Am I wrong for thinking art still matters?
I grew up in the suburbs of a large city in Texas.
(I’ll pause for your sniggering).
The first time I remember being conscious of homosexuality is when my parents took me to see the movie Philadelphia. The next week, in science class, a girl who was alternative, punk, unpopular, talked about how disgusting the movie was for making “faggots” look good. I remember feeling confused that someone who was always treated as (and behaved as) an outsider would have no empathy.
Later, in high school, I was treated as a “faggot” though I wasn’t gay. I still didn’t even know anyone who was (openly) so. But through culture, I knew that anyone who was so was really no different from me, and to mock or attack me or anyone else for their sexuality was wrong. So I fought back. Not because I was gay but because it mattered to fight back.
It feels ridiculous to say this now but I learned about some Black families through the Cosby show.
I learned about the world outside America by watching foreign films: Life Is Beautiful; The City of God; Y Tu Mama Tambien. I learned about Argentina from Borges, and Russia from Dostoevsky, and Chicago from Lorraine Hansberry. I saw racism through the eyes and minds of Malcolm X and Alex Haley, British manners from Jane Austen and the mockery of such through Monty Python.
The music of Miles Davis and Nina Simone. The art of Basquiat.
The plagued, secret life of a contemporary wizard through the voice of JK Rowling. OK Kidding aside, if you read the Harry Potter books and did not learn empathy, you have no empathy.
Art gave me a million eyes into lives I couldn’t else have seen.
Without those other eyes, minds, souls, without their art, I wouldn’t be the man I am.
Am I wrong for believing art matters?
That now more than ever, the eyes of another human, their voice, their heart, can be the most valuable tool to bridge between us? To pump our muscles and minds full of empathy?
I hope I am not wrong.
Because I don’t know what else can work.