Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Is Performance Acceptance?

My high school chorus performed as part of the Inaugural Opening Ceremonies during my tenure. The opening ceremonies is not the cool ceremonies like the Olympics, more the opening ceremonies for the inauguration are like the bit before the bit.  Which is to say, we were on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (never not cool) and there were Secret Service about, but mostly, we were part of the lead up to some lesser celebrities, while the big ones came and performed the following day.  I, and most of my high school, had not been of age to vote, and I confess the incoming President was not who I would have selected, but it didn't at the time feel like my singing some various patriotic songs meant anything more than I was participating in a process that happens every four years around here. 
I'm not suggesting that this isn't an unprecedented election, it is.  The hatefulness and outright bigotry certainly would change that calculus for me.  I was lucky in that my school was local enough that our travel costs were minimal.  A lot of groups look forward to such an honor and save up and fundraise quite a bit.  This article got passed around a bit - warning plays sound automatically - because it had a catchy headline, but the point I found most interesting was that on average groups need to raise about $200,000 to participate in any given inauguration, which is not something most schools can afford to do too often.  And even local schools are looking at additional staff time, plus the increased security around such events since, ahem, my time in school, makes it a large undertaking.  And when arts funding is getting slashed at most schools, it's even harder. 
I read about the choir member who quit the Mormon Tabernacle, and the discussions of other performers who felt coerced, and here's the thing.  I do not have an answer for anyone about whether performing is acceptance, but I think the thing that's been overlooked in a lot of this is the cost of travel, food, and time that anyone who chooses to perform is looking at.  This isn't like accepting a gig in Vegas where you'll be paid or get a part of the ticket monies, you're generally expected to be doing this for the honor.  So, anyone who has misgivings, I can't see why they would want to commit to travelling, just so they could perform outside in the cold and be part of something that will certainly do nothing to ease their concerns.  Inauguration ceremonies are often a little like conventions, for understandable reasons. It will be very rah, rah, patriotic, but nothing that has ever been said in an inauguration made people concerned about the future feel better. 
I know there's a group of people trying to say that the liberals and others who are concerned are just overreacting, and boy do I hope they're right.  Nothing that's happened yet has confirmed that for me though.  And honestly, does anyone remember that my high school performed at the opening ceremonies a few presidents ago? I think not.  So, then why would they want anyone there who didn't want to be there.