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Kim Michele Richardson

Kim Michele Richardson

Posted: December 8, 2010 06:38 PM

Today I looked at my local arts calendar and settled on taking my family to see the Nutcracker ballet. That is, I intended to, until I saw that the wicked Rat King had once again left but a few crumbs in my working class wallet. I scoured the Internet searching for another art event conducive to my family's budget and artistic whimsy and that's when I came across my fellow writer and friend, Bryn Greenwood's enkindling blog letter.

"Listening to NPR on December 2, I was surprised to hear incoming House Speaker Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) supporting calls to defund the Smithsonian over a controversial exhibit. Catholic League president Bill Donohue thinks we should cut funding to The Smithsonian because it's "the leisure of the elite." The working class, he says, "likes... to go to professional wrestling."

I wonder how many working class people Donohue knows. Like me, my grandmother worked as a secretary all her life. She shared her love of classical music and the arts with me, mostly through PBS, another popular punching bag for people who think the government shouldn't subsidize such programming.

My working class boyfriend isn't a wrestling fan, but he does want to visit the Smithsonian. In this economy, it may be a while before we can afford a trip to D.C., but if the Smithsonian is defunded, would we be able to afford the admission? (Right now, it's free to all.) The arts are expensive, although many artists earn working class wages. Unlike professional wrestling, the arts struggle to find funding, because advertisers shy from the controversial. Besides, why is Bill Donohue concerned about "the working class pay[ing] for the leisure of the elite"? The wealthy in the U.S. don't seem to mind the working class footing the bill for everything else.

If people like Donohue had their way, only the rich could afford to enjoy the arts. Maybe that's the intention behind these labels and stereotypes. If policymakers in Washington believe the "working class" doesn't appreciate the arts, will that make it easier to squeeze the middle class into oblivion? The financial side of that squeeze is nearly complete, but now they need to break down any notion that there is a common ground between rich and poor.

Donohue brags about not visiting museums, and offers that shameful confession as proof that working class Americans don't either. How about you let me, a member of the working class, decide whether I want my tax dollars to fund museums? I don't make a lot of money, but I pay my share in taxes. I need some beauty in my life."

Bryn Greenwood is a writer who pays the bills with a secretarial job. She has two cats who are elitist snobs.

It was just less than a month ago, I'd wanted to attend the opera company's beauty, Madame Butterfly, with my family, but couldn't squeeze it into my budget. I studied Ms. Greenwood's timely and pointed letter and thought about Donohue's labels and how labels are best suited for cans. I couldn't help but wonder if the elite were attending the Nutcracker ballet -- the ballet that, I, as a working class family loved, but could not afford, despite having funded my beloved city's arts for more than two decades through donations deducted from my family's paycheck.


Again, I quickly redid the math and no, no, the Nutcracker ballet wasn't happening. A family of four, times four pricey tickets, with maybe a fast food bite to eat wasn't doable. Again. I'd have to content myself with plan B: pack up the hot chocolate thermos bottles, a worn out jazzy Creole Christmas CD, and settle for a drive around town, sneaking into the wealthy gated suburbs to admire their Christmas fineries, mansions aglow, while visions of sugar plums...