Trump’s budget proposal kills off Elmo, and it’s unacceptable
March 29, 2017
Filed under Editorial
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There’s a video going around on Facebook and other social media platforms of a curious parody featuring Elmo. In the video, Elmo is called into a meeting and is laid off from Sesame Street.
What starts off as an almost-lighthearted encounter turns dark as Elmo is subsequently let go because “his services are no longer needed.” The video went so far as to remove the Elmo puppet from the puppeteering hand, returning him to the department, ending with a shot lingering on Elmo’s lifeless body on the conference table.
Some may go into the video expecting a few laughs, initially, then surprised when it becomes gutting to watch. The video leaves viewers suddenly feeling like they’ve lost a childhood friend.
This could, unfortunately, become an unsettling trend if the Trump administration has its way. The current administration is proposing to cut the “unnecessary” programming that has been deemed the arts and arts education, a move with intentions to end all federal funding for public broadcasting.
It’s no big deal, right? I mean, it’s only art, after all. Isn’t it?
Not only does that sound like a nightmarish prophecy for artists, actors, musicians, and liberal arts majors everywhere, but just imagine the sort of impact such a proposal could have on so many facets of ordinary American life.
Think of childhood without PBS, or Sesame Street, or Mr. Rogers’ cardigan. Imagining childhood in America without Big Bird and Kermit the Frog is imagining childhood without milk and cookies, or coloring books, or the unusual yet nostalgic scent of Crayola markers.
While Sesame Street may have a deal with HBO that would sustain them in spite of public broadcasting cuts, other programs wouldn’t be so lucky.
Imagine your favorite public radio station that gets you through the day suddenly becoming a thing of the past. Imagine tuning into your favorite syndicated NPR program (the one that got you into the smash-hit musical Hamilton or showed you that book series you’ve been raving about) only to find out that there’s nothing but dead air on the other end. Instead of waking up to a familiar voice on the other side of the airwaves, there is nothing more than silence now.
Not to mention the further economic impact of these suggested cuts. Those in creative outfits are tax-paying citizens, too. They’re music educators, curators, graphic designers. More cuts to the arts translates to more than just Elmo getting laid off. The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that arts and cultural production contributed more than $700 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, more than the construction, transportation and warehousing industries.
Trump wants to put “America First.” What he fails to realize is that cutting public broadcasting and the arts in a country that champions diversity and serves as a global melting pot for people of all walks of life is fundamentally un-American. There is no point to having that diversity if we do not acknowledge it, engage it, accept it, understand it. How do we do this? Through artistic expression.
The Trump administration may want to take a page out of Winston Churchill’s famous playbook. Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the military effort.
A man whose words still hold reverence today, it was said Churchill simply replied:
“Then what are we fighting for?”