This protest isn’t about intolerance

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You remember Ganesha.


A statue of Ganesha, a Hindu god, was erected (and we use that word with tongue in cheek) in downtown Coeur d’Alene as part of the city’s public art program. A month later, in July 2011, a passionate citizen and members of his church led a petition drive to get the elephant-like creation removed.

In the man’s interpretation, the symbol of Ganesha was too similar to the swastika and the elephant’s trunk depicted a phallic symbol.

“So far all the complaints about (Ganesha) seem to be based in a great deal of ignorance and religious intolerance,” said the statue’s creator, Rick Davis of Spokane. Davis carried some pretty weighty credibility. He also created the St. Francis of Assisi statue that stood a few blocks from the Ganesha statue.

An interesting side note from a July 7, 2011, article in The Press: One of the complainers was local artist Dan Brannan, who created the recent pre-election postcard that some depicted as racist and hateful. Here’s what the July 2011 story said:

“At the June ribbon cutting, Danny Brannan, chairman of the Kootenai County Constitution Party, protested the statue, saying ‘Christians of Kootenai County should be dismayed at the appearance of a Hindu demon,’ and calling the art selectors ‘godless.’”

You see where this is going.

Art of any kind can stir some pretty powerful emotions. Good art can be highly controversial. So where does the hammer and sickle of recent infamy fit in?

Just a few observations:

• The controversial piece stood in relative obscurity at Riverstone for three years before all the alarms went off, triggered by social media. How damaging or effective had it been if nobody had even noticed?

• Jennifer Drake, the volunteer chair of the Coeur d’Alene Arts Commission, has endured some criticism she deserved but ruthlessness and threats she absolutely does not. The guess here is that this bright, civic-minded woman has learned from the experience. Now leave her alone.

• In calling for immediate removal of the piece, Mayor Steve Widmyer was completely justified, and here’s why: No symbol of blatant hatred and genocide should ever be displayed at taxpayer expense. Hate speech — and the hammer and sickle symbol is an example of hate speech — may be protected by Supreme Court ruling, but it has no place in the public-paid realm.

Ganesha stuck around, as it should.

The hammer and sickle has gone back to hell, where it belongs.

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