One of the coolest things in 1992 was Bill Clinton playing the saxophone while being a guest on Arsenio Hall's show. It was not his sex, er, sax skills that impressed me. I didn't care, nor do I even know how to rate such skills. I was mighty impressed that a candidate to lead the most powerful country was not all stiff. and that there was a lot more color to his personality.
Clinton's presidency also marked my transition from graduate studenthood to life as a real adult, in America. Like real Americans, I too started watching a lot of TV!!! Except that mine included quite a few hours of C-Span and public television.
It always fascinated me that music programs were hosted at the White House and also broadcast. I got to watch pop stars and opera stars alike performing in an intimate setting--right from my living room.
One of my favorites was a rather recent one (recent given my 30 years in America), when musicians performed Paul McCartney's songs in the White House.
Obama leading the crowd with Amazing Grace in a very emotional setting was memorable, yes. It was also phenomenal leadership during a very tough time.
And now we have an uncultured and uncouth horrible human being, who is seemingly at ease only with everything that lives and breathes in cesspools! Culture he hasn't shown. The Economist writes that "The White House has become a cultural wasteland":
IT IS hard to imagine a presidential duty as easy, uncontroversial and plainly enjoyable as hosting the nation’s greatest artists, writers, actors and musicians at the White House. Such events offer a reprieve from politics and partisanship. They bestow glamour on an administration. They are a routine part of the job—a means of recognising and supporting the indispensable role of the arts in a great civilisation.Of course, I will be labeled an "elitist" by the fuhrer's followers. But, hey, I am talking about art that survives the test of time. Puccini's arias and Aretha Franklin's songs will be around for way longer, well after we are all dead. But, this president knows not such art, and the artists know better than to perform in this madman's presence.
Yet for Donald Trump even this duty is proving difficult. Artists have snubbed him since the inauguration, when musicians like Elton John, Céline Dion and Garth Brooks refused invitations to perform. “Anything that gives aid and comfort to the adversary is a poor idea,” tweeted Joyce Carol Oates, a novelist, in support. By contrast, Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 drew together the very best in American culture—Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, John Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and (for the Obamas’ first dance that night) Beyoncé.
After his comments on Charlottesville, all 16 members of the Presidential Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, established by Ronald Reagan in 1982 to advise on cultural policy, resigned. “We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions,” they wrote in a letter.Art--written, sung, spoken, drawn, painted, danced--helps us understand our existence. We understand ourselves much more and much better thanks to the artists who help us with their creations and renditions.
But, this president does not care about what it means to be human. He knows not what empathy is, and cares only for one thing--himself!
In the face of concerns like North Korea and neo-Nazis, Mr Trump’s rift with the art world seems insignificant. But it is another indicator of the tenor of his presidency and how drastically it breaks with previous administrations of both parties. Indeed, artists have usually attended White House receptions even when they disagreed with the sitting president. Bill Clinton honoured Charlton Heston, a staunch conservative. George W. Bush hosted Barbra Streisand, an ardent Democrat.I hope the resistance matters a lot. Else, we are doomed!
Mr Trump’s stance toward the artists who criticise him suggests he would rather take after, say, the Kremlin if he could: last week, Russian authorities placed Kirill Serebrennikov, one of the country’s leading theatre directors, under house arrest. In America artists still roam free. Will their resistance matter?