Letter: Artwork in library offensive to many
To the Editor:
In today’s America, can a painting be hung in a public library that depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marching in solidarity with Adolf Hitler behind a banner which reads “Onward We March,” with a swastika in the background? How about Martin Luther King marching with the leader of the KKK behind that banner with a background Confederate flag? I answer: legally “yes,” but politically “no.” I suggest that there would be an outcry from the respective Jewish and black communities and others. Officials would scramble to avoid charges of anti-Semitism and racism. Taxpayers would object to public facilities and tax dollars being used this way. There would be an avalanche of apologies. Freedom of expression would yield to public outcry. Why? Because the message of the art is that Netanyahu is somehow in solidarity with the Nazis and King with the KKK. Such portrayals are false and scandalous. Although each leader had a cause and followers, they had irreconcilably conflicting ideas and would not march together holding such banner.
Now to the issue at hand: The Trumbull library is displaying a painting of Mother Teresa holding a banner with Margaret Sanger that reads “Onward We March.” Marching with them is Gloria Steinem. In the background are “NOW” and “Planned Parenthood” signs.
Mother Teresa is a heroine of the Catholic Church and pro-life movement. She defined her cause as “Concern for the unwanted and unloved.” She won a Noble Peace Prize for humanitarianism. She performed countless acts of mercy for the world’s poor. She was staunchly pro-life. She condemned abortion and spoke of the damage it does to persons, society and peace.
Steinem worked to advance abortion on demand. She used the phrase “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, an organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions a year. Sanger promoted eugenics and set up a plan to limit the American black population. NOW advocates abortion on demand.
The painting profanes the work and mission of Mother Teresa. It portrays her in a false and scandalous light. Mother Teresa fought against the ideas and works of Steinem and Sanger. She did not “march with them”.
Many Catholics and others find the painting offensive. As such, they have the First Amendment right to communicate with and amongst themselves about the issue. They may properly and peacefully petition town officials to request it be removed from a town building. Elected officials may properly respond with sympathy to their constituents.
The First Amendment protects an individual’s expressions of ideas, popular and un-popular, from government interference. Here, it is the government, not an individual, expressing ideas. The library, a tax funded town facility, chooses what it displays. This is a form of expression. Indeed, it need not display at all. A library display suggests government approval of the art’s message. Accordingly, displays should convey truth, not error. In the future, I ask library officials to be more sensitive about what they choose to display.