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Democracy: the humanities; the fine arts; LGBT rights.

Many in Occident, governments, politicians, citizens, are very quick to argue that they are for democracy, and that everyone, every nation in the world, should strive for a democratic way of life. Yet do those of us that live in the West really know what a democracy is? Are we being a responsible citizenry in electing governments that will well represent us all, as well as championing the fundamentals of what an actual democracy should be?


What is it that we, as responsible citizens, bring and add to democracy? Is not a true democracy supposed to be about all of the citizens? Are not citizens, as a whole, the very definition of a true democracy, as it was in Ancient Athens, the world's first democracy? Many in the United States would argue that the United States is an example of what a democracy should actually be, but is it?

In the United States, this so-called bastion of democracy, we are destroying the very democratic foundation upon which we have striven for well over 200 years to maintain. One of the best examples of this is the continual attack on education, the arts, and the LGBT community.

It is very easy, today, for politicians to target the aforementioned because it gives the impression to the population as a whole, i.e., an uneducated and uncaring populace, that they, the politicians, are actually legislating, which is really not at all the case. When this happens, it also spills over into every aspect of the way in which we as Americans, in this instance, lead our daily lives at the federal, state, and municipal levels.

To what end does defunding education lead? Why defund the arts, an area that gets such an infinitesimally small amount of government funding, anyway? Finally, why is it necessary for a government to overstep its purview by marginalizing and stigmatizing a very hefty part of its citizenry?

The focus, unfortunately, today is on short-term profit for business and industry, not only at all levels of government, but also, and especially, in universities. We as a nation have lost sight of the notion of what education and the arts are really about, and coupled with that, we have also forgotten about the whole idea of civil and equal rights that we have not witnessed in the United States for many years.

Students are always surprised when I lecture that I do not understand the United States to be a so-called advanced society because if we, as Americans, were truly progressive, our educative programs would be differently composed, i.e., based solely on the humanities, we would have a strong backing for the arts, and we would truly understand the importance of cohesiveness that would form and maintain a more perfect union.

We undercut the humanities in education because we want to be taught skills, again, that will make short-term profits for business and industry, but this is not what education is about. We need those tools and skills to be able to have the ability, as Martha Nussbaum points out, required for self-examination and a critical ability that make a democracy function as it ought to function.

In what we understand as a technically advanced stage of society, we forget that a democracy is not founded on one-minute television segments, and government is not like a sporting event, where there are two opposing teams. We need the humanities in order to learn about world history and civilization; we need to know about world religions in order to understand other peoples. More than anything else, the disciplines that make up the humanities allow us to not only be better citizens, but we are able to look at problems from a spherical perspective. We are not trying to understand various issues from an angular perspective, and also, the humanities teach us how to comprehend viewpoints from another agent's understanding of the world, something known as cosmopolitanism. Americans need to focus on the idea of what it actually means to be a "nation."

We undercut the fine arts. Just as an example, I will examine theatre, and its importance at the academic level, and at a basic level, something to which everyone would have access. As an educational tool, even more so than sports, the fine arts are more demanding, teach better discipline, and promote teamwork, a word that I abhor, because it is thrown around by many who have no idea what the notion of actually working together means.

So, what better way to promote and learn about teamwork, something business and industry want, than performing and working in and on a theatrical production. Aside from the philosophical and literary tenets of what theatre is, it is something that brings many varied people together to work on a project that, in the end, is presented to bosses, peers, and the public-at-large.

For a theatrical production, there is the playwright, the producer, the director, the actors, the stage crew, and on and on. Even if you abhor someone with whom you are working, you focus not on yourself, but on the "team," in order to give the best performance possible. That takes a lot of work and self-discipline, so why does it appear that it is so under-appreciated?

If just one person, even the stagehands, messes up, the entire enterprise is in jeopardy. How is the theatre that different from what businesses and corporations are looking for? They want a trained and educated workforce. Well, hopefully they will be hiring people with the aforementioned skills, or at the very least, they should be.

The goal and purpose of all of this, is the notion that those of us in the LGBT community, as exceptional as we are, will be able to be nothing more than an integral part of society. We certainly have more skills and tools to be superlative citizens, and that is what should shine through, our successes, of which there are many, to show that we are more than mere marginalia. Read the dialogues of Plato, learn, acquire knowledge; it truly is something unique and refreshing.

By William N. Proctor-Artz
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Title Annotation:lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
Author:N., William
Publication:Liberty Press
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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