MSNBC’s terrific Jan Herman runs through a shameful list of actions taken by the Bush administration to keep artists out of this country:
Fortress America and the arts: The U.S. State Department’s visa war against foreign performers and artists is wreaking havoc not just in high-profile places like New York and Los Angeles.
Although the latest development involves the New York Film Festival and the denial of a visa to Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, the internationally acclaimed winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, there’s been a wave of canceled appearances across the country.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, an off-shoot of the Buena Vista Social Club, has canceled its 17-city U.S. tour. In Southern California alone, performances by artists from the Middle East, Cuba and Japan were dumped just in the last two weeks.
Two weeks ago when the jazz world’s greatest piano virtuoso Chucho Valdez was denied entry to this country to take part in the Latin Grammy Awards with 22 other Cuban nominees, I asked whether he would be let back in for his U.S. tour.
Answer? No. If you look at his updated tour schedule, you’ll see no dates through the end of this year. He had to cancel them all. If you want to hear Valdez in this country, you’ll have to wait until Jan. 29, when he’s scheduled to play in Philadelphia. But don’t count on it even then.
What’s particularly ironic in the case of Valdez and the other Cubans is that he and fellow Cuban musicians were in Los Angeles last year on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks (to participate in the 2001 Latin Grammy Awards). When they heard what had happened, they rushed to give blood for the victims….
There’s more and it’s grim. He concludes:
- The visa war is just one more demonstration of that strategy. You’d think the U.S. government could distinguish between terrorists and artists. But apparently not.
I can’t recall the last time Chucho blew anything up, and his new Fantasia Cubana is exquisite.
Few are more zero-tolerance toward terrorism than I, but the broad-brush-with-absurd-consequences approach only undermines the rightness of the goal.