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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Maine Governor LePage and Other Iconoclastic People

Iconoclasts destroy important images, particularly targeting popular spiritual or otherwise meaningful symbols.

People who overestimate their personal importance seem drawn to taking down popular public images.  For example, I quietly worry about how America's insidious anti-immigration movement might perceive our famous Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor if the group ever became a majority political movement. The image of liberty is threatening to people who don't understand "liberty and justice for all".

Now, Maine's Governor of two months Lepage joins a list of iconoclasts.  If he is allowed to get away with  removing images of Maine's labor history by decreeing it "one sided", what other history might he be looking to change in the meantime?  In my opinion, removing an otherwise benign mural puts the Governor in line with others like the Taliban who dynamited in 2001 the magnificent 6th century structures of the Buddhas of Bamyan, in Afghanistan; and let's add the Soviet Communists who in 1924 changed the name of St. Petersburg to Leningrad because they didn't want to be reminded of the Russian Czar. 

People care about all of their history,  the good, the momentous, the bad and the offensive.  Political leaders should acknowledge the past while letting go of it.

For some unbelievable reason, iconoclasts are threatened by images offensive to them, the proverbial ego of one. As evidenced by the public aftershocks of Governor LePage's removal of a mural quietly hanging in Maine's Department of Labor office, iconoclastic acts cause collateral damage.  Governor LePage is now the subject of national negative news coverage.  One would think iconoclasts get the collateral damage caused by their selfish acts, but they apparently don't.

By removing the labor murals and storing them away from public view, Governor LePage was an equal opportunity iconoclast.  He offended the State Museum Curators who wrote a statement opposing his actions.  Backlash from Maine constituents of Republican leaders are likewise offended because they are distracted by trying to understand the Governor's actions.  Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella wrote to Governor LePage as reported in the Boston Globe, saying that removing the labor mural "conjures thoughts of rewriting history prevalent in totalitarian regimes."

History takes care of iconoclasts.  US Congressional House Speaker Newt Gingrich's saw his tenure as a political leader short circuited after he removed a painting by Ralph Fasanella from the Capitol House labor committee room, a painting depicting the 1912 "Bread and Roses" strike in Lawrence, Mass, an event led by mostly immigrant women textile workers (Boston Globe "Revisionist Art History"April 3, 2011).

Maine Governor Lepage wants to tell the world how this New England state is open for business.  But, by wasting time, money and political capital on iconoclastic actions, he sends the opposite and wrong message to potential employers and the state's employees who, by the way, are essential to the growth of ANY business.

And speaking of business....just where are those "employers" Maine Governor LePage was so concerned about offending because they were not depicted in the labor mural he abruptly removed from public view?

Iconoclasts must learn that the way to revise history is to look forward, not backward. 

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