Sooner or Later

“Sooner or later one has to take sides if one is to remain human.” – Graham Greene, The Quiet American.
If you can’t sense it, you’re walled in. It’s all around us, here on the so-called Gold Coast. The gap between the haves and have-nots. Yes, the recession has clouded dividing lines somewhat. Suddenly, downsized white collar workers are struggling. But the gap between the chronically disenfranchised and the entitled is still quite evident. How those of us who’ve navigated our lives to financial stability interrelate with those less fortunate tells us who we are as a community and especially who we are as humanists.
My running club, consisting overwhelmingly of white collar folks, decided years ago that running and drinking beer wasn’t enough. We began sponsoring the Ho Ha Classic every spring, as well as creating the February Snowball and volunteering at an August race, all designed to raise money for local charities. A musician friend of mine ONLY does charity concerts. Musicians have a long history of giving time and talent to raise money for various causes. A supervisor for a Bergen County library is organizing an art auction to benefit surviving Korean Comfort Women in Korea. These were women who were brutally taken and used as prostitutes by the Japanese during WWII. President Obama is pushing hard for volunteer involvement, for giving back. Philanthropy is part of our heritage as a nation.
Certainly everyone has a right to look the other way. If you are an artist and prefer to pay gallery owners money up front to exhibit your work, as well as a big percentage of any sales, that is up to you. If your life is all about flitting from opening to opening, sipping wine, munching crackers and cheese, expounding on whatever, that is your choice. If you prefer to focus on your own little watercolors in your familiar backyard and ignore the larger canvas, the surrounding landscape, go right ahead.
But the thought occurs – rather than hand over money to some gallery owner, why not create a scholarship for a local underprivileged high school senior wishing to major in art in college? Or pick a dozen such students and give them gift cards to AC Moore to buy art supplies? Or, heaven help us, actually venture into areas where art and culture are myths and volunteer to teach kids how to draw, paint, sculpt, use a camera, make a quilt? Discover.
How long can intelligent people remain purposely ignorant about segments of their own community? How long can they remain in their self-imposed bubble, refusing to take sides? – Joseph Del Priore


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