Monday, February 9, 2009

The Importance of Doing One's Ditty

As a kid we used to sing familiar tunes that contained alternative lyrics. One of my favorite ditties was a take-off on the Seven Dwarfs' * "Whistle While You Work" which contained disparaging references to Hitler and Mussolini. Another was one my grandmother used to sing while out sailing off the coast of Maine. [* This is not a mistake. It's Dwarfs not Dwarves.]

"Be kind to your web-footed friends...for a duck may be somebody's mo-o-o-ther"

Senator Coburn, this one's for you. Enough with the insults. Your amendment to S.1 that exempts a bunch of perfectly respectable folks from ever seeing one penny of the so-called stimulus money passed the Senate overwhelmingly. Congratulations to you and your 73 short-sighted colleagues (happily, NONE of which hailed from Vermont--no surprise there). You have successfully insulted some very articulate constituents.

Specifically exempted from the Senate version of the Stimulus Bill, thanks to the infamous Coburn Amendment, are casinos or other gambling establishments, aquariums, zoos, golf courses, swimming pools, stadiums, community parks, museums, theaters, art centers, and highway beautification projects.

I guess we are to understand that people who work for these establishments--call them America's entertainment industry if you wish--don't matter much to you Senator. We aren't as "good" as people who work in, what, the building trades? the auto industry? Banking and finance? Or is it just that our jobs aren't as good? You know...the jobs that a lot of us hold down in Vegas, at hotel resorts, on Broadway, in the local arts presenting organization which, by the way the last time I checked was putting food on MY table and MY tax dollars in the US Treasury?

Senator, it's a stimulus bill right? It's supposed to keep Americans who have a job, working; and provide new opportunities to Americans who don't have a job. Are you suggesting that my job in the Arts (along with my fellow 6000 employees in the Vermont arts sector) isn't worthy enough to even have a shot at participating in the stimulus bill...?

I could get all fussy on you, Senator, about the fact that I pay taxes and I drive cars and I buy food and I raise children and I pay taxes. But I'll leave it to all my working artist and arts administrative friends and associates who all pay their taxes and drive their cars and buy their food and raise their children and pay their taxes to carry the fussiness to your sorry doorstep.

Did I mention we all pay taxes?

You see, Senator, I don't believe it is in the best interests of getting America back on track from eight years of disastrous leadership from YOUR party to discriminate against entire sectors of the economy. I feel this way for a couple of reasons. One, none of us working at our jobs in the fields your amendment names, is really very different from the people who you feel somehow are more worthy of receiving the fruits of this stimulus bill money. So why pick on us? What are you afraid of?

Two, this kind of discrimination is really counterproductive, especially in light of the fact that America needs all of its creative ingenuity to get itself out of this mess we are stuck in. In one brilliantly executed, bone-headed maneuver you have disengaged one of America's most creative sectors from participating in this important national discussion: How do we lift ourselves out of this swamp you and yours have dropped us in?

Thanks. Thanks a lot. From all of us. Again.

And speaking of swamps...

"Be kind to your friends in the swamp...where the weather is cold and damp."

On second thought...swamps are amazing places when you think about them. They are incredibly fertile places, teeming with all sorts of (sometimes alien) life, and occasionally giving off really noxious fumes. As a metaphor, the swamp fits us all perfectly--us who, according to you, should be denied access to stimulus funding.

Artists (indeed ALL creative people) thrive in a swamp. We depend on each other for sustenance, for energy, for life. Sure we can live with the stink, because the stink is what keeps away people who threaten our lifestyle. People like, um, YOU, Senator!

Okay, enough of that...

If it hasn't occurred to those (few) of you who do me the honor of reading these biweekly rants that--as usual--we're likely to be once again on our own, hear it here first. We're likely to be on our own again.

But let's turn this into a good thing. Heck artists in lower Manhattan turned neighborhood after neighborhood around with very little assistance from the likes of Senator Coburn. Artists never abandoned such lovely destinations as Bridgeport, CT in the 80's when Bridgeport rivaled the South Bronx for Dante's Divine Circle of Hell Award for residential lifestyles. We can probably do pretty well without stimulus money.

But oh, the missed opportunity...

The missed opportunity.

"So you might think this is the end...well it is."


Steve Ames said...

Alex, you sent this to him, didn't you?

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is wonderful - and don't you wish you could stand calmly in front of this man and deliver every word! Not that someone like Coburn is likely to get the true intent of your message.....