• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


What Are We Fighting For?

Hiding out in Chicago.


March 22, 2017

I recently shared a Winston Churchill “quote” that’s been circulating the web.  It reads, “When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘then what are we fighting for?’” 

“Yep!” I thought, and reposted on my site.  My social media protest went out immediately after Trump announced his proposed military budget increase of $54 billion, to be paid for by defunding or eliminating domestic programs such as the NEH, NEA, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as the EPA, Department of Education, 40% of the State Department, etc. (I bet you know the list by now.) 

But, my educated, employed friends and I cried, we need the arts and the humanities to give us reasons to live! To comfort us when we despair! To give us national pride in our cultural achievements! What else is there besides work and warfare?!

Unfortunately, “what are we fighting for” is not a Churchill quote.  The Village Voice mistakenly reported it, along with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, actor Kevin Spacey, and about a million other people, such as myself.  As his family reports, Churchill did support the arts, and spoke of safeguarding them during times of war. He just didn't make this inspiring comment.

Quotes that fail!  Fake news!  What’s next? Science fiction that becomes reality? Why can’t we just assert persuasively our own truths, as President Trump does?  On what planet are his ethics buried?  It seems like we’ve more fully entered that alternate universe—a place of Kenyan ‘birther’ stories, and surreal Melania data—e.g. costs for her NYC security equal the NEA’s budget. (Unfortunately, this factoid seems like an accurate guess.)

This last piece of info was included in a satisfying musical event at Chicago’s inimitable bar, The Hideout, featuring writer and columnist Rick Kogan and musician Michael Miles. Wilco, Neko Case, Jack White, Jeff Tweedy—all unknown musicians played The Hideout when they were just starting out.  Thomas Frank signs his books here, in a space not much bigger than a living room. Comedy, experimental theatre and open mikes happen inside too.  Kogan and Miles perform a sort of monthly musical commentary on events and ideas.  Big money is clearly not the goal.  It’s about art and community.

Last night, Miles and his talented band played songs ranging from Bob Dylan to Oscar Hammerstein while Kogan, with his deep silky voice, read poems about diversity, written by his twelve-year-old granddaughter, and letters about the virtues of uranium, written by Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt in 1939. “A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory.”  Kogan thinks that Trump is a blowhard dealmaker, and that these budget threats, which Republicans tend to make periodically, will be pushed back with protests and democratic outrage.

Let’s hope so.  It takes a little banjo music to keep my energy up for all this protesting, not to mention the fact checking…


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