This would be unethical if a child did it. For a town’s mayor to do it would be head explosion-worthy, except that the behavior of municipal leaders during the George Floyd Freakout has been so constantly outrageous that it has raised the bar for “Kabooms.”
I guess that’s a silver lining.
Ralph Salvagno, the mayor of Hancock, Maryland, (population 1500 or so) painted over two images of the Confederate battle flag in a privately-owned mural on a wall outside the Town Tavern.
“I think I did the right thing,”said Salvagno.
He’s wrong, and he’s also an idiot.
Though the mural was in bad shape even before Salvagno’s vandalism, its message is no more and no less than that there was an American Civil War. See those triangles pointing in on the two flags in the drawing? They mean that the North and the South were fighting each other. The flags of the opposing sides symbolize the Union and the Confederacy. The artwork (and there are hundreds of similar, if better, such paintings) tells onlookers that there was an American Civil War, and, you know, there was. In addition to preserving the United States of America, that horrible conflict also ended slavery, and began the long road of recovery for American blacks and the nation. Americans need to know about that war, and understand it.
The Hancock mural may be cheesy, but all reminders of our history are useful. Lately there have been episodes where foolish officials have behaved as if the mere mention of one of the most important events in American history is “offensive.” Last week, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University announced that they will no longer refer to games between their athletic teams in their long-standing rivalry as the “Civil War,” because, UO director of athletics Rob Mullens said in a meaningless statement, “We must all recognize the power of words and the symbolism associated with the Civil War.”
Salvagno’s reasoning for destroying the property was rock-dumb but familiar. The mayor said he is concerned about the message conveyed by the flag, and that the images could have sparked anger if the George Floyd mobs came to the small town.
First, what “message?” When Confederate flags are represented in context, as in the mural, the message is “this is a Confederate flag, as flown by the Confederate forces.” That’s a fact. When the flag is used by groups showing opposition to the federal government, the law, or civil rights, that’s a message. If a mayor is so dim that he can’t understand the difference, he should retire to running a bait shop.
Second, and I’ll ignore the point that the likelihood of a Black Lives Matter hoard descending on tiny Hancock is vanishingly tiny, if a town preemptively suppresses art and expression that “someone” might find offensive or that might spark real or contrived “anger,” that is prior restraint of free speech. It also allows fear and intimidation to overwhelm personal liberties. It is an elected official’s duty to oppose such conduct, not participate in it.
The mural’s owner, Billie Jean Fisher, told police that her late father had the wall put up and its artwork painted.
Maybe he can get elected mayor of Denver.