As a proud alumnus of Arkansas Tech University, I would like to thank you for the attention you have given on the Arkansas Blog to the matter of the theater department having lost its rehearsal and performance space. Because of close ties with theater alumni involved, I have followed this story of the closing of the Techionery with great interest. I can say that the last days have been difficult as the situation has brought back some unpleasant memories of past anger at the administration's handling of issues pertaining to the fine arts department. My response to Dr. Brown's statements is not about having a 10-year old axe to grind, though. Rather, I want to bring to light that any fear on the part of the current student body, faculty, or alumni that the loss of the use of the Techionery is but a beginning of bad news for the theater department is not unwarranted.
Recent history reveals at best a lack of support from many members of the administration toward the arts programs. I hope that it isn't so, but it does not look good for Dr. Brown to make the statement that he found the state of the Techionery unsettling over the summer and then not act until this unfortunate time and in this unfortunate manner. It raises suspicions among the already suspicious.
I have recently spoken with a few other alumni from the music department at Arkansas Tech, and our sentiments have been mutual. During the conversation, we expressed empathy with the plight of the members of the theater department. A few old grievances were aired followed by sighs. Though it didn't need saying, the conversation ended with each of us saying that we love Arkansas Tech and our memories of our time there. Hopefully, this matter can be resolved in a manner that suggests a fresh start in the relationship between those involved with the arts and administration at our beloved alma mater.
Protests should grow
The recent protests against Wall Street greed and the plutocracy it created should be applauded. However, this zeitgeist of reform will be short-lived without a clear understanding as to the need for reform in the first place.
It is very easy for the people of seemingly prosperous countries such as ours to be lulled into the ennui of complacency. This is our first and most manifest error. It is this very sense of prosperity that has become our "opiate of the masses," concealing the greater issues.
It is beyond my ability to comprehend that, in a republic of roughly 400 million, only a relative few realize that this illusion of prosperity comes at a staggering price – the usurpation and undermining of many of our basic freedoms and with them, our democracy. Along with our ability to achieve the common good, these freedoms have been commandeered by the elite and subordinated to the benefit of a few to the detriment of the many. This is most evident in the co-opting of both the 1st and 14th Amendments, now used as a bludgeon in the hands of corporate America against the rights of masses rather than a means of liberation and equality.
One flagrant example of this abuse is The Citizens United v. FEC ruling. This ruling not only perpetuated an 1885 ruling which gave 14th Amendment rights to "corporate persons," but brazenly bestowed the same with 1st Amendment speech rights. In an era that upholds the notion that money equals speech, corporate speech would mute that of the common citizen.
I pray that more and more citizens rise up for the good of their fellow Americans. These issues are much larger than a few thousand protestors laboring to reclaim the democracy that has, like grains of sand, passed unnoticed through their fingers. These protests need to grow into an all encompassing and far-reaching expression of rage, albeit tempered with reason, dignity and non-violence.
The late historian Howard Zinn maintained that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In this spirit, using what abilities we have, let us strike while the iron is hot.
The late Richard Allin, a newspaperman and a great citizen, started playing the tuba in his middle years. With his horn "Elizabeth," he became a fixture in the symphony orchestra. I think he would be touched by your Observer's recent reports on the tuba and its hold on the affections of some youngsters who have discovered it.
A better way
Most people will be willing to tighten their belts if the sacrifice is shared. If the Right must have tax breaks for business owners and the wealthy because they are the ones who create jobs, why not insist they contribute prior to receiving those breaks?
For businesses or wealthy individuals who create new jobs, purchase new equipment, build new facilities or invest in research and development or education, make it worth their while. For those who send manufacturing overseas, who cut employment and benefits, who manipulate financial markets or hold onto patents that could free us from energy dependence or illness or other essential benefits to mankind purely for the sake of profit, make them pay for that privilege.
If adjustments must be made to Medicare and Social Security then take the cap off Social Security and allow people with large incomes to pay a bigger share of their Medicare costs.
Reform the tax code to make it simpler and fairer, and if they must conflate social issues with budgetary issues then offer women a lifeline who are pregnant and without resources. If anyone is really serious about wanting every conception to result in a healthy baby then make that choice possible.
For those who cannot tolerate the idea of allowing everyone to have a state-sanctioned marriage, then campaign for the end of government interference in sanctity period. Allow churches, synagogues, mosques, ashrams and whatever other religious bodies to do all the sanctifying. Have the government only involved in the filing and enforcement of civil union contracts. Let marriage be what it is supposed to be, a religious rite.
We can solve our problems if we don't drown in stupid first.