Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

Mike Lawson • Perspective • November 12, 2016

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You are likely reading this with our horrid election season behind us. May I say? Worst. Election. Season. Ever.

I will admit something, I’m a Democrat, and I’m fairly partisan, and like my fairly partisan Republican friends, I feel I am with good reason. I got a letter from a reader in reference to my comments about cutting funding for military bands. She wrote, “You just had to say that they seem to sit on the right side of the aisle…. why?” She encouraged me to keep ideological statements out of the magazine. I sincerely thank her for reading the magazine, recognize it’s no fun to see one’s political party called out for bonehead positions in an editorial, and while I disagree with her, I do respect her opinion. I highly value her readership.

I want to make it clear to our readers that SBO only makes or allows such statements in what is labeled as commentary or opinion. This column is called “Perspective” for a reason. It contains opinions. I’m always happy to present the other side, if somebody wants to submit a rebuttal article. I miss the days of my youth, when news broadcasters using the public airwaves followed a “fairness doctrine” and presented both sides as opposed to the modern “newsertainment” format. But I digress.

As for defunding the military band programs, let me be clear, there are clowns in the Democratic Party that have joined in with jokers in the Republican Party to support slashing support for our time- honored, amazing, inspirational, and always sensational military band programs. Let me call one out by name: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), is one such of the aforementioned when it comes to supporting cutting funds for military band programs. She called them “excessive and a luxury the Pentagon and taxpayers can no longer afford.” Really, Rep. McCollum? The amount of money spent on these programs is a tiny drop in the bucket of the nearly $600 billion dollars spent on defense. The cultural impact of losing these programs would be, as our friends at the National Association for Music Education stated, “potentially devastating,” further starting that, “Scores of bands would immediately have to be deactivated, and thousands of military musician contracts would be abruptly terminated.” I could not agree with them more.

So, when it comes to cutting military band programs, the support for these extreme measures comes from both sides of the aisle, it’s just that the right side of the aisle tends to be the predominant cheerleaders for cutting the arts, music and related programs in general, whether in our public schools or our military, from our federal budget. It is a party philosophy for them; they don’t believe that tax dollars should be spent on such things. Period.

So here’s the answer to “why” I just had to say that. The Republican Party platform of 2016 does not mention the words music, or arts, anywhere in it. Now, there are absolutely “some” people on the right side of the aisle who support music in schools, and I was privileged to meet some of them last Spring in their offices to thank them for supporting the “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA),” and asking them to fully fund it. It’s one thing to pass a bill, it’s another thing to fund it. On an individual level, some members on the right support the arts and music in schools, but as a party, it is not important enough to put into their platform, even though the ESSA, for the first time in history, includes the arts as part of a well-rounded education.

Contrast this to the Democratic Party platform of 2016, which states, “Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education…. We will continue to support … programs providing art and music education in primary and secondary schools. The entire nation prospers when we protect and promote the unique artistic and cultural contributions of the women and men who create and preserve our nation’s heritage.”

If I gave the impression in my previous commentary that “only” those on the right side of the aisle are lacking in support for music programs, I hope this clears it up. We have fools in both parties. It’s been said, “from the heart, the mouth speaks.” Only one party finds funding the arts, and specifically music education, of enough importance to make it part of their stated platform. My opinion is that music education, and military bands of all stripes, are critical to our culture and deserve funding.

I’m so glad this election season has ended.


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