Letter to the President and V.P. of the U.S.A.

By Rona Siddiqui

Arts & Culture generates at least $1 billion in every state. We account for 4.5% of U.S. GDP (more than Agriculture and Mining combined, and bigger than Transportation or Tourism).

Dear Mr. President and Madam Vice President,

Artists are in peril and we need your help. We all know we could not get through the pandemic without our frontline workers, those in critical retail and trades, food production, transportation, and child care, but imagine getting through the pandemic without music, film, television, books, photography, art. Historically, Arts & Culture have been considered just as essential to the human experience as the air we breathe and here is why:

-Artists remind us of our humanity.

-Artists tell the stories of our past that have fallen from our collective consciousness, but live in our bones. Our gravest mistakes are forgotten within a generation unless we continue to remind ourselves of the dire consequences when our actions are motivated by lies.

-Artists are the harbingers of danger, the speakers of truth, the connectors of generations and cultures, the voices of the marginalized and forgotten. We are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. We are here to remind you.

-Artists reach to the heart of the human experience to make people feel. When people feel, the pathways to empathy open and beliefs can change, and right now, we need a whole lot of change!

-Artists are powerful. They are often the first to be silenced under governments who lie, cheat, and attempt to bend reality to serve their own selfish ends. Remember when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan and outlawed music? Or when Hitler banned abstract art?

Beauty is essential to remind us that we’re good. Music is essential to remind us that we vibrate at the same frequencies, theatre is essential because it causes our hearts to beat together and our minds to expand. We are reminded that we share one common experience of life on earth. Each one of us has equal value.

We need artists more than ever to tell the truth, draw us out, and give us all the strength to face our demons together.

We need the government to help us do our jobs so we can help you do yours: Provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for every American.

Artists are in peril. 2.7 million Arts & Culture workers are unemployed. 41% of Arts & Culture institutions report they will not survive the pandemic. Arts & Culture generates at least $1 billion in every state. We account for 4.5% of U.S. GDP (more than Agriculture and Mining combined, and bigger than Transportation or Tourism). With its undeniable impact on our lives, how do we not have a national department of Arts & Culture like so many other countries do?

I know that you understand what is at stake. I implore you to be bold and take action to lift up Arts & Culture, make sure this community is taken care of now and beyond the pandemic, and give Arts Workers their place at the table. It is essential to our emotional and spiritual well-being as well as our economic health.

With your action, you will allow artists to continue to give us hope, drive us to be better and to understand the world around us, frame difficult conversations and dream of new possibilities for a brighter future.

Thank you for your service to our country during this troubled time. Your bravery and integrity will not be forgotten. We will tell the story.


Rona Siddiqui

Right of Way

By Jamie Rosler

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, over fifty years since his assassination, and American politicians are making excuses for white supremacist rioters’ invasion of our government buildings.

There’s a general rule (laws, actually, all over the United States and in several other countries around the world) that pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and crosswalks (marked or unmarked). As a pedestrian, though, one knows how rarely that rule is adhered to by drivers.

Regardless of legal standing, the responsibility ultimately rests with the person most likely to sustain a life-threatening injury, assuming they care to keep living. It’s not fair, but it’s true.

Also not fair but true, as with many other statistics in the USA, people of color are more likely to be injured or killed in a vehicle-pedestrian accident. This is the result of various factors, all of which could themselves be written about at length (and indeed have been and should be). Those factors are not inevitable facts of human existence. They are entirely within our control if only we (white people, those in power anywhere, you who are reading this essay) would stand up every day and speak these truths out loud.


As I sat in a Jayco-brand camper in a Dallas wood lot less than a ten-minute drive from where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I wondered why messengers of peace are murdered but messengers of murder aren’t.

Not wanting to be a messenger of murder myself, I have to acknowledge the innate hypocrisy of having little to no objection to someone assassinating the 45th President of the United States. For people who care about humanity, and have been paying any attention to American politics, it seems hard to argue against the idea that innumerable lives would be better, if not outright saved, had he been disposed of a few years ago.

Of course there’s no knowing what his most rabid supporters might have done in reaction, just as there’s no reason for progressive liberals to think a Pence presidency would have been kinder (the modern Republican party has been heading down this road for decades, after all), but the mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month would certainly have been fed less fuel by their narcissistic dear leader.

As I was writing this, an historic second presidential impeachment came to pass, and of a one-term president no less. The likelihood of a conviction in the Senate is sadly not guaranteed. We’re looking at the very real possibility of a second American Civil War, fought over much of the same ideologies (hint: it has nothing to do with federalism or states’ rights). 

People are posting on social media to help their community prepare for the worst possible scenario. I changed my travel plans (don’t @ me, I’m being Covid-safe) from driving from Texas to New York right now, to waiting until after Inauguration Day to avoid a potential spike in nationwide violence. It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, over fifty years since his assassination, and American politicians are making excuses for white supremacist rioters’ invasion of our government buildings.


Walking my dog in west Dallas the other day, a pedestrian in a city of drivers, I stood on a corner across the street from a park and at the entrance to an interstate on-ramp. There was no traffic light to wait for or obey. Cars from two different directions were taking their turns, as they saw it, disregarding the person standing and waiting to cross, until one driver stopped. Instead of making a left turn onto the highway when traffic stopped coming from the other direction, they stopped and waited for me to cross the street.

This simple act resonated so deeply, in a way it might not have in a different time or place.

