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Art, heaven, and an off-year election

November 6, 2013

Sylvia von Harden

Ideologues have a tell. It is their a narrow view of art, which they judge through a moral lens. They don’t ask if a work reveals something interesting about humanity or casts the world in a different light or merely causes an unexpected mental take. Those would pose too much risk. They care only whether it aligns with their ideology. And ultimately, whether the artist is with them or against them. The competing ideologies in Europe during the early 20th century managed to agree on that: art should serve morality. The trove of modernist paintings recently discovered had been secreted away after the Nazis condemned them as degenerate. The contemporary Pope urged similar aesthetic restrictions:

… it is of the first necessity that no published films should be such as to offer harm to religion, morals or society, the Bishops must exercise their vigilance on all films which are offered to Christian peoples from any and every source.

Soviet Russia was infamous in its subordination of art to its political ideology. And Ayn Rand, who escaped that regime only to create her own opposite but equally rigid cult, displayed that tell in spades.

Real artists take any neatly laid out ideology and play havoc with it. What would a Pope say to Hemingway’s heaven? Nothing interesting.

Looking forward, not backward, Bruce Bartlett predicts the decline of the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Yesterday’s election may hint at that. Let’s hope it’s a trend.

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