Here in the U.S., today, the beginning of October, we find ourselves suddenly saddled with a government shutdown, due to an inability of the two main congressional bodies -the House of Representatives and the Senate- to come to a compromised conclusion on the language to be used (or not used) in the bills necessary to fund the government.
While this is the furthest thing from a politically focused outlet, I took note of one particular thing which was declared yesterday by President Obama, prior to the missed deadline for congressional compromise, and this observation happens to land an ironic blow to the arts sector in this country.
On September 30, 2013, (yesterday) President Barack Obama declared October of this year to be National Arts and Humanities Month. (This has been declared similarly in previous years as well.)
Throughout our history, America has advanced not only because of our people’s will or our leaders’ vision, but also because of paintings and poems, stories and songs, dramas and dances. These works open our minds and nourish our souls, helping us understand what it means to be human and what it means to be American. During National Arts and Humanities Month, we celebrate the rich heritage of arts and humanities that has long been at the core of our country’s story.
Our history is a testament to the boundless capacity of the arts and humanities to shape our views of democracy, freedom, and tolerance. Each of us knows what it is like to have our beliefs changed by a writer’s perspective, our understanding deepened by a historian’s insight, or our waning spirit lifted by a singer’s voice. These are some of the most striking and memorable moments in our lives, and they reflect lasting truths — that the arts and humanities speak to everyone and that in the great arsenal of progress, the human imagination is our most powerful tool.
Ensuring our children and our grandchildren can share these same experiences and hone their own talents is essential to our Nation’s future. Somewhere in America, the next great author is wrestling with a sentence in her first short story, and the next great artist is doodling in the pages of his notebook. We need these young people to succeed as much as we need our next generation of engineers and scientists to succeed. And that is why my Administration remains dedicated to strengthening initiatives that not only provide young people with the nurturing that will help their talents grow, but also the skills to think critically and creatively throughout their lives.
This month, we pay tribute to the indelible ways the arts and humanities have shaped our Union. Let us encourage future generations to carry this tradition forward. And as we do so, let us celebrate the power of artistic expression to bridge our differences and reveal our common heritage.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2013 as National Arts and Humanities Month. I call upon the people of the United States to join together in observing this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs to celebrate the arts and the humanities in America.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
Today, October 1, 2013, kicking in from 12:01AM EST last night, the government did in fact shutdown, and, one of the major immediate impacts of this event, is the closing of many national parks, museums and even national landmarks. (Additional irony: Yosemite National Park turns 123 today, as noted in doodle form by Google but it has closed as well. …and here some people think their birthdays are rough!) Employees are being furloughed by the dozen upon dozen and only the bare minimal is being retained, (if that,) so that necessities can be kept intact and in order.
|Google gives their signature “doodle shout out” to Yosemite National Park for turning 123.
…too bad it has to miss its own birthday.
Granted, everyone has their two cents to give regarding their feelings surrounding the shutdown and many US citizens are likely not care with as much vehemence about the temporary loss of access to these places but there’s certainly no shortage of irony in what the President decided to pay homage to and put emphasis on, the day before he knew exactly who and what would inevitably be affected by this political standoff.
While such a declaration was liable to do next to nothing in terms of any kind of severe change of heart leading to a reversal of action, there’s always that little inkling that maybe, just maybe, Obama was just throwing out a subtle, but nonetheless important, reminder about the lesser discussed segments of people who suffer from these actions, which shows an attempt to look at the whole picture, not just the rhetoric of big politics / politicians. After all, the countless employees who are now furloughed probably aren’t too happy.