With early presidential drafts of the federal budget including severe cuts to arts and humanities programs, the Central Arkansas Library System wants to highlight a poignant reminder of how those programs help people in ways we never anticipated.
The following account came unsolicited from a veteran who attended a grant-funded CALS program last year: Fiction & Fact: A War Dialogue with Veterans. The program provides opportunities for veterans to reflect on the war and homecoming experiences through facilitated discussions based on different humanities sources, such as books, art, film, museum exhibits, oral histories, and blogs. This is what Guy Choate has to say about the program:
I am a military veteran. But my service was spent as a NATO peacekeeper in Bosnia at a time when everyone in the military in my generation saw combat in the Middle East. I've always felt guilty for not serving in that capacity.
Last year, I sat down in a room with a group of 13 other veterans and we discussed our experiences and our understandings of the roles we played in our respective conflicts. I'd never met anyone else in that room before that day, and I was intimidated by it because I feared how my own experiences would measure up against those of my peers who had really served. And it wasn't just my generation-there were also veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and others. When I told them all how I felt guilty, for maybe not earning the title we all shared, they thought I was off my rocker.
'You didn't get to pick where you went and what you did,' a woman in the group told me. She herself had served in Iraq, as had her husband, who'd lost both his arms and both his legs to an IED. 'You stepped up, you put on the uniform, and you did what you were told. You're just as much a veteran as anyone else in this room.'
I still don't believe that to be true, but I can't tell you how helpful it was for me to hear it from a woman whose family has sacrificed so much.
I waited 13 years for someone to tell me those words, and I would have never heard them if The National Endowment for the Humanities hadn't given Alex Vernon, Hope Coulter, Brad Mooy, and the Central Arkansas Library System a grant so they could offer the program in the first place.
So don't tell me we have to cut funding for the arts and humanities to be able to fund programs for military veterans. I am a military veteran.
- Guy Choate, North Little Rock
The next event, All Quiet on the Western Front, will be held at CALS Ron Robinson Theater, 100 Rock Street, on Saturday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. The screening is free and open to the public as part of the Fiction & Fact program. (reserve seats here »)
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.
"Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities."
The National Endowment for the Humanities and Central Arkansas Library System together: Exploring the human endeavor.