Looking over the list of cuts to the stimulus bill, I was dismayed, but not entirely surprised, to see that the Smithsonian's share had been halved.
After all, you might say, be reasonable, Annette. Museums are hardly essential to the nation's economy.
But that's where I must take exception.
Museums draw tourism: I doubt too many foreign tourists would linger long in DC if all there was to do was gawp at the White House (come to think of it, in this context, even that is a museum.)
Museums provide employment. What's more, that employment does far more for the common good than hedge fund managers or whatever those folks are called in banking, who have turned out to be Wizards of Oz.
Museums help to make up for our shortsighted lack of school curriculum that inspires kids and teaches them to think critically. Thank God for field trips.
And, as the depression deepens, as it will, some people will discover that the life of the mind offers so much more than spending Saturday afternoon at the shopping mall. Museums can help with that,too.
Last but not least, our government would be a great deal less inept if we were more informed, particularly about history. Which brings me back to the stimulus package: it really would make a change if we could envision a future in which we weren't all about the ruthless acquisition of money and stuff. A pipe dream? Hardly. Soon, this won't be a choice, but a fact with which everyone will have to deal. And that's when spending on the humanities will make most sense.