Art calls us to compassion, anti-perfectionism is liberating, art heals us from despair

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Art calls us to compassion

Mary Gauthier once said to me in an elevator, "We have to write songs that make Republicans love trans people against their own will." People are moved to action when it's personal, and art often makes it personal. Art calls us artists to compassion too, and I know it certainly has for me in these last several months witnessing the genocide against Palestinians. Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish says resolutely, "As a writer, if you do not really care about the fate of other humans or the injustices of the world, I question what kind of writer you really are."

Anti-perfectionism is liberating

Queer Palestinian-American artist Fargo Nissim Tbakhi decries "Craft"—that is, the "right way" which the West teaches us we ought to create art. Tbakhi says, "Craft is the process by which our own real liberatory tools are dulled, confiscated, and replaced." Perhaps this is why folk, punk, and hip hop can be such clarion voices—they subvert "rules." If we're going to make art that might possibly liberate ourselves and others, we simply don't have enough time to make it perfect. I consider the Passover Seder and my Jewish ancestors, eating unleavened bread because there was not enough time to bake bread that could rise.

Art heals us from despair

Last week I wrote to you about the hopelessness we may feel looking at the state of the world. This week, I have been mourning Nex Benedict, the nonbinary, Native American teenager who was tragically killed by classmates. No amount of art or anything will bring them back. But still, I am encouraged by the words of Toni Morrison, "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal."


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