From the Editor: Freedom of Expression

By Bucher, Kristin | Southwest Art, May 2003 | Go to article overview
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From the Editor: Freedom of Expression


Bucher, Kristin, Southwest Art


Lately I've been thinking a lot about the right to express ourselves freely. It all started during a recent trip to Santa Fe. That's when I first heard about a poetry symposium that was to have been held at the White House; reportedly, Laura Bush had cancelled it when she learned that some of the invited poets were going to read anti-war poems. "While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she ... believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum," said a spokeswoman for the First Lady, who has a long history of supporting museums, libraries, and literary programs. In the following weeks, poets across the country and around the world-including Pulitzer Prize-winners and poets laureate-registered their protest, sponsoring public readings and "National Poetry Against the War Day." Said Vermont poet Jay Parini, "For poets to remain silent at a time of national crisis is unconscionable."

The next day in Santa Fe I went to a screening of Salt of the Earth, a highly controversial film made in the 1950s during the height of the McCarthy era by a group of blacklisted filmmakers. Salt of the Earth is based on a 1950 strike by zinc miners in Silver City, NM. The audience at the screening was vocal, hissing at the racist comments made on screen by the company officials, and cheering every determined statement by the strikers and their wives, who eventually took over the picket line in this movie.

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