Dear President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I’m a violinist, and not particularly active politically; I don’t consider myself a Democrat. I tend to form my convictions and keep my perspective reasonably discreet, lest some zealot start yelling at me in a restaurant or something. But like millions of Americans, I’m relieved to finally sense that the endless incompetence, stupidity, and arrogance of the last eight years may be coming to an end, or at least that a new direction for the country is taking shape. I don’t envy you- I think The Onion got it right. Now that I think about it, the job really didn’t seem that bad before 2000, except that you had to deal with politicians all the time. Anyway, as you are taping the Constitution back together (and hosing it off), fixing the economic situation, figuring out Iraq and Afghanistan, shutting down Guantanamo, putting a band-aid on Gaza, firing all the unqualified ideologues hired over the last two terms, demonstrating your ability to walk across the Reflecting Pool, and about 700 other things that seem to need urgent attention, I hope you’ll remember one other thing: the arts matter, especially at times like these. For thousands of years, in any advanced society the arts have flourished both in good times and bad. Even the US had a reasonable record in that regard until relatively recently, before “clearing brush” and listening to hillbilly nonsense became the cultural standard of the White House. Even with the Clintons’ alarming interest in Fleetwood Mac and his incessant attempts to make some sort of noise on a saxophone, at least there was usually a sense that some sort of interest in the arts was essential for any meaningful existence, American or otherwise. But we’re still a long way from Camelot and people like Casals actually getting some respect. Maybe we’ll get back there sometime.

Speaking of the word “respect”, it’s encouraging to finally a decent lineup for the Inaugural soundtrack. While some may bristle at the inclusion of John Williams without a movie showing, it’s tough to top the Queen of Soul. Or Yo Yo. We’re way past that lame Ashcroft “Soar With Eagles” stuff, so there’s already serious progress. Perhaps Parliament or Radiohead for a future event?

Anyway, I have a feeling you know all this, and you’ve got a lot on your plate. So best of luck, and don’t forget that the arts in America are a vital component of the country’s identity (and  recovery- remember the Works Progress Administration?), and they always will be.

And by the way, if I were you I’d make extra sure Cheney has actually moved out.

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