Friday, 6 January 2017

hail to the chief, as we pledge cooperation

It may seem, in the grander scheme of things, like something very rarefied and trifling, but the emergent protest and backlash regarding a Saint Louis art museum’s decision to loan the a painting by George Caleb Bingham—called The Verdict of the People—to loan the piece to the presidential inaugural luncheon as a prop really strikes me as one of the better, more thoughtful arguments that I’ve heard imploring institutions and individuals not to normalise a regime that’s already demonstrated disdain for not only convention but also civility and social justice.
Too often, I think, wounded pride and fear is coming off as the same shrill mantra of partisan politics that was mumbled by the opposing chorus throughout the whole terms. We know it’s different and there’s much at stake but I think there’s a serious risk of having grave concerns fobbed off as something political and therefore not urgent thanks to safeguards—sometimes called grid-lock, and glacial rates of change (albeit it this environment, maybe that’s becoming an ever poorer metaphor). This contested artwork is not Bingham’s only political allegory but does seem particularly unfit in a self-styled era of populist uprisings that didn’t manage to also capture the popular vote and seemed ultimately far from the people’s verdict.