Today’s post is bound to be controversial for some. I stand with our police and our military, and I find the student art that was taken down from the Capitol tunnel offensive and downright abhorrent.
That said, I’m also an Army vet, and much like the writer of this piece, I find the efforts to remove this high school student’s work abhorrent to the very principles we, as members of the U.S. Armed Forces have sworn to defend.
I’m always fond of telling the perpetually offended to put on their big boy and girl panties, and suck it up. There is no right to be protected from butthurt via government force.
As of two days ago, the painting was re-hanged in the tunnel of the Capitol, and after several attempts by other lawmakers to take it down, it remains there.
By Dave Hardin
Duncan Hunter ripped down a picture that was hanging on the walls of the Capitol building and was selected as the winner of a national art contest. He found it offensive, but I doubt he understands the deleterious effect his actions have had on others and their freedoms, and as far as I’m concerned, Hunter should be far more mindful of unintended consequences his actions could have on others, including fellow Marines – people Hunter cannot hope to measure up to.
Let me have the honor of telling you about Michael Paradise. He served with the most outstanding unit I was ever deployed with, and he did it with distinction. I have served with Mike north of the Arctic Circle, when our days were mostly night with -17 degrees temps. I have witnessed him standing ready to face our enemies in Beirut.
Back in the day I did some boxing. Not many were willing to step into a boxing rink, but Mike Paradise was the exception. He had the intestinal fortitude to stand toe to toe with any Marine, and he took me on. This picture was taken of Mike a month or so after our boxing match on our way to Beirut.
Mike was known to max out the Marine Corps physical fitness test – a minor detail nobody mentioned to me at the time. So, for a brief moment in his career Mike had the honor of beating up on this old Sergeant to the applause of all. I have heard his version of that event and I promise you he is far more humble than he should be.
Mike knows exactly what it feels like to be deployed into the unknown and be willing to stand in the face of tyranny, because he was among the last Marines who were sent to Beirut.
Fast forward a number of years.
Mike has been a teacher for the last 17 years. He is an art teacher, and he has spent the bulk of his adult life teaching young minds the art of free expression. I have the great honor and privilege as a Marine of stating that I was beaten up by an art teacher. That always brings a smile to my face.
Some of Mike’s high school art students participated in a program that selected their work to be displayed at the Capitol building in Washington, DC. He participated in, and supported a program, that is the finest example of our right to free expression. In the end, a painting done by a student in a neighboring school won the competition.
You know what happened next.
People got offended, and Duncan Hunter acted.
California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter has removed from display in the Cannon tunnel the controversial student art contest painting of police-community relations in Ferguson, Missouri, that depicts police officers as animals.
This is appalling.
Congressman Hunter not only ripped down a picture created by a high school student from the wall, but he dishonored those who served to protect our right to free expression. He attacked the life’s work of another Marine. He attacked one of my Beirut brothers and he shamed the sacrifice those who came long before him.
All because people were offended.
The wall on which that picture hangs does not belong to Hunter, and neither did the picture. That wall belongs to us – all of us – and that picture belongs to a 17 year old high school student. That wall and what hangs on it is protected by Marines who served this nation long before Duncan Hunter could read or write.
Personally, I find the picture that was selected to be displayed offensive too. It depicts what happened in Ferguson from the perspective of bias and hate.
I have the right to be offended, but I have a right to hear and see that which others are free to express. I have a right to form my own opinion on it. So do all Americans… its what weaves the very fabric of America.
But what we do not have the right to do is demand that which offends us be removed by government force.
What defines us as Americans is our right to be offended, but at the same time respect and even defend another’s right to do exactly that. Being American demands that we defend the rights of others to scream at the top of the lungs that which we have spent a lifetime opposing.
Where does this kind of behavior stop?
Will the Congressman now go to the Library of Congress and burn a mass of books he finds offensive?
Because if that’s the case, before Duncan Hunter starts goose stepping down the hallways of our of the Capitol ripping down artwork put there by my fellow citizens, he should turn in his EGA (that’s Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, in case you were wondering). His conduct was unbecoming a United States Marine, and as far as I’m concerned, he disgraced the Officer Corps.
I have several friends who know Duncan Hunter personally, and I reached out to my fellow Marines for an explanation. All I have heard so far are crickets. If Duncan Hunter has constructed an echo chamber of people who will not tell him when he is in the wrong, please let me be the one to kick in his door.
I am very aware that he has worked hard for veterans. He has done good work on those issues, but it appears he also created an environment in which people will not confront him in fear of losing his support.
So let me be the first to say…
Marine, your actions were wrong. You tarnished the EGA, and now you need to suck it up and make this right. You have an obligation to stand corrected and do it with dignity and honor. So do your duty, and make this right.
Because at the moment, Duncan Hunter, you are not worthy of standing in the shadow of the likes of Michael Paradise… Teacher.