We all have the power to change patterns of behavior that seem otherwise ingrained in our society. We have the power to see, to decide, to act for change. We have this power every day in everything we do. We can be the government official supporting sedition, or we can actively stand against it and protect our fellow humans.

Which do you want to be?

Encouraging an Essential Read

In response to the past week’s events, the culmination of all that is broken in our shared home, we offer you something different for this week’s community blog: a strongly suggested read.

Please consider setting aside the time to read, in full, Lawrence Wright’s recent New Yorker article, “The Plague Year: The mistakes and struggles behind an American Tragedy,” excerpted below.

“You need to do something,” [Glen] Hubbard warned. “We’ve been having a debate for decades now about the size of government. The more interesting debate is the scope of government… If Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, had the idea of using government as a battering ram for opportunity, why can’t we do that today? Instead of focusing on how big government is, think about what you want it to do.”

[Dr. Ebony Hilton] became the first Black female anesthesiologist to be hired by the Medical University in South Carolina, which opened in 1824. U.Va. hired her in 2018. “If you look at white women with my same level of degrees, my child is five to seven times more likely to die before his first birthday than theirs. It’s been that way historically for Black women. Our numbers haven’t really changed, as far as health outcomes, since slavery times.”

The country, it turned out, was experiencing wildly different pandemics. For every ten thousand Americans, there were thirty-eight coronavirus cases. But, for whites, the number was twenty-three; for Blacks, it was sixty-two; for Hispanics, it was seventy-three… People of color are more likely to be exposed because so many are essential workers. “Only one in five African-Americans can work remotely,” she [Hilton] said. “Only one in six Hispanics can.”

Hilton, on the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests: ” For black men, one in every thousand is at risk of dying in his lifetime from an encounter with a police officers. If you think about that number, that’s what leads Black people to say it’s worth me dying and going to this protest and saying enough is enough. Police brutality is almost like a pandemic… It’s a feeling – I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well risk this virus that I can’t see, to speak about the virus of systemic racism that I can see.”

Such doctors knew how to click into emergency mode. Before COVID, that might last thirty or forty minutes – say, with a heart-attack patient. After a bus wreck or a mass casualty event, emergency mode could last a full day. With COVID, it lasted weeks on end.

Lorna Breen, a forty-nine-year-old doctor, was admitted to the psych unit… Lorna had been living in Manhattan, overseeing the E.R. at New York Presbyterian Allen Hospital. When COVID inundated New York, she worked twelve-hour shifts that often blurred into eighteen. She barely slept. Within a week, Breen caught COVID herself. She sweated it out in her apartment while managing her department remotely. After her fever broke, she returned to work… So many doctors in New York fell ill that, at one point, Breen supervised the E.R.’s in two hospitals simultaneously. It became too much… During the eleven days she spent in U.Va.’s hospital, she was terrified that her career was over. Licensing boards, she knew, might flag evidence of mental illness. Before COVID, Breen had never had a trace of instability… Breen seemed to improve… Feist took Breen home with her on the last Saturday in April. The next day, Breen killed herself.”

“I’m not buying a fucking mask,” Ricard Rose, a thirty-seven-year-old Army veteran from Ohio, posted on Facebook. “I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype.” He tested positive on July 1st and died three days later. There are many similar stories.

More than a thousand health-care workers have died while taking care of COVID patients. Nurses are the most likely to perish, as they spend the most time with patients.

“Across America, people waited in long lines to vote – despite the disease, despite attempts to discredit or invalidate their vote, despite postal delays, despite Russian or Iranian meddling, despite warning from the White House that the President would not go quietly if he lost. They voted as if their country depended on it.”


By Reed Seifer

In this age of mass emigration from cities to the suburbs here are tips on how to become a “suburb-a-hole”…

Firstly, remember, there is no “us” in suburbia, only “I.”

Be certain crossed arms, impatient foot taps, and dead stares will make any desired eventoccur more quickly. It’s especially effective at Starbucks or at any café. Stand as closely to the barista as social distancing allows. Or throw caution to the wind, get in close, get it faster! 

Might as well stick your nose out of your mask, too.

Don’t bother to take three minutes wait and send a text to a friend, cruise your social media, or even indulge in the serotonin boost of leaving a negative yelp review.  Everyone knows, texting is for doing while driving. 

Actually, what are you doing inside a café?! It’s more impersonal and ideal to use the drive-thru. If the drive-thru line of SUVs is long, don’t dare park elsewhere and walk over. That may burn a few calories, but you are privileged to own a Peloton.

The line of cars extends into the main street? No problem. Practice obliviousness. Forget people who are using the road. Maybe you can tie up traffic. Focus mentally on your skinny chai latte. With one. pump. of. sweetener. Yum! Beep Beep Honk Honk. You have surround sound audio. Crank it. 

Continuing on the topic of driving, never use a turn signal. Never! Why should people benefit from knowing what direction you are going in? Frankly it’s none of their business! A car may be a lethal weapon but it’s also a status symbol. 

Lastly, the best time to mow your lawn is 7 am Saturday or Sunday. There are these fabulous devices that blow cut grass off your lawn. They’re harnessed to one’s back, and require ear protection while using because they are so LOUD. Blow all the shards of cut grass off your lawn and into the street and your neighbor’s lawn. You know the ones who let the clover grow wild?They deserve it. Everyone knows weeds must be chemically executed. 

Following these steps you will find yourself well on your way to being a discourteous, incautious, self-centered suburb-a-hole. Congratulations! May you find your just deserts.