Over the last three decades, funding for the NEH and NEA has often been put on the chopping block. Total defunding is another thing altogether. It evidences a cavalier disregard for the cultural legacies that constitute our human-ness and a cowardly suspicion of the qualities of profligate curiosity, ardent receptivity, and incisive critique that drive scholars and artists and everyday humanists to reanimate the past, observe the present, and project possible futures.

The founders of this aspirational nation were readers, of history, literature, philosophy, political theory, and scientific treatises. Activists who emerged to prod the nation ever toward those aspirations were, like Fredrick Douglas, readers, of literature, history, philosophy, and political theory. A vibrant democratic nation rests on a vibrant commitment to preserving and analyzing the diverse cultural legacies encompassed by humanistic learning and creativity.

This project is not a business. It cannot be privatized. It cannot be reduced to an instrumental set of skills to get a job. It cannot be left to hacks who promote fake learning. It is trivialized and disregarded to our peril. In these times we need to support the critical work of scholars and artists inside our great institutions of higher education and in our communities. Save the NEH and NEA.