Art – politics = empty

Allan Lamb

As March 6 marks the beginning of the 32nd Cleveland International Film Festival, a lot of talk will be going on about the content of these films. Not just because they’re edgy or shocking, but because they have something to say about the current state of the world.

Many of the feature films and documentaries act as a megaphone for the forgotten-people groups to be heard by those of us who have the luxury of attending fancy film festivals. Others lend themselves to environmental issues, such as Lawrence Hott’s The Return of the Cuyahoga, which documents Cleveland’s glory days as an industrial hub and the negative affects it had on the Cuyahoga River (that river below the bridge by the bars downtown). Others focus on domestic issues that still remain unconfronted such as bullying and the lingering stigma surrounding homosexuality.

Regardless of your political opinions, you can hardly consider yourself human if you can’t recognize injustice, especially when it shows up in your face. Many people, especially people who believe the lie that a person can be apolitical, believe that art should just be art and politics should be left to politicians. Politics is people, and for any work of art to mean anything to anyone, it’s political.

Any interaction between two people, be it personal or through a medium, art or otherwise, is politics. To say that artists should keep out of politics is a very laughable suggestion to say the least. Many “liberal” artists such as Bono and George Clooney are criticized by people for speaking their minds to those in power. Conversely, conservative artists such as David Lynch and Robert Duvall have also been subject to curious questioning of their alignment with the Republican party. Since when is the default political stance of artists liberal? Ever heard of Ezra Pound?

Why should celebrities be denied the freedom of speech that we all as “regular” people have? After all, they are tax-paying citizens just like you and me. Come to think of it, they probably pay more in taxes than the rest of us as their incomes are much higher. What they don’t pay in taxes, they often give to humanitarian causes, which is a lot more than any of us can claim. The one thing they have that other outspoken people don’t is attention from the media, making their voices louder than most people’s. Some of them choose to take advantage of this. Others do not.

Have we reached a level of cynicism where we dislike people who take advantage of the rights we fight so strongly to maintain for ourselves? Or maybe we should admit to ourselves that we just don’t like what free speech actually looks like. It’s hard to listen to, sometimes it hits home, and most of the time, yes, it’s very annoying. But if we don’t use it, it could be easily taken away from us.

Contact all editor Allan Lamb at [email protected].