WWJD? Insult Muslims, apparently.
This week I wrote a column for IrishCentral about the whole “our government is now censoring art based on right-wing rantings” thing.
(The briefest of recaps: The National Portrait Gallery is featuring an exhibit which displays the work of homosexual artists, and one video installment, created in the ’80s, includes shots of a crucifix on the ground with ants crawling over it. The artist, who died of AIDS, intended the image to convey the suffering and abandonment he felt as well as the idea that Christians at the time were forgetting the examples in compassion that Jesus set for them. When a conservative news site got wind of this, it blasted the Smithsonian and the government, and pretty soon John Boehner called for the exhibit’s removal, threatening to cut the museum’s budget. They capitulated and removed the video installation.)
In response to the column, titled "Smithsonian should have kept ‘ant-covered Jesus,’" several commenters called me ignorant and/or dishonest, which is par for the course, but what never ceases to surprise me, although I’m sure it shouldn’t, are the comments that spin the entire issue into yet another tirade against Muslims.
The general idea, which I’ve found on many other blogs as well, seems to be that Christians suffer far more greatly than Muslims in America, because people would never dare to depict Muhammed in such ways, or else the terrorists would kill them. (Also, the creation and exhibition of this particular video is supposedly a direct attempt to ruin Christmas. Obviously.)
Everywhere, conservatives are calling for a similar depiction of Muhammad. They are all over it. “Put a bacon-covered Muhammad in the Smithsonian!” Right now, American Muslims are shaking their heads, saying, “Hey, how exactly did we get dragged into this? Oh right, just by existing. Our bad.”
It’s a disgusting display of bigotry and hypocrisy, to say the least, that when Christians feel attacked, they think the most appropriate action is to… attack another religion? By their own logic, they find this kind of thing offensive, and so the answer is to offend another religion that has nothing to do with the exhibit at all.
The exhibit is not about Islam. The artist had no statement to make about Islam. I would personally hope that if an artist did have a statement to make about Islam and did so with a compelling, original piece of artwork worthy of our collective consideration, that the Smithsonian would display it.
"But no!" cry the conservative crazies. "If they did that, they’d be murdered by terrorists!" This is sadly a consideration. But shouldn’t it be a good thing that in general, American Christians are not inclined to murder artists for things they find offensive? No? Maybe these Christians think they should start slaying artists too so that people will think twice about letting ants crawl on Jesus!
The debate over whether or not Americans should display art critical of Islam is an important one, but completely irrelevant to this issue. It’s a sad day in America when not only does a Congressman think it appropriate to dictate what privately funded exhibit is displayed in a national museum, but the museum gives in to this partisan demand. It’s an even sadder day when right-wing pundits everywhere will literally use any excuse to denigrate Muslims, and will do so while supposedly defending religion.