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Art, Wedge Issues, & The Virgin Mary


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Jonah Goldberg

ART, WEDGE ISSUES AND THE VIRGIN MARY
Now I haven’t been following the Giuliani versus Brooklyn Museum battle very closely, and just when I was starting to pay attention, it seems to have been settled. It’s an obvious point by now, but if a museum ran an exhibit with Martin Luther King covered in elephant dung, if Hillary Clinton was covered in pornographic photos, or, let’s be honest, if it depicted a Hasidic Jew rooting through garbage, someone would protest. Jerry Nadler or Charles Schumer or Charlie Rangel would say tax dollars shouldn’t be going to abet racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, or something like that. But say tax dollars shouldn’t pay for defiling the Virgin Mary and people cry censorship. Why is it so hard to understand that dropping Jesus in piss and hurling fecal matter at the Virgin Mary is in fact more offensive to millions of Americans than using the words nigger or kike? But — sigh — haven’t we done this before?

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Truthfully, that’s the really annoying aspect of the Brooklyn Museum fiasco. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s disgusting, and as far as I’m concerned the exhibit constitutes fighting words and the artist is a couple of ass-whuppings shy of wisdom, but doesn’t the controversy sound so, so…tired? Been there, done that. Does the artist responsible (I won’t use his name) really think he’s breaking new ground? Is he really speaking truth to power? Is there a different point to be made by the Madonna covered in crap than a crucifix drenched in urine? You’d think this “artist” would be exiled because he’s violated the first rule of trendy post-modern meaningless art: it’s so boring.

I’m sure these yutzes think they’re real heroes. But why does it seem that these “groundbreaking” artists don’t produce anything that their own peers find distasteful? It just shows what a fraud the art world is today: a bunch of frayed culture warriors thinking they are advancing freedom by making Bill Bennett angry. Why not make Serrano angry? Why not really tick off Patricia Ireland or Charles Grodin or Bob Herbert?

The reason is that conservatives would say a portrait of a lynched MLK is as disgusting as a violated Jesus. Conservatives don’t think shock art is art — even of it defiles icons of the Left. So if conservatives won’t pay for it and liberals would be offended, where’s the money? How do you get something shocking funded if the Left is shocked by it? Well, the answer is you don’t. So that’s why these dilettante whores and bureaucratic frauds celebrate their bravery by making the same stupid point over and over again.

Critics of Giuliani think it’s somehow craven of the borderline senatorial candidate to use this exhibit as a polarizing campaign issue. Slate magazine found examples of other exhibits that didn’t get the Mussolini treatment. Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson made this her “outrage of the week” on The Capital Gang.

Well, I got news for people: that’s the beauty of a democracy for ya. If Giuliani couldn’t be moved to do the right thing until he ran for the Senate, I say it’s about time. This Brooklyn Museum is, according to the Times crowd, just another wedge issue.

Ever since Nixon there’s been this whiney drivel about things called “wedge issues.” Wedge issues are — now let me get this straight — things people disagree about. Politicians shouldn’t use issues that “divide” us, goes the liberal mantra. If that’s true, then Lincoln should have run on the issue of how apple pie is tasty.

When talking about wedge issues, the left always really means that politicians shouldn’t run on issues that leave them in the minority. For the last three months, every political talk show has offered a nodding-festival over the fact that congressional Democrats don’t want to pass anything because they want the do-nothing Congress issue. And yet I have not once heard anyone talk about Democratic wedge issues like gun control. Of course not, because there has never been a liberal wedge issue; when the Left runs on something unpopular — socialized medicine, gay rights, legalizing partial infanticide for instance — it’s hailed as leadership.

Well, congratulations to Rudy Giuliani for showing some leadership.



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