The gist of my argument in that piece was that the most rabidly opinionated members of the religious right are in fact so insecure in their own convictions that, when those convictions are challenged, they're forced to react in the asinine, overblown way they so often do. They can't just ignore it. They have to stoke the fires of controversy, making something minor (see: the mosque at ground zero) into a direct affront to the very core of the heart of America -- and it's that kind of inflammatory rhetoric that leads to senseless acts of destruction like the one that took place in Loveland. And it's disgusting.
At least, that's what I said then.
But then, last week, I had my own convictions challenged in almost exactly the same way. Observe this billboard by the artist Paul Snover, which, in the space of less than two days last week, went up and came down in Grand Junction:
What can I possibly do to qualify that, except to say that it is some of the most offensive shit I've ever seen in contemporary America? I was blown away by it, that so openly, patently and mind-bogglingly racist a depiction of the President of the United States could stand in for what we call politics -- I mean, it's not even just racist against black people, it's racist against fucking everybody -- except good old homogeneous white folk, of course. Essentially, it's a giant, public KKK-style hate tract, and there it was, in the very state I call home. I'm not going to lie: My reaction to it was straight-up visceral. It enraged me.
And that's when it hit me: You see what I did there? In the paragraph directly above this one? My rhetoric their was just as inflammatory as theirs. And what that means, of course, is that I'm no less uptight than the religious right folks I called out the week before. What both I and the religious right were upset about were artistic depictions of something that was important to us, and we both reacted in exactly the same way.
There are, of course, obvious differences here. For one thing, Barack Obama is not important to me in the same way Christ is important to Christians -- I respect him; in fact, I'm an unabashed fan, but he's not a deity to me. For another thing, the depiction of Obama was extremely public, whereas the depiction of Christ was encased in plexiglas inside of a museum, accessible to those who wanted to see it and out of the sight of those who didn't. Nevertheless, it's certainly possible to argue that those two differences kind of cancel each other out: The one was more public; the other was arguably more important, in terms of values, at least.
What I'm getting at here is that I like to think I'm enlightened, that my intellect, my considered ways of looking at things, preclude me from being offended by something as subjective as art; art is art; it's open to interpretation. That is obviously not the case. I looked at an artwork, and it upset me, and in all honesty, I wanted it wiped from existence.
So how am I any more secure in my own convictions than is the religious right? If I believe that it should be taken down, if it satisfies me when it is destroyed -- and it absolutely does -- then how am I any better than them? And even if I can recognize my own hypocrisy, what if I'm still incapable of overcoming it?
What do you think? For us, as human beings, is it even possible not to be a hypocrite?