As the plane touched down in SFO from Manila on the eve of March 16th, not only did I step out of the plane with a heavy heart, I was also dumbfounded with recent news. Being away from the States gave me the false idea that for a second, I can get away from Trump. But there I was, waiting in line at the immigration kiosk, reading about the orange bloviator’s latest move: eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other agencies.
I was jetlagged, already homesick but most of all, I was angry.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what all of this means. As Trump moves to present his federal budget, he has chosen to eliminate what constitutes 0.002% of the $1.1 trillion budget. While it may seem inconsequential, losing $300 million is a huge blow to folks, programs and projects which have been traditionally underfunded: artists, writers, magazines, libraries, local television stations, radio programs and other projects.
According to the American for the Arts Action Fund:
1) The NEA is the single largest national funder of nonprofit arts in America. NEA grants help leverage more than a 9 to 1 match in private charitable gifts and other state and local public funding.
2) The NEA also has an exemplary partnership with the states, with 40 percent of program funds distributed through state arts agencies.
3) With only a $148 million annual budget, the NEA investments in the arts helps contribute to a $730 billion economic arts and culture economic industry, including 4.2 percent of the annual GDP and supporting 4.8 million jobs that yields a $26 billion trade surplus for the country.
4) For more than 50 years, the NEA has expanded access to the arts for all Americans, awarding grants in your congressional district and throughout all 50 states and U.S. Territories.
5) NEA funding reaches small, rural towns through its “Our Town” grants and specifically helps our wounded soldiers and veterans with effective arts therapy.
And it’s not only the arts that’s losing funding but also a milieu of other agencies as he, unsurprisingly, increases the budget for defense. John Oliver takes a jab:
As a queer Filipino immigrant writer in the Bay Area, this hits close to home. Not only will opportunities be taken away at expanding the arts and uplifting the voices of marginalized communities, it also has far-reaching consequences across the globe. Case in point: my homeland, the Philippines.
Trump’s proposed increase in military spending comes at the heels of a recent allegation concerning US naval officers in the country:
On March 15, 2017, Admiral Loveless, four retired Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel were charged with corruption and other offenses [in the Philippines]. Among the charges includes accounts of “raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes” and accepting bribes from Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis in the form of gifts, luxury hotel stays and prostitutes. “Fat Leonard” is a Singapore-based defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.
So what can we do at this point? The most important thing is to 1) reach out to your local representatives, express your outrage/concern and urge them to fight against Trump’s budget and 2) spread the word by telling your friends/family/neighbor/crush/ex-lovers/others and blast it on your all your social media profiles.
After all, John Keating/Robert Williams (RIP) said it best:
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14 Authors on the Life-Changing Impact of the NEA (Electric Literature)
Laura Callanan on Inequality and Art
Fighting to Give Everyone Access to Arts and Culture (KQED)
Mike Huckabee: A conservative plea for the National Endowment for the Arts (The Washington Post)
Art + Creativity Call to Action Sunday Spotlight #SaveNEA #SavetheNEA art Artists Resist humanities literature National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Humanities philippines resistance Trump
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.