Our Chief Glory

1024px-Samuel_Johnson_Statue“The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.” Dr. Samuel Johnson: Preface to his Dictionary.

I was listening to a podcast this morning and this quote came up. It was interesting, because someone said on Facebook yesterday that our greatest citizens are our soldiers. I think the sorts of people a society values says a lot about that society. I try to be as egalitarian as possible, but on this matter I tend to side with Johnson, though I wouldn’t limit it to authors.

I look at where our money goes, not only the American government, but also us as individuals. I don’t think we spend nearly enough on the arts. I like to think there was a time when as a nation we spent far more on encouraging the arts. I know for a fact that our country has used projects like the Works Progress Administration and the National Endowment for the arts to pay authors, artists, musicians, and playwrights. Both programs are controversial and I’m not saying that funding for the arts begins or ends with one’s government. I am saying that it seems to me as a society we will lose out if we don’t use our money, personal and public, to support more arts on the national and local level.

I want to see more books and plays and symphonies produced by our children. I believe that it can do nothing but benefit their studies of the Three Rs. I want to see more things like Detroit’s writers-in-residence program, Write A House. I’ve watched as a focus on the arts and locally produced goods caused my own downtown to blossom.

Soldiers, fire fighters, police officers, and others that put their lives on the line are brave and I thank God daily for their sacrifice. I’m not for a second putting anyone above them. They need to earn far more than they do for the necessary services they provide. I would argue though that we as a nation would always fund them over and above the arts because we see the black and white benefit that we receive. That’s  less true of the creative people who add beauty to our lives and examine creation for universal truths that they then bring to light.

I do think that we need to spend less on our nation’s military efforts. Much of that money can be better spent on our infrastructure and education. I want to see more of it go to support poets and sculptors, wood carvers and weavers, novelists and cellists. I’d love for others to look at this country as a bastion of the creative spirit. That’s the glorification of something I can get behind.

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