Ignorance Posing as Art: Fanning Flames of Police-Citizen Divide
by Ron Hosko
In January of this year a painting by David Pulphus hangs in a hallway displaying paintings by high school students selected by their member of congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)
Last week, we learned of separate imbroglios in our Nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., both involving what was depicted as “works of art.”
In one case, American University played host to a 9-foot wooden carving by a person using the moniker Rigo 23 which purported to mimic a self-portrait of American Indian “activist” Leonard Peltier. While few would disagree that the history of the American Indian has been replete with sadness and tragedy, the subject matter, Leonard Peltier, was a disgraceful, appalling representative of that struggle.
Simply stated, Peltier is a convicted killer of two FBI Agents, Ron Williams and Jack Coler on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975. The killings of agents Williams and Coler were anything but accidental – their car had over 125 bullet holes and their bodies showed evidence of having been killed at close range by a .223 type bullets. The carnage of that day still stands as one of the FBI’s bloodiest.
Rigo 23’s celebrated subject matter has appealed his conviction on multiple grounds, on multiple occasions, each time, including to the U.S. Supreme Court, failing. So he sits, rightfully convicted, in federal prison, currently desperate for an Obama clemency order that will never come.
While starving-artist Rigo 23 and others who blindly believe in the stream of falsities propounded by Peltier and his allies now complain that their freedom of expression is being muted, American University’s eyes have, albeit belatedly, been opened and the wooden disgrace has been removed from its prominent location. Law enforcement, particularly the FBI, are deaf to the complaints, knowing that mere removal of a patently offensive idol is far gentler treatment than Peltier gave two FBI agents, which was point-blank execution.
Meanwhile, U.S. Congressman Lacy Clay from Missouri, tried to one-up Rigo 23 in a battle for the Most Ignorant award of 2017, when he hung in the Congressional Annex a painting depicting police as pigs. Reportedly painted by a Cardinal Ritter College Prep graduate, the painting was offered heavy praise in the annual Congressional Art competition.
This is the state of affairs in the “conversation” on American criminal justice today – a prominent university displaying a statue of the cold blooded killer of two FBI agents and a U.S. Congressman anointing as a painting competition winner the depiction of police as farm animals and displaying the winning “art” in the halls of Congress. These are the institutions we presumably look to for knowledge, for righteousness, for wisdom.
Kudos to American University for listening to the rest of the story, as provided by the FBI Agents Association, and kudos to Congressman Duncan Hunter for personally removing the Clay painting, over which law enforcement was outraged. These pieces aren’t art, they are ignorance. They ignore the truth. They ignore the true heart of law enforcement. They ignore the challenging state of law enforcement and citizen relations today that need more ways to come together than divide.
Read Rob Hosko’s Biography