Monday, December 03, 2007

The Passion of the Rudy

In February 2001, before 9/11 made him a hero, Rudy Giuliani was having some trouble with religion and the limits of power.

In an exhibit of contemporary black photographers at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, a photograph entitled Yo Mama's Last Supper "feature[d] the photographer, Renee Cox, nude and surrounded by 12 black apostles." Other works in the exhibit depicted a topless woman crucified.

Cox, a native New Yorker and herself Catholic, said the "Last Supper image highlights legitimate criticisms of the church, including its refusal to ordain women as priests."

Giuliani called the work "disgusting" and "outrageous."

"Why can't a woman be Christ?" Cox responded, "we are the givers of life!"

The ACLU objected to Giuliani's use of his office as a means to curtail the museum's first amendment rights. While it was fine for him to object to the exhibit for personal reasons, calling for a task force to pass judgment on the art was unconstitutional.

The mayor was reaching well beyond the purview of his government in a misguided—one might even say hysterical—attempt to control public discourse. Giuliani declared that he was "appointing a task force 'that can set decency standards for those institutions that are using your money, the taxpayers' money.'"

This wasn't the first time Giuliani had tried to use the office of mayor to assuage his delicate sensibilities. In 1999, over an image of the Virgin Mary that had been embellished with elephant dung, "the mayor froze the museum's annual $7.2 million city subsidy -- about a third of its annual budget -- then sued in state court to evict the museum." In the museum's counter suit, a judge ruled "that the city had violated the First Amendment." The museum's funding was restored.

It's a good thing he lost the case, but how much of the city's money did Giuliani spend in a personally-motivated court battle aimed at violating an institution's rights? Undeterred by that failure, Giuliani declared that this time "he would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decisions he said are based on 'showing decency and respect for religion.'"

We express amusement and dismay over the Sudanese government's claim that a teddy bear named Mohammed constitutes blasphemy, but how different is that from what Rudy did, except in degree? Are either of these reactions proportionate to the offense? Are they rational?

Whether you agree with his objections to the art or not, Giuliani failed to grasp the limits of his office, and he abused his power in the service of a personal issue. Given the current regime's track record with things of this nature, can America really afford a Giuliani presidency? article

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NSFW: image image


TenaciousK said...

Marketing idea: The Christian's guide to acceptable living (Art edition, science edition, political edition etc). Someone's already broken some ground, so far as literature is concerned, but I'm thinking we can emulate the "XXXX for Dummies" success. Really, it was Aaron's thread above that got me thinking - we could market an entire line to people who'd rather not think about things (and to be fair, we'd have to follow it up with editions for other denominations - like, for Mormons, we could release a supplementary text to the Christian edition, or something).

Really - Rudy was pandering. He's a Republican, has to satisfy his constituency, and "forming a task force" is about as meaningful as "calling for an exploratory committee"; it's a useful, though wasteful and misleading, form of lip-service.

The issue of NEA funding for controversial works is a little stickier. Remember this one?

I hope Rudy doesn't get the nomination - I think he'd be, in many ways, the most dangerous opponent for whomever ends up with the Democratic nomination. But I don't think he will, anyway - Evangelical Christians apparently prefer Huckabee to either he, or Romney.

Amazing, isn't it?