The Huffington Post only recently announced it's joint undertaking in France ('Le Huffington Post') together with the great French Daily Le Monde, probably the most respected newspaper in that most particular country.
Whenever passing through Paris, the habit of picking up and browsing through Le Monde on a daily basis has become ingrained.
It is a paper that clearly reports the attention worthy events not only throughout the world, but of course particularly those in France. It was therefore an especially aha! and instructive moment to find in Le Monde an issue rarely touched upon by our media, and sadly, rarely an issue touched upon in our elective process: the nature of government's responsibility and support for the arts. In stark contrast to America's political engagement on this subject, Le Monde felt the responsibility to feature an op-ed column on this very issue, "Pauvre ministere de la culture!", subtitled "L'art, grand oublie de la presidentielle" -- "Art, the presidential race's major forgotten issue". It opens with words that could well be applied to our election campaign to date, and the many preceding it, namely, in free translation:
At the approach of the current (French) presidential campaign one is still waiting for the public debate on art and culture...
One doesn't talk about living art, the theater, dance or the composition of music, the plastic arts, the visual arts except for the one idea for which there is wide consensus and is touched upon during most campaigns: promised programs for arts education, but never realized.
The article goes on to lament, touching on conditions not foreign to today's American experience: national indebtedness, extensive unemployment, and the general malaise encroaching on our lives...
Art is not a supplement to the human condition of a cultured public, it is an absolute necessity for a society exploring and in process of transformation, assessing its future and the possibilities the future holds. It is a call to the possibilities and importance of art to our lives, for our nation to communicate far beyond our borders, in that the arts "parlent a toutes les categories" (art speaks to all categories).
In its way it is a far cry from Mitt Romney's dismissive slap at the National Endowment of the Arts. Romney, putting on his financial engineering cap, called for the reduction of its already paltry budget, clearly obtuse to the visceral importance of the arts to the nation's well being. If it doesn't pay, take it away.
Much in the manner of the asset stripping of so many companies where multitudes of workers who spent years of hard and diligent work building their companies were given pink slips because the only thing that mattered was the 'cash out' of the predatory capitalists all too often deaf, dumb and willingly unseeing of the societal damage they visited on their target organizations.
Sadly, trying to make points on slapping down the NEA is about as close as we have gotten to political discourse about the importance of the arts in our country.