For Tuesday, April 12, 2016:
“Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.”
Unattributed meme on Facebook (Sen. Joseph McCarthy?)
“Creativity is an act of defiance.”
I’ve heard of and read the first quote for years, always unattributed. Today I saw for the first time (also on Facebook) something that said it’s from a poster that U. S. Senator Joseph McCarthy distributed back in the 1950s in his hunt for Communists and like-minded agitators among the American populace. The concept certainly fits with his mindset and his agenda.
In the extended political season that is the run-up to the presidential election in the U. S., I’ve been struck by – and impressed by – the fact that some of the most political people I know are artists of all kinds. And they’re among the most vocal and the most active on behalf of the people on the fringes of society.
Musicians, writers and poets, visual artists, dancers, photographers, actors, dramatists, creative folks of all stripes do tend to live and work and mingle with society in its most tender places, among its most vulnerable citizens. Why? My personal opinion is that it’s because artists are intimately familiar with those tender places and people. By definition, artists see into and through the liminal, they lift the veil most of society uses to hide that which distresses us. Their art speaks to and for those who are given no voice.
Nietzsche wrote that ‘No artist tolerates reality.’ Some of my artist friends and colleagues are always among the first to defy the status quo when it needs to be shaken up. They hold the rest of us accountable. They organize or join demonstrations. They open up pathways to walk together and encourage – literally give others courage – action and critical thinking for new policies that benefit and invest in the marginalized among us.
Thank goodness for artists! Because of them, the rest of us are made more whole, more complete. No wonder McCarthy was so worried.