Uncertain times need art

Reseda Theater: Resurrect This Theatre PleaseEvery hostile tweet. Every head-scratching cabinet nomination. Every missed intelligence briefing. But every sense that this is the new reality we’re heading towards. We can’t depend on a recount or the Electoral College to change the outcome. There are no do-overs or returns and exchanges with a receipt. We can’t Kübler-Ross out of this one. We knew that this has been brewing for a long time. It was coming. The pendulum has swung. This is it.

So what do we do? We create.

We can create in many different ways — by activism, by organizing, by donating to causes we believe in, by writing to our elected officials, by standing up for our friends and neighbors, and by getting involved in our communities. But one of the important ways we can make a difference is through art.

Art can change things. Picasso’s Guernica and Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” force us to look at horror and refuse to let us turn away. Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl shows us the humanity of people who were robbed of theirs. Richard Pryor makes us laugh at truths that make us uncomfortable. Woody Guthrie, The Beatles, and Public Enemy provide us with the soundtrack of social change. Art enables us to see what we’re afraid to look at, hear what we don’t want to listen to, and feel things we’re afraid of.

Art may be what we need the most right now.

If this is a post-fact world, we need to persuade through feeling. We need to feel what it’s like to be thousands of miles from a home you can’t return to and try to fit into a world that seems alien to you. We need to live through the worst moment of a mother’s life when she learns that the child she dreamed about and loved and carried in her body for months may not live after his birth. And if she tries to deliver him, she may die and leave her other children motherless. We have to look through the eyes of a steel mill worker as the town where he grew up slowly dies. The barbershop where he got his first haircut, the grill where he met his wife, and the movie theater where he saw the original Star Wars have been boarded up, and he worries that his job will be next to be sent overseas.

Art can make us feel. When we feel, we can care. And when we care, we want to find solutions and demand change. Art can force us to look past labels and factions so we can see the humanity in each other. Art can bring us together, often by forcing us to look at what drives us apart.

Uncertain times need art. Let’s get started.