The Smithsonian Scandal: “Where There Is No Moral Community, There Is No Country”
What in the name of
Gilbert Stuart is going on at the National Portrait
A week ago, CNSNews` Penny Starr
reignited the culture war with
an arresting story about the staid old museum that
"The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of
the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an
exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus,
male genitalia, naked brothers kissing, men in chains,
Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts and a painting the
Smithsonian itself describes in the show`s catalog as
Film of the crucifix with ants
crawling on Jesus is from
"A Fire in My
Belly," a video [YouTube]
by David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, that
expressed his rage and anguish at the death of a lover
who also died of AIDS.
The rest of the four-minute video
of "A Fire in the Belly," writes Starr, portrays
"the bloody mouth
of a man being sewn shut … a man undressing a man`s
genitals, a bowl of blood and mummified humans."
One wonders: Why has this exhibit
not received a grant from the National Endowment for the
With all deliberate speed, the
portrait gallery pulled the video.
Too late. By now the exhibit,
Difference and Desire in America," had come to
the attention of House Republicans who may have just
struck the mother lode of that
"waste, fraud and
abuse" that the
Gipper was always talking about.
Other features in the exhibit
include that painting of the naked men kissing with one
holding a gun to the chest of the other and a 1954
painting of an aroused naked man,
"O`Hara Nude With
Boots," by Larry Rivers.
"O`Hara" is poet
Frank O`Hara, Rivers` lover.
How did the
react to Donahue`s protest?
Arrive", said the
Post. Yet the
ants-on-Jesus image, 11 seconds long, is no big deal
said the Post, which chastised Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor for
suggesting the exhibit could imperil Smithsonian
"We hope Mr.
Cantor`s threats prompt many additional Washingtonians
to visit …and judge for themselves."
But if the
interested in having Washingtonians
does the paper not publish photos of
"O`Hara Nude With
If this is art the gallery should
be showing high school kids who come to Washington each
spring, why not let the
Post`s readers see what the controversy is all about?
critic Blake Gopnik, the
"show about gay
sex" at the gallery is
and "full of
wonderful art. My review of it was a rave."
What Gopnik raved about are the
kind of pictures that used to be on French
possession of which in the 1950s could get you kicked
out of high school.
As for the gallery`s pulling of
"A Fire in My Belly", Gopnik wrote that the NPG curators
"come off as
Down the hall from the
homoerotic art and gay sex show is the Steven
Spielberg-George Lucas collection of paintings by Norman
Rockwell, which they loaned to the gallery. While Gopnik
raved about the former, the Rockwell paintings, so
beloved of flyover country, are just the kind of
bourgeois schlock art that truly repulses him.
"Norman Rockwell would get the boot [from the National Portrait
too, if I
believed in pulling everything that I`m offended by. I
can`t stand the
view of America that he represents,
which I believe insults a huge number of the
The reason I don`t demand that
Rockwell`s trash be pulled, says Gopnik, is
detractors, including me, got to rant about how much
they hated his art."
"has said that
taxpayer-funded museums should uphold `common standards
of decency,`" says Gopnik.
`standards` don`t exist and shouldn`t in a pluralist
Interesting. But if there are no
common standards of decency, there is no moral
community, and where there is no moral community, there
is no country.
If we cannot agree on what is
beautiful, moral and decent, are we really
under God, indivisible" anymore?
Gopnik and the
Post have put
critics of the gallery`s sex show on notice that their
protests are to be restricted to the verbal. Neither
they nor Congress have a right to tell curators what to
exhibit and not exhibit.
use of public dollars does not give lawmakers the right
to micromanage or censor public displays," says the
The gauntlet has been thrown down
to the new GOP majority: Keep your puritanical hands off
The Smithsonian needs a haircut
next year to remind these folks who`s boss—and that with
public funding comes public responsibility.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Patrick J. Buchanan
no introduction to
VDARE.COM readers; his book State
of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and
Conquest of America, can
be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book
Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How
Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost
Paul Craig Roberts.