Past Comments

October Issue 2001
by Tom Starland

OK, Now It's Personal

I can't remember what I was doing or where I was on the second "Day of Infamy," if that's what it is going to be called. I have some memory of being online in the morning checking e-mail and seeing a picture of a tall building that a plane had hit and was on fire. I don't pay much attention to the stuff my server puts on the home page - usually it's about movie and rock stars. I guess my first impression was that some small plane had hit some building somewhere - anywhere? I didn't care. I read my e-mail. A week later, I'm wondering what the hell happened and if I can still finish the paper for this month? Should I do the paper at all?

I've had to force myself to get back to work before - it's one of the pitfalls of working at home. There are so many distractions - cable TV, the bed, yardwork, the bed, the bed, the bed. I've never had to question myself why I'm doing what I'm doing - until now. For a while, it seemed like there must be something better I should be doing - something more constructive. I just couldn't think of it.

Like everyone else around the world, I was glued to the TV, watching the horror unfold before our eyes. I got angry, I cried - I got frustrated, I cried. I was not having a good month. Two weeks earlier, my father passed away. Bring on the hurricane - this must be the end of my world as I know it.

As the President was declaring war and all the networks were flashing their new slogans - America's New War, America at War, War on Terrorism, all I could think of was that it was only a week earlier that I had seen my 14 year old son for the first time in his Jr. ROTC uniform, and our country is at WAR. I was having Vietnam flashbacks and I didn't go to Vietnam. I get Nam flashbacks when I hear Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sing, "Four Dead in Ohio".

I know I give the impression of being a hard-ass and at times I am, but when something like this happens I can lose it as well as anyone. Watching the 24 hour coverage of this unbelievable event has turned me into an emotional basket-case. And I'm proud of it.

It's one thing to think about the unselfish acts of those who were just doing their job - the firemen, the policemen, the EMT's, the doctors and nurses - and I mean both genders, but when you think about what regular passengers did to save lives from further destruction at the expense of their own - well, I doubt those terrorists counted on that.

Yes, America is overweight, out of shape, and over-confident, but if you push us too far - you better not leave any survivors.

Look, I'm no "Love it or Leave it" American. I know we're not perfect, I know we have done other countries wrong - very wrong, and this kind of thing was no surprise. It was bound to happen. It could even have been other Americans again, but I was shocked at the scope of this Day of Infamy.

As I listened to everyone, from TV talking heads to our nation's leaders say, "Everything's changed now," I had to wonder. Has it? It's one of those Catch 22 things. If everything has changed - they win. If nothing changes - we'll probably lose again. If we don't change, why should anything else change? There are no easy answers. In fact, I haven't heard many answers to anything.

So what about the Arts?

Well I know one thing. They say if you don't pay attention to history, you're bound to repeat it. That's what they say. History is important and one way history is recorded is through the arts. We wouldn't know about some disasters, some wars, some tragedies if some artists didn't record it on stone, paper or in metal. The written word is a new thing, but there have always been artists, as long as there have been humans. This event will be best remembered by how artists react to it. People have short memories - art makes you remember. Artists will tell the stories of what happened that day, how people acted when the "call" came, and how we all reacted to it. Some of that art will be shocking, some of it will be inspiring, some of it will be patriotic, and some we won't know what it is - that's art.

Some of the first art on the scene were the political cartoons in newspapers - some of the strongest art done on a daily basis.

What artists do is important to some, reporting about those activities is important to some, and going on with our lives is important to many. So, we go on. Where we will go is hard to tell, but we won't just give up - it's not in our nature - unfortunately for some, our nature as Americans can be violent at times.

Before this goes on too far - I'm proud to be an American, I'm proud of how some Americans stood up, I'm proud to be involved in the arts and I'm sure we will continue this dream we all call America.

Getting Back To Normal

I can't think of any better way to get back to normal - for us, than attending an art walk. They take place in some cities every month. Some places it's a once a year thing, but in Charleston, it just happens a few times, and this coming Fall is the big season. The French Quarter Gallery Association will hold its ART WALKs on Oct. 5 and Dec. 7 (the original Day of Infamy). If you're looking for a few hours to forget the "real" world - I highly recommend it.

In-between those two events will be the 3rd Charleston Fine Art Annual (Nov. 2-4), where another organization of Charleston galleries offers an entire weekend of activities - gallery tours, special receptions, a guest lecture, and one of my favorite events - the plein air demonstrations. This is the opportunity to watch some of Charleston's finest artists do their thing - "au natural". I really enjoyed last year's event as I know many others did. Of course, you have to get up early on a Saturday morning!

Art walks are great events to attend. Galleries hold them in hopes that you'll have such a good time and see something you can't live without that you'll return to make a purchase - and they are going to need those purchases now, more than ever.

The economy is on shaky legs right now, but people will still buy art - even in hard times. I'm confident that's one thing that is not going to change. In time, people will return to art for all those reasons they showed up in the first place - beauty, inspiration, history, emotion - you name it. The arts offer the distractions we all need. And, I have a feeling in the days, months and years to come - we are going to need some distractions. We're going to need to escape because sometimes the "real" world is just too hard to take.

I hope we start to see some reaction to recent events by artists soon. I hope we see a better world in the future. I hope that if change comes, it's for the good. I hope we don't blow it this time. I hope my 14 year old doesn't have to experience the "real" world too soon. I hope we know peace, real peace in our lifetimes.

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