October 27, 2004

An Artist’s Endorsement

I am an artist: an information provider and interpreter. I am part of a group of people who are masters of the search, often drawing on intuition and practice to reveal the ambiguous and the inexplicable. As an artist I have learned to examine issues critically. I dismiss the obvious while focusing on the subtleties between the shades of gray. In the midst of this Presidential campaign’s rhetoric I have had to look closely in my search for truth. With one week to go I am listening more intently to both candidates.

During his presidency George Bush has shown an unwillingness to diverge from his prescribed agenda even in light of overwhelming evidence that he should. He has refused to admit to mistakes about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and to his faulty postwar plans for Iraq’s reconstruction which are putting American soldiers at risk. He often seemed so narrow in outlook, so unable to adjust to changing conditions, and so unwilling to admit to errors, that he seems more intransigent than a bulwark against terrorism. As an artist I have learned that admitting failure is the quickest way to succeed. In the world I live it is hard to fathom a person like him.

Bush’s unilateral approach to international affairs, his distance from any constructive criticism, and the increased partisanship at home have divided us both here and abroad. Collaboration, common in art practice, is absent from his Administration. The President could have learned a lot from us.

George Bush’s agenda has diluted his “call to arms” and has made both our foreign and domestic policies less effective. Four years into his presidency we are a divided and angry nation.

In the early 1990s attempts to censor artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Andreas Serrano taught us that anyone could become a scapegoat for conservatives’ exclusive moral agenda. We learned to use our creativity to speak loudly and clearly when we were marginalized and discredited. Throughout this campaign artists have strived to clarify and illuminate our country’s present divisive issues.

Today the Internet has eliminated traditional information gatekeepers. Technology has given us the means to organize with others. We share. We question. We speak out. During this presidential campaign artists have worked together and we have refused to be silenced.

Under George Bush the American people have been barraged by attempts to police our moral and patriotic beliefs. Artists are critical of the Bush Administration’s myopic interpretation of the Constitution and the resulting forfeiture of rights Americans have held as sacrosanct. We mistrust and challenge his priorities.

Many have questioned George Bush’s intelligence. But his folksy ways should neither be mistaken for those of a simple and forthright man nor for a simpleton ruled by handlers. Neither extreme is correct. He has purposely developed this façade to be accessible and non-threatening to his traditional base while the rest of us suffer the consequences. He is well versed in the 20th century partisan political process. But this is no longer the 20th century. The American public is more independent and well-informed. The world is more porous than ever. Secrets are harder to keep and obfuscation is more transparent. When we are being asked to sacrifice we demand unfiltered access to the truth.

Mr. Bush represents this old world status quo —a President of the past. Some see this as reassuring —insurance for victory both home and abroad. To these people Mr. Kerry represents a world of unknowns. Yet throughout the debates John Kerry showed us his intelligence and his ability to convey his beliefs in an honest and direct fashion. A politician? Yes. But America can accept the foibles of political discourse if it is intelligent, compassionate, and realistic. After the past four years once again I feel hopeful. Trust was a feeling I had almost forgotten.

John Kerry represents a future with possibilities, creative and inclusive possibilities. And America needs to see it has a bright future if it is to succeed. He has promised us we will still recognize America’s priorities after his election. I believe him. While we must adjust we will continue to be committed to the values we hold dear. Our goals will be the same. But the process by which we reach these goals will change.

As an artist and a designer I constantly look for new vantage points to view the world. A new century demands innovative ways to succeed and new ways to define victory. I share that vision with John Kerry.

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