This article was originally published on June 3, 2014.
I’m not going to mince words or write this article like a news piece. This is an open letter to anyone who considers themselves on the right side of the ideological spectrum and it’s a discussion all of us who are politically involved need to seriously consider. That is:
When it comes to handling culture in today’s society, we suck.
Let me put it this way: We mock the left’s use of actors & actresses to promote legislation or elections amongst younger generations, are appalled at the type of people who would actually applaud something like Miley Cyrus twerking, and continue to roll our eyes when a leftist propaganda-filled movie hits the big screen. But at the end of the day, we’re no less guilty of producing such low quality “artwork” and continually make a mockery of conservatives who even dare try to shape or tap into culture. And anyone on the Twittersphere knows what happens if you express even minute interest in award show season.
Take, for example, the premiere of Breitbart California, a branch of Breitbart.com that will cover issues local to the State as well as (you guessed it) Hollywood.
Here’s the problem: With the new Breitbart.com branch also came photoshopped graphics that the people in charge apparently thought were “cool” to put up. These graphics featured a photoshopped Nancy Pelosi in clearly a sexual position under a “buff” Vice President Joe Biden and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s head photoshopped onto a nude woman’s body whose cupcakes are only covered by the Breitbart avatar. Although Sabo’s art can be pretty awesome, that crossed the line.
Not only was this a disgrace to Andrew Breitbart’s legacy, but it raises the uncomfortable fact that someone actually thought this would actually be appealing. It’s one thing to infiltrate using the Left’s ways of getting their message across, it’s another to stoop so low as to mock public figures and officials in such a crude manner and have the audacity to publically declare it “art.” Not to mention giving the rest of us nightmares of Nancy Pelosi.
The next example is Madison Rising, a popular band among younger conservatives because of their Patriotism, “edgy” sound, “shredding” guitars, and vocals that sound more like a younger version of Scott Alan Stapp, the lead singer of Creed. As a musician I could go on about their obvious lack of understanding of the rock genre as well as the rather dorky performing presence. That that would be putting it nicely, but I digress. Lyrics alone represent why people on the right embracing this band shows how desperate we’ve become in our messaging. Just take a minute to listen to “Right to Bear” for the 2nd Amendment “don’t take our guns away” lecture you can hear Sarah Palin shout on any given day or “Before the Hyphens Came” where you can bang your head in agreement while Stapp sings (screeches) the chorus:
“They tell us that they really care
But to them it’s just a game
‘Cause we were all Americans before the hyphens came
When people cared ‘bout who you were and less about your name
‘Cause we were all Americans Before the hyphens came.”
I kid you not, these are actual lyrics and while I normally encourage readers to look it up for themselves I highly recommend you don’t and just spare yourself. Your ears will thank you.
Now for the problem. People on the right who are politically involved tend to only endorse “artists” with a blatant conservative or libertarian message.
Let’s face it: If your art doesn’t beat people upside the head with the Constitution or evoke such emotions that get you riled up enough to simultaneously wave the American and Gadsden flags while singing “God Bless America” with tears in your eyes and paying homage to a Bald Eagle, it’s not going to get promoted.
Don’t get me wrong. Efforts to tap into pop culture should be applauded and some attempts the Left makes are ripe for parody (see #GetCovered campaign, etc.). I truly believe tapping into culture may help our cause, politically speaking, in the long run. However, I have to ask anyone reading this one simple question. If we’re combating the Left’s awful attempts at art, music, etc. with equally bad “art” and stooping to their level of mockery (Sabo’s photoshops), what’s the point?
In my opinion, the solution is quite simple. Make art, not political statements.
We’ve always used the arts to speak to people. Art, music, dance, and theatre have all been used to tell stories, evoke emotion, and even express themselves in a way that could not be said in words (see composers during Stalin’s rule as dictator in Soviet Russia and the crushing effect communism had on the arts).
In his book “How Should We Then Live?” author Francis Schaeffer writes: “There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind – what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value system and it is true of their creativity.” A conservative is more than just someone who is for 2nd Amendment rights and freedom of speech. We are for an idea rooted deep in the hearts of humankind who, throughout history, have long craved for the freedom and ability to buy, sell, trade, as they want, work as they wish, worship as they are called (speaking as someone from the Christian faith), and all without the intrusion of government or group of people telling them how to live. Not just bald eagles, AR-15s, and American flags but a strong history of freedom, a sense of liberty and independence (a self-governance only marked by the laws of morality) that runs deeply in every American’s veins. We talk about the dumbing-down of society and education, but never stop to consider the dumbing-down of the beauty of our art. Until we can better narrate why we are Conservative, unfortunately the art we produce will never be more than 2nd best. Where society goes, our culture goes with it.
As someone coming from a performing arts background, this is where it gets personal. Art, true art, is based on a thought. A feeling. An expression of emotions or used to bring back memories long passed. And, for many of us, it’s the only time we really allow ourselves to “speak” and feel. History recollects itself through paintings, sculptures, and photography, music passed down through generations, writings of old through theatre, dance, and poetry. It is a representation of people. But, more than that, it is a representation of humankind that touches on the most sensitive of human emotions. It has life because it is about life.
Instead of mocking those who know how to express themselves and choose to study the attempts of the Left, it’s time to tap into those resources on our side and do it in a way that doesn’t defeat the purpose. Bad art is bad art.
I could go on about the depth of cultural history, the beauty of the art forms themselves, the dedication and passion it takes in mastering the craft, etc. but I’ll only leave you with questions to think about. Conservatives are supposed to “conserve.” What are we trying to conserve in the area of crappy artistry? Is this how we want to be seen “in the name of politics” when history looks back upon us?