While my intention for this blog is to not be overtly political, there’s a plethora of worrisome developments in Washington, D.C. these days and while I still can, I want talk about some of them from time to time. The current administration, it must be said, leaves most of us wondering what’s going to happen next!? Whatever one’s political affiliation, it is not outside of reason to explicitly note that this administration is boundary pushing. Some may argue that this is exactly why so many people voted for Trump; they want someone to push the limits of the business as usual slant. Honestly, I can understand that, but I have to stand up and say that I sincerely believe that the rights and protections currently extended to U.S. Americans under the first amendment are, in my opinion, in grave danger.
Perhaps many of us can recall making class posters and memory cards at school when it was time to learn about the constitution, and specifically about the first amendment. I know that in my case, I felt like at least half of the fourth grade school year was taken up with learning, memorizing, and expounding upon the rights granted to all citizens via the first. I also recall a boyish fascination with parchment paper that began around here, and which still lingers. At the time, I probably wanted to just get through the fourth grade, but in hindsight, I’m extremely grateful that I actually know my full rights and privileges as spelled out in the first. Whether or not any of us will have the full extent of those rights much longer is, I sincerely believe, in dangerously perilous limbo. Worst of all, it’s not even brutal batons and military weaponry that will likely silence us, but us citizens who will, and have already begun to, throttle our own throats. Tongue suicide.
Last week U.S. American comedian, reality TV star, and provocateur Kathy Griffin participated in a photo shoot with the controversial, but acclaimed photographer Tyler Shields (http://www.tylershields.com). There was an immediate public backlash when a photo of her holding a bloodied and decapitated, albeit fake, head of what could appear to be Donald Trump was released. It is important to mention here that the word FAKE makes all the difference! You see, Kathy Griffin did not actually behead the sitting president of the United States. Kathy Griffin, an artist, collaborated with Tyler Shields, an artist, to create a work of art that is admittedly shocking and divisive. The thing that’s so great about art though, is that you don’t have to like it. Some works will speak to you for whatever reason they speak to you, and others won’t. Feel free to write the museum and express your opinion…but there’s a chance nobody cares because the curatorial board of experts in art will have already weighed the merits of the works in the museum as to their contribution to the expansion of art. If certain controversial works are displayed in exhibitions, they may be accompanied by warnings so that museum goers can decide for themselves if they wish to view them. Fine. Personal choice is always cool. What is not cool, is insisting that the museum be closed just because a work is interrogative, aggressive, violent, or in poor taste (although who exactly the arbiter of taste is definitely needs to be discussed (and I’m voting against Trump)). What is also not cool is calling for a curator to lose their job because a work is unpopular or displeasing. That’s kind of the point of art, you see…it reflects social discourse, all of it, the good, bad, and ugly.
Shockingly, some of Griffin’s sponsors have cancelled their deals with her, show dates have been cancelled, too. CNN, and even her “friend” Anderson Cooper, have issued hardline condemnations of the photo and fired her from their popular New Year’s Eve program. She has received death threats, a typhoon of negative press coverage, and is being investigated by the secret service over a photograph of a FAKE severed head, which is well within her first amendment rights to participate in! She is quite directly being publicly punished and shamed for exercising her first amendment rights! What planet am I living on!? Which century is it!?
Once it began to become clear that the photo had offended many people, Kathy quickly issued an apology. While it is certainly her right to do so, I was disappointed. Seeing as she has a career to look after, I’m sure that seemed like the right thing to do to her and her people, but to me, it came across as a forced confession of witchery — though already tied to the stake. Yes reader, witches are still being hunted and they are still being burned in the public square for all to see! Later, she would give an emotionally frenetic press conference in which she again apologized, but vowed to continue to make fun of Trump. She cited an anti-feminist slant to the barrage of recusancy she has faced by the public, and in her words, the Trump family — I believe her. One TV commentator I heard said that they reckoned that most people were upset that Kathy had insulted the “Sacred Office of the Presidency“…sorry, what?! Sacred Office of Presidency sounds a lot like Divine Rule of Kings to me. There is no sacred office in the United States — that’s the whole point of a republic! Neither the sitting president, nor the office, is in any way exempt from criticism, critique, satire, and even insult. If we allow, even once, for a precedent to be set whereby elected officials are shielded from negative leaning disquisition, then we fail to be a republic.
Don’t forget the fourth grade…please!