Humans learned the importance of controlling the extremes of other humans very early on—about contemporaneous with learning of the efficiency and importance of conveying their messages and controlling behavior. Artists were called “the antenna of the race” by a poet who saw them as key definers of our nature and prospects.
The Nazis burned books.
A free press is the embodiment of our democratic ideals and the greatest adornment of our society—notwithstanding an idiot president’s definition of a free press as an enemy of the people.  Ibsen cringes.
And that is why the Walker Art Center’s decision to dismantle and burn “The Scaffold” is so dismaying, whether they actually go through with the burning or not. Artists promote debates and provoke discussions. Without them our society would be a barren, sterile place.
“The Scaffold” was intended to illustrate both the folly and cruelty of man, when driven by dumb passions and un-surrendered prejudices. How can we combat our ignorance without guidance?
The position of the Dakota Native American community that “The Scaffold” be dismantled and burned is an uninformed act of censorship. The Walker’s craven surrender to intimidation simply fuels right-wing extremists’ contempt for political correctness. And what a great example of intellectual flaccidness it is.
The creator of “The Scaffold” transferred the intellectual property rights to the sculpture to the Dakotas, who seem to be entertaining second thoughts about burning the artwork. As with the pipeline—a faint whiff of extortion permeated the backdrop.* [see Editor’s Note below]
Last winter we saw the Native Americans demonstrate against a pipeline in North Dakota despite its operators having secured all needed permits and despite the fact that it touched no Native American’s lands. It looked to me like an attempt to secure something through the interruption of construction. Despite the fact that it is both safer and cheaper to transport fuels through pipelines than truck or rail.
The demonstrators were doused by fire hoses, very likely creating grotesque versions of ice sculptures. A cruel and unnecessary response by the authorities. Arrests were legitimate. Acts of gratuitous cruelty and repression were not.
Such events raise critical and fundamental questions relating to moral courage. If the emperor’s naked, why not just say so?
A totally fraught element was recently introduced when NBC anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed Alex Jones. The guest holds that the killing of 20 children in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook elementary school was a media hoax. His assertions triggered the febrile right to call the victims’ families with threats and imprecations.
It is in its very ugliness and emotion that the test of freedom is forged. Sympathies flow to the families. Antipathy is aboil for the conspiracy theorist Jones—a friend of President Trump’s.
Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free.
That is all we know and all we need to know.
[Editor’s Note:  I’m sure Tony knows that all political acts of resistance are, in some way, acts of extortion—whether it was Thoreau in a Concord jail or Martin Luther King in a Birmingham Jail. But the greatest extortionist of all time must have been Mahatma Gandhi. His hunger strikes held the holiest man in India hostage, and he threatened to kill him if the British did not surrender India.]

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