Culture

Artist Paints Over Campus Mural of Gun Shooting Out Flowers Because One Student Found It ‘Triggering’

#TriggerWarningTrigger

An artist painted over an image of a gun shooting out flowers — a classic anti-violence symbol — that had been part of a pro-peace mural she had painted at Pitzer College (part of the Claremont University Consortium) because one student claimed he found it “triggering” and it reminded him of police brutality. 

“It’s truly in bad taste to have a large depiction of a gun in a dorm space — especially when students of color also reside there,” the student, Gregory Ochiagha, said in a campus e-mail, according to the Claremont Independent

That’s right — not only did Ochiagha manage to declare a piece of anti-violence artwork to be offensive and upsetting, but he also managed to somehow make it about race

“My Black Mental and Emotional Health Matters. I shouldn’t be reminded every time I leave my dorm room of how easy my life can be taken away, or how many Black lives have been taken away because of police brutality. This is emotionally triggering for very obvious reasons. And if you want to belittle or invalidate by [sic] black experience, I live in Atherton, come thru, let’s have that idiotic conversation.”

This whole thing certainly is “idiotic,” but not in the way that Ochiagha thinks. First of all, what he’s essentially saying is that even though the artwork — which had been painted by fellow student Selena Spier — is clearly a statement against gun violence, it’s still not okay because that statement against gun violence reminds him that gun violence exists and that’s “triggering.” 

Are we serious here? Following that logic, anything that seeks to make a statement against some kind of ill or evil could be considered offensive because its very existence reminds us that that evil exists. I’m sure Pitzer has some posters up about the harm caused by things like domestic violence or alcohol abuse — should all of those be taken down, too, lest they remind these poor little adult children that domestic violence and alcohol abuse exist?  

#share#Oh, and then there is the more general point: Ochiagha is, quite simply, wrong. This is not up for debate. Spier’s painting has no more to do with police brutality than the blank wall next to my desk does. The fact is, the flowers-coming-out-of-a-gun image is a well recognized symbol against violence that dates back to the Vietnam era, and up until now has been universally recognized as such. Maybe, just maybe Ochiagha should have taken the time to learn a little bit about history of the image before bullying the artist into having to paint over her work for no reason other than his own ignorance?  

But why would he? After all, he got what he wanted — the image has been mostly covered due to his whining. Now, you may say that Spier can do whatever she wants with her artwork, and that it’s not like the school forced her to paint over it, and while all of that is true, that’s not really the point. The unspoken rule on too many college campuses is that the offended person — even if it is just one person — is always automatically right, even when he or she is logically wrong.  For example: Just a few weeks ago, a sorority at Dartmouth College canceled its Kentucky Derby–themed party because some students said it reminded them of “pre-war southern culture,” and the sorority’s social chair stated that if “anyone” on campus was offended by the theme, then they “obviously” shouldn’t use it. Never mind, of course, the fact that the first Kentucky Derby took place in May of 1875 — that is, a full ten years after the Civil War had ended. No, pay no mind to that at all! 

#related#After all, who needs to know the facts about silly little things as the Civil and Vietnam Wars? Facts are, like, so overrated! I used to think that college was about actually about learning stuff — but now I see how foolish I’d been to ever have thought that. 

Sure, these kids may be absolutely, unequivocally wrong, but it would be even more wrong to correct them. We’re definitely better off teaching them that feelings are more important than facts, and that if people ever dare to tell you your facts are wrong, all you have to do is whine and call him racist. In doing so, said person will have to abandon reality and blindly accept whatever illusion you’ve decided to replace it with inside your own misguided head. 

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