The Republican War On High School Art continues this week, as a total of four House Republicans have now taken down a painting depicting police as animals (one’s a warthog; the other may be a horse?) hanging in a U.S. Capitol complex hallway because it is too mean to police. Apparently, if we could just stop high school students from painting cops as animals, no police would ever face danger again. The painting managed to not kick up any controversy between June, when Rep. Lacy Clay selected it as a winner of an art competition for high schoolers, and December, when police unions started demanding its removal. In the last week, though, pulling down the painting has become a real sport for Republicans, who are lining up for the chance to take it down and return it to Clay’s office as a symbolic gesture of cop love. The fun started last Friday when California Rep. Duncan Hunter pulled it off the wall, bragging that as a Marine, he’d gotten the job done.
After that, the painting has been in near constant motion between the hallway and Clay’s office.
Tuesday morning, members from the Congressional Black Caucus led by Clay re-hung the painting and held a ceremony to celebrate restoring it to its place on the wall. Then later in the day Tuesday, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., took it down.
It was returned to Clay’s office, and then to the wall, only to be stolen a third time, by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Brian Babin, R-Texas, and again returned to Clay’s office.
Your Tax Dollars At Work! Rep. Clay has defended the artist, David Pulphus, now a high school graduate, saying the young man had grown up seeing police treatment of the black community as “animalistic.” That monster!
As Clay re-hung the painting Tuesday afternoon, he told reporters, “it has become a very childish charade” and added that he is “getting a little dizzy” having to keep putting the painting back up — but vowed to “be persistent in protecting my constituent’s constitutional rights of free speech.”
Rep. Hunter doesn’t believe free speech has anything to do with it, because he really, really doesn’t like the painting. As everyone knows, that trumps some silly right to free expression.
“It’s offensive. It portrays police officers as pigs and it doesn’t belong in the U.S. Capitol. It’s that simple,” Hunter said before adding that the House will move to take it down again.
Washington Republican Dave Reichert, a former police officer, has complained to the Architect of the Capitol in a letter, asking the painting be permanently barred from display since it’s allegedly “in clear violation” of guidelines for art displayed in the Capitol, which prohibit art depicting “subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.” Since the art grew out of young Mr. Pulphus’s frustration with treatment of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, perhaps the ban on “contemporary political controversy” will apply, and only nice topics will be allowed in future art competitions.
According to Politico, the rules include this lovely bit of doublespeak:
While it is not the intent to censor any artwork, we do wish to avoid artwork that is potentially inappropriate for display in this highly traveled area leading to the Capitol[.]
Hunter has this all figured out, explaining to Politico, “We looked up the rules for the art competition: You’re not allowed to have paintings that are sensationally divisive.” So there! He said House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had also weighed in on the vital issue of high school artists’ paintings, and had promised the GOP conference that even if the Architect doesn’t grant the request to ban the painting, then McCarthy and Ryan would overrule the decision, since they can. Not that they’re engaging in censorship of course — they’re simply making sure basic standards of decency are followed.
Rep. Clay seems to be under the impression that Republicans are mostly interested in a publicity stunt to prove how much they love police, and (though they’d never ever say it out loud) can’t stand any suggestion that policing is racially unbalanced:
“Lamborn came over, brought the picture to me, and I made sure he left swiftly from my office,” Clay said. “I’m in the middle of meetings in my office and he brings the picture. It’s a lack of decorum and respect for people’s constituents and people’s First Amendment rights. This kid has a right to express on canvas what he feels. How dare you try to stifle that, try to censor that. That’s wrong.”
Censorship? Never! The Republicans simply want to yell about a black kid depicting cops as pigs and put a stop to that. What’s so hard to understand about that? Besides, it’s against the rules. Doesn’t Rep. Clay respect the rules? Why is he so friendly to rule-breakers and their rule-breaking degenerate art, huh? It’s just a small step from breaking rules to breaking laws, and then to killing cops, now isn’t it?
Our prediction: Rep. Clay will eventually get tired of the nonsense and hang the painting in his office. Then House Republicans will demand he re-hang it in the hallway since several members haven’t yet had the chance to be photographed taking it down.