September 29, 2010

Is The American worth it?

A brief Facebook exchange over the value of spending $38 million on The American statue:Christ...I wish people would stop with the f*g symbols + get that money to some actual living Indians who could use it--like for, y'know, *food* or *medical care* or *college*...Well, I think there's a place for research, education, and the arts. You know, intellectual pursuits that don't help anyone directly. Surely you agree with that?

But a giant naked Indian is about the last thing I'd spend $38 million on. Giving $10,000 each to 3,800 Native organizations and artists would be a much better use of the money. It probably would attract more tourism and economic development, too.I agree with it to an extent. I definitely think making sure everyone's basic needs get met has to come first.To me it's like a corporation's R&D budget. You put 5% or whatever of your money into long-term research even if it has no immediate payoff. Same with "nonessential" programs in academia and government. History has shown that it's wise to invest in the future.

To help the poor I'd get money from the defense budget or higher taxes. But not from education or the arts. That would be penny-wise and pound-foolish, as they say.

Build the statue, or...?

I'm sure The American's supporters claim the statue would bring in much more money than it would cost. Even if that's true--a big if--it leaves a key question unanswered: What alternatives have they considered for the $38 million expenditure?

For $38 million you could build some combination of a Indian museum, an Indian arts marketplace, an Indian village, and a theater devoted to Indian plays and movies. Who's to say these wouldn't generate even more tourist dollars than the statue? And thus more money for poor Indians, the ultimate goal?

And there's still the question of why a giant naked Indian? Wouldn't a giant clothed Indian draw just as many tourists? In short, what's the justification for spending money on any statue or on this particular statue?

For more on the subject, see Is The American Still Feasible? and Thoughts on The American.


Michael R. Cooke said...

The money spent on the Statue of Liberty I'm sure could have been argued as better spent on the American poor and struggling at the time.

But the Statute of liberty is a powerful thing, it stands as a sacred American Icon to many immigrants, it's message is affirming to immigrants and it is a magical talisman reminding all Americans that we all are immigrants or descendant from immigrants. And it's power endures generations.

I have no specific opinion about this Statue project. I'm just commenting to bring to light the possibilities and power of symbols.

Anonymous said...

The Statue of Liberty is a gift from France. So actually it didn't cost a dime, except for maybe the expense of erecting the statue.

Also, the renovations in the 1980's were all done through fundraising. Interesting.


dmarks said...

I could be wrong, but I doubt that the Statue of Liberty, whatever controversies it had back then, had any racial stereotype issues.

Michael: Your "reminding all Americans that we all are immigrants or descendant from immigrants." statement needs an asterisk after it. The immigration status/history of the Natives of the New World is so ancient and far removed and different that you can't simply lump together Indians with the people whose grandparents came through Ellis Island.

Rob said...

When I talk about the value of the arts, I'm including the symbolic power of monuments such as the Statue of Liberty. But Indians already have the Crazy Horse Memorial and other monuments. Do they need one more?

Even if we decide we want a Native Statue of Liberty, the same questions arise. Why this particular monument over a thousand other possibilities? Who says this is the best approach?