Wednesday 9th November really was the cherry on top of this absolute shitshow of a year. It was an abysmally sad day for both American and global politics. However, although my day began with a flood of tears at 7am, it ended on a rather more optimistic note.
I have been an avid listener of Regina Spektor since I was about 8 years old. I think the idea of ‘having an idol’ is a bit naff, but I’d also be lying if I were to say that that’s not exactly how I see her. For various reasons over the last 11 years, I have never been able to see her live – Wednesday night I finally got this chance.
As an American citizen born in Russia who emigrated from the Soviet Union to America, I wasn’t too surprised she had to stop singing mid-song because she was overcome with a bout of Trump-induced tears. She managed to finish the song, then turned to us and gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard. She spoke of unity; and from her experiences in the Soviet Union when she said that it is tough times like these when people need to join together and rise up for what is right.
One thing she said really stuck with me: ‘there’s a reason they always try to take out the artists first’. I immediately linked this idea to that of censorship, and of artists like Ai Wei Wei and others who use art to speak out against the political injustice in their countries. Yes, Trump is an absolutely dire excuse for a human being who will try and strip people of their liberties and their basic human rights. But try as he might to ignore over half of voters who did not vote for him, he simply can’t silence them, nor can he silence their art.
In trying times like those which are sadly to come, an artist’s ability to express themselves and share that expression with others is crucial.
In 1999 in a hypothetical fantasy “if I were president” statement, Trump said how keen he is to cut federal funding for the arts. I believe this is due to his closed-minded beliefs that the arts are “useless subjects” – a belief he appears to share with Theresa May (*cough cough* Art History A Level).
I also believe he wishes to shut out others’ emotional and political freedom of expression.
There is so much frustration surrounding this cheesy wotsit half-human that must be channelled in some way, one of those ways being art. Particularly for more marginalised groups of society who sadly seem to be Trump’s key targets, the ability to express themselves through art allows them a voice that may otherwise go unheard.
I go back to Regina Spektor’s point about taking out the artists first. Sadly, the arts probably will suffer under Trump – as they seem to under most right-wing governments. But artists, please don’t allow yourselves to be disheartened or discouraged. Take all that anger and disappointment and channel it into your work. Make a scene, make some noise, get your voices and your work heard. Trump can ignore us all he likes, but that does not mean we shall submit and stay silent. We will make him listen.