This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit, Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture. Seems Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art. Here’s the link:
Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction that promotes censorship in service to state sponsored propaganda. From my perspective that is not the issue at stake here; but if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”. Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.
Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.
Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous. Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad. The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of Christian denominations. Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels. That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.
File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.
Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems
You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia
That day has arrived again. In a very real sense it is a day that has never left us. We remember our incomprehension of how benign jetliners could transform into vehicles of mass murder. We remember our astounded shock as we witnessed the compelling images of those trapped above the gaping mortal wounds of the WTC Towers cascade downward after a decisive leap of death. We remember the indomitable Towers crumbing into broiling clouds of toxic dust rumbling through the canyons of Wall Street engulfing the spires of Bankers Trust and Trinity’s dark steeple. We remember the confusion of the civic turmoil that erupted throughout the besieged city and the depths of terror that rang our soul from an unseen force of wanton power and ambivalent devastation. We remember the heroic bravery of first responders who gave the last full measure of their devotion in service to others. And we remember our shared egregious grief, the broken hearts and the traumatized families whose sense of loss will never fully dissipate.
For nine years we have weaved the bits of steel from the wreckage of that day into our national DNA. 9/11 has truly transfigured our nation and its people to a depth that we find difficult to comprehend or understand. We have entered two wars, ceded civil liberties and fed the beast of fear a diet of suspicion, mistrust and agonizing vulnerability. We have let this fear express itself as an emotional response that quickly acts to salve immediate pain with force of will then allow a more deliberate and considered course of action that fully expresses the resolve, fortitude and ideals of a free people.
We believe that the terrorists attacked us because they fear us. They fear a nation and a people that cherish freedom and prize liberty for all. The cornerstone of those liberties are the freedom to think, express, associate and worship according to the dictates of ones own conscience. No authority or government institution will abridge those freedoms nor compel any individual to associate, act, think or worship in a manner antithetical to their personal beliefs or values. Tyrants, despots and authoritarian governments compel belief and extract tribute of action by demanding conformity to ideology and submission to self serving authority. They idealize the use of force foregoing dialog and negotiation as a way to convey ideas and forge consensus.
The tool of terror is the way of tyrants. Terror compels the terrorized to acquiesce and submit to wanton authority at odds with personal liberty and freedom. Is not Pastor Terry Jones, “Burn a Quran Day” nothing more then a form of terror aimed at Muslims, a maligned and vulnerable minority? Why do many believe it is perfectly suitable to ascribe the status as “less then” for Muslims seeking to build the Park51 Mosque on the grounds that their religious affiliation excludes them from building a house of worship too close to the hallowed ground of the WTC? Prohibiting the rights of a people because of their religion is a Taliban like mindset that all lovers of freedom should abhor. The propagation of the belief that the construction of the Park51 Mosque is a monument intended to commemorate the martyrdom of terrorists is a vile lie and a pernicious attempt to advance a reactionary political agenda.
Can the United States extol religious bigotry by celebrating intolerance? Do we applaud compelled fealty and submission by profaning Holy Books and sacraments of religions and faith traditions that are not our own? Do we deny the full and equal rights of a group of citizens that are somehow deemed less then or not fully enfranchised to enjoy and exercise the protections of a full palate of constitutional freedoms? The United States cannot allow itself to sink into the morass of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion. It runs counter to the central ideals of a democratic republic and the very essence of what distinguishes the United States from the forces of terror that seek to destroy it.
Creating national emblems of fetishistic icons to express our grief is not the correct response to the 9/11 attacks. Chunks of steel from the downed towers, bits of damaged flags or falsely ascribing a sanctity to a two block radius around the WTC site turns grief into a fetish that will forever enslave the will and endlessly torment the soul. This nation cannot cling to its illness, it must restore and strengthen its democratic character by building alters to liberty through the practice of tolerance by jealously guarding and joyously celebrating civil liberties for all.
Let the burning of the Quran be an indictment of ignorance, bigotry and religious intolerance. Let the building of the Park51 Mosque be a monument to the strength and hope of a free people that proclaims America as a light to all nations.
Our prayers for peace, restoration and life affirming abundance to all affected by 9/11 remain steadfast.
You Tube Music Video: Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings