Supporters of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities argue that the troglodyte Trump wants to return America to the Stone Age, before Washington, D.C. rescued an uncouth nation from the horrors of square dancing, axe-throwing contests, and windswept silence.
“Without the arts in America, all we have is . . . Trump,” film director Judd Apatow lamented in response to President Donald J. Trump’s plan to delete the NEA’s and NEH’s budgets of $148 million each.
“After all the wars are fought what remains are people, art, nature and culture,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis declared via Twitter. “Trump can try but he cannot cut us out of the picture.”
According to former soap-opera actor and People magazine’s 2014 Sexiest Teacher Alive, Nicholas A. Ferroni, “as far as Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are concerned, artists, musicians, dancers and performers have no value to society.”
“You don’t make a country great by crushing its soul and devastating its heart,” New York City councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said at a pro-NEA/NEH rally at City Hall. “That is what the arts are to us. That is what culture means to us. That is what the humanities mean to us.” He added: “We will restore sanity to this country.”
Amazingly enough, America was not an aesthetic backwater before President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the NEA and NEH into law in September 1965. Indeed, the generation that preceded these agencies witnessed a florescence of innovation, quality, and beauty in elite and popular culture. From Broadway to the big screen to bookstores to black-and-white TV and beyond, consider just a fraction of what Americans appreciated in the “dark days” before the NEA and NEH.
• Between the mid 1930s and 1965 — notwithstanding the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War — the American stage showcased George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.
• Filmgoers in those years savored Duck Soup, Snow White, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Fantasia, Citizen Kane, Warner Bros.’ glorious Looney Tunes cartoons, Double Indemnity, Singin’ in the Rain, On the Waterfront, Bridge on the River Kwai, Some Like It Hot, North by Northwest, Lawrence of Arabia, The Manchurian Candidate, Dr. Strangelove, and The Sound of Music. Duck Soup, Citizen Kane, and On the Waterfront are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.
• Readers turned the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.