First Amendment

Winter                                                            Waning Moon of the Winter Solstice

Walker stands with national peers in support of artistic freedom.  This is a big deal and I’m proud to be part of a community and an artistic/museum community that supports artistic freedom.

54 years ago I began carrying newspapers for the Alexandria Times-Tribune, a paper route that went west on Monroe Street from Harrison, then fanning out toward the then brand new elementary school.  Learning to fold the evening paper, the Trib was a daily back then, in a square, and how to pitch it in a gentle arc that landed on my customers doorsteps gave me physical pleasure, a manual skill.

My dad was editor of the paper then, so the question of freedom of speech was, at least in our house, not a question at all but a loud proclamation, made every day about 3:30 p.m. when the Trib hit the streets courtesy of myself and several other carriers.

(This artist made the banned movie:  David Wojnarowicz   Four Elements  1990 lithograph on paper  T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1991)

Dad did a couple of things that stuck with me though I imagine he did many more.  First of all when the John Birch Society raised its impeach Earl Warren/US out of the United Nations flag around town, Dad got a copy of its founder’s book, The Blue Book.  In it Robert Welch outlined clearly anti-democratic, plutocratic views.  Dad published relevant portions in the Tribune.  Gutsy in a town of 5,000.   Later, he also published a letter to the editor by a would be English teacher rankled at Dad’s opposition to this coach becoming a teacher of the language.  He printed the letter as received with many spelling and grammatical errors.  Coach did not get the job.

Extraneous sidebar:  the same coach got himself arrested years later in southern Indiana when he stole a bucket of quarters while gambling on a river boat.

You may know the John Birch Society best in its present day position of influence behind the Tea-Party Mad Hatters.  My hometown was and is a hotspot for extremist right-wingers.  Back in the day it was the John Birch Society and the Minutemen, later the KKK and now the Tea-Party.  In fact, the Alexandria, Indiana leader of the Tea-Party got arrested for drug possession last week.  My old buddy, Ed Schmidt, alerted me to that piece of news.  Ed was mayor of Alexandria for a couple of terms.

Muzzling critics, whether political or artistic, cannot be countenanced in a society built on a free exchange of ideas.  The need to speak truth to power demands that we go out of our way to listen to voices on the margin, to open ourselves to what might be unpleasant messages or messages wrapped in unpleasant containers.  The freedom they’re saving just might be your own.

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