- - Thursday, June 15, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Wednesday’s shooting in Alexandria, Virginia - where Republican members of Congress had gathered to practice for an annual charity baseball game - is, sadly, the inevitable consequence of the vitriol currently spouted by political elites. But just how did it come to pass?

Begin with this: Donald Trump’s election victory on Nov. 8, 2016, is an event that, at least for the liberal media and elitist artists, divides time.

Prior to his election, comedians, actors, and various other artistic creators could, well, create art. The election victory, however, was, evidently, such a traumatic experience that the American entertainment world has been zapped of its creative energy. There is now only one script, one punchline, and one theme - mocking and delegitimizing Donald Trump and, by extension, Republicans.

A quick glance at recent and upcoming performances makes the point. Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” presents President Trump as a Hitler character who creates concentration camps for immigrants (yes, really). Theater-goers to Hartford Stage recently saw a rendition of Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House” with Trump as the play’s bully (clever, right?). Michael Moore is also heading to Broadway this summer to take on - what else? - Donald Trump’s presidency. These are only a few of the many examples of Donald Trump-themed art that has invaded small and large stages alike. The entertainment world is not merely fixated on Trump; it is singularly obsessed with him.

In the Soviet Union, the government’s tight control of artists rendered the arts largely monotonous and perfunctory. The tedious oversight of literature, lyrics, and paintings to ensure all art served as government propaganda had the unsurprising effect of stifling artistic creativity. Art was created, not for the public, or for the sake of artistic expression, but for the government censors.

What is remarkable about America’s leftist entertainment culture today is that we are witnessing the voluntary stifling of creativity - not in response to a government directive, of course, but in response to the dictates of the far-left reaches of the political spectrum. Liberals’ monolithic group-think has reduced art today, in the age of Trump, to a single, solitary subject matter. From this narrow viewpoint, Trump’s presidency is the climactic moment in history, in politics, in comedy.

Concurrent with the decline of creativity among elite artists has been the dramatic decline of civility - and in its place, crassness and crudeness have been elevated to art forms, as America’s left-wing “entertainers” descend to new depths of incivility in apparent attempts to outdo one another.

In the last several weeks alone, Americans have been subjected to vicious, disgusting, and violent “art” from the likes of late-night comic Stephen Colbert (who gave a vulgar diatribe against President Trump on network television) and Kathy Griffin, whose Twitter feed presented gruesome pictures of a photo-shoot in which she recreated ISIS-type beheading scenes with a bloodied mask bearing President Trump’s likeness.

And, continuing the artistic world’s fascination with the current president, on Monday, the publicly-funded Public Theater’s rendition of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” directed by Oskar Eustis, officially opened at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The Julius Caesar character is styled as President Trump, from his suit and tie to his shock of blond hair. The play faithfully follows Shakespeare’s script, with the President Trump-inspired version of Julius Caesar being knifed to death on stage. This is what passes for art in liberal Manhattan circles.

The horrifying scene - let’s call it what it really is: the “artistic” rendering of the assassination of the current president of the United States - pushed at least two corporate sponsors of the production to pull their support. Both Delta Airlines and Bank of America withdrew financial support after becoming aware that Shakespeare’s tragedy was merely the backdrop for the dramatic performance of President Trump’s assassination.

Mr. Eustis, in an interview with The New York Times about the controversy surrounding his play, noted that the sponsors who withdrew were fully within their right to do so. “It’s their money, they’re supporting us, they get to decide what to do with it.” Here, Mr. Eustis is precisely right.

Liberals have rushed to defend the play, arguing that artists must be granted creative license to push the envelope. But lost in that lofty defense is that the public underwrites the play’s theater sponsor. The Public Theater receives taxpayer funding from the city, state, and federal government. We, the taxpayers, subsidize each and every performance the Public Theater performs, and widespread objections to the anti-Trump violence on stage are, by and large, a reflection of the growing disdain for the repeated abuse of our tax dollars to underwrite vulgar art.

Worse, it is exactly this kind of overt effort to delegitimize President Trump that helps create an environment in which Wednesday morning’s shooting in Alexandria can happen.

The New York Times’ review of Mr. Eustis’ play argues, incredibly, that this version of Shakespeare’s play “is a deeply democratic offering.” What the far-left artistic community fails to accept is that Trump’s presidency is, itself, the result of one of democracy’s greatest offerings - fair and free elections.

In his opening remarks before the play’s official opening on Monday, Mr. Eustis told the audience that the Public Theater’s “mission is to say that the culture belongs to everyone.” A provocative thought, as many Americans begin to question why their hard-earned tax dollars are being misused to infuse the culture with this type of violence, and whether or not this kind of “art” creates a climate for more Alexandria-style assaults. Good questions, indeed.

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