Museum Smackdown

From today’s Listening Post e-newsletter–People like to say that America doesn’t make anything anymore. But a piece on Morning Edition today reminded me that we still stand out from the crowd in manufacturing outrage. The story was about Hide/Seek, a privately-funded exhibit hosted by the publicly-funded National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian in Washington DC. It featured artists and cultural figures who were gay (or believed to be gay) and included one video that used an image of a crucifix in a way that offended many.

A lot of people complained–fair enough–and the video was removed from the exhibit. Case closed? No. Congressman Eric Cantor said the whole show should be shut down. Would that do the trick? No. Catholic League president Bill Donohue said he wants Congress to eliminate all federal funding for the Smithsonian–which includes not just the National Portrait Gallery, but 18 other museums, The National Zoo, and nine research institutions. Why?

Donohue says, “Why should the working class pay for the leisure of the elite when in fact one of the things the working class likes to do for leisure is to go to professional wrestling? And if I suggested we should have federal funds for professional wrestling to lower the cost of the ticket, people would think I’m insane. I don’t go to museums any more than any Americans do.”

So, in addition to outrage, we also seem to be crackerjack at producing overreactions and offensive stereotypes. After all, plenty of elitists enjoy professional wrestling, too.

2 Comments on “Museum Smackdown”

  1. Vera LaRoe says:

    Ok, so by that reasoning should we get rid of our publicly owned national parks because many campsite reservations are made through a private business? Where does the perception come from that museums are “elitist”? The Wild Center is a museum and predominately visited by families. The Adirondack Museum is a museum and I don’t see people in cocktail dressess and high heels there; I see people of all ages visiting in jeans and sneakers. Don’t even suggest that we GIVE baseball skybox tickets to poor people. Horrors! Where would corporate payback sit? With the masses in general sitting?

    We seem to visit this subject every 10 years. The arts are an easy target to unfund. We sponsor big sports fields’ renovations in small town America in these times, but we slash the budgets for arts and music programs.

    I think it is a necessity to expose our children to all experiences. I think it is a responsibility that adults keep their minds open. Do not go blindly into these dark times.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    The Catholic League is a bunch of elitists who would probably stone Jesus for not condemning the prostitute.
    Congressmen and Senators are also elitists who claim to know what is best for us.
    Actually, elitists is a none word with no real meaning. I use it only to throw it back at those who use it as a curse word. Like we used to say when someone tried to put us down with words, “So’s your mother.”

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