy, not let it burn with time.My message to conservatives: you reap what you sow. And there will be nothing to reap when there is nothing you’ve sown.