Trump Administration withdraws from Unesco, effectively stalling Seattle's bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature

This morning, Gardiner Harris and Steven Erlanger reported for the New York Times:

The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group’s “anti-Israel bias.”

The decision to leave Unesco is not really a surprise. President Trump has declared war on art, and and he's announced his ambivalence about the rest of the world. It stands to reason that his cultural illiteracy and his hateful isolationism would manifest in an exit from Unesco.

There's a local angle to this story: Seattle has for years aspired to join Unesco's Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature along cities like Reykjavík, Dublin, Baghdad, and Barcelona. Our bids have been unsuccessful up until now, though we have a whole organization — Seattle City of Literature — dedicated to managing our bid and to keep international cultural exchanges flowing. We talked with Seattle City of Literature head Stesha Brandon about the organization's role a couple years ago. Obviously, this announcement means that we can't join the Creative Cities network and our bid is stalled until sanity prevails again in Washington DC.

Today, Brandon and the board at Seattle City of Literature released this statement:

On Oct. 12, the Trump administration decided to withdraw from UNESCO. Seattle City of Literature extends its unwavering support for a global organization that brings people around the world together for love of culture and the arts. We remain committed to the ideals of free expression and peace between nations, today more than ever. We will continue the important work of making our city a haven for the literary arts, for local and international writers and audiences alike.

If you'd like to show your support for Seattle City of Literature, they're producing a Hugo House event at next week's Lit Crawl. Seattle author Willie Fitzgerald will be appearing in conversation with New Zealand author Nic Low, who is visiting for two weeks in a cultural exchange program. I bet someone from the organization will be there to talk about what's next for our city's literary scene on the international stage.

Now more than ever, Seattle City of Literature is a necessary advocate for our city. We need them to connect us to the world — to broadcast our achievements as a city, and to keep us plugged in to the international cultural conversation. Now that Trump's government has abdicated its leadership role, it's up to cities like Seattle, and to organizations like Seattle City of Literature, to keep us intertwined with the world of art and literature.