Must Arts, Rights Stay on Election’s Back Shelf ?

Matt Shepard.jpg

I ask this leading question because, though we know the answer, we persist in champing at the usual bit. Almost no one running for office will discuss the arts or something as specific as gay rights when business and war put national, even international, livelihood at risk. Yet the health and some of the wealth of civil society depends upon the health of the arts, upon the survival of its small as well as large institutions, and upon the strength of its journalist criticism, now under mindless attack.

Our souls too depend upon the arts, but those balance sheets are harder to tally.

Just as crucial, civil rights define our “our,” and they too have not been assured by any candidate. Three states, for example, are voting to forbid same-sex marriage; the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by Bill Clinton, already sends a wide, bigoted signal. Be grateful for a hospital visit, toleration, an invisible “best friend”? Not on your life.  

Some of my spleen comes directly from my memory of the young Matthew Shepard (photo above), who was murdered 10 years ago. One tonic response was The Laramie Project, a play.  

Here’s mine.

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  1. says

    Beautiful piece…I was just talking to some folks today who in one breath had posited that it was “easier” for kids to come out today, but in the next told the story of a teenager who killed himself because he was gay (even though his parents were liberal and lived near San Francisco). An alien watching the political debates this season could reach one logical conclusion: that gays are somewhat less than human, perhaps not as much less as in the past — hey, at least Obama reference the LBGT in his acceptance speech — but still not deserving of full-fledged equality. Until that happens — and even when it does, for a long time after — I think we can expect to see a lot more Matthew-Shephard style executions.