On Accountability

by Barry Drogin

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On 2/9/97, Carolyn Gage wrote to the c-opera listserv:

Let me reiterate my position: Write what you feel called by your highest vision to write, and be 100% accountable to those who challenge your action. Accountability for one's actions is not the same as capitulation, nor is it "to hell with the rest of you." Accountability requires a considerable amount of homework.

I think accountability is thrust upon you, including unintentional consequences, unknown resonances, and misinterpretation. My opera, "Love and Idols," is about idolatry, and has blasphemous characters. "Alamo!" bares the anti-Catholic ravings of a fundamentalist preacher. The characters offend, and I am "giving voice" to them. If I am giving succor and aiding and abetting idolators and hate-mongers, well, it wasn't my intention, and what can I do?

A piece of art is a child you send out into the world. Should you suppress it after the fact because someone labels it, protests it, etc.? I empathize with the reaction Carolyn has gotten to some work, but the homework should be related to the expression of the piece, not the possible reactions of others. Engage the community, don't serve it. The artistic community, of which this listserv is comprised, is for freedom of artistic expression. The political agenda of others will use and discard what it will.

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Last Updated: January 17, 2009