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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 17, 2008 11:20 AM

Dems say Sound Transit art is culturally insensitive

Posted by David Postman

Capitol Hill Democrats don’t want a New York artist’s kissing warplanes sculpture at their local Sound Transit station. The 43rd District Democrats passed a resolution this week protesting artist Mike Ross’ proposed hanging sculpture that would feature chopped and pink-painted fighter jets.

The Democrats say there “are many more culturally sensitive themes for public art in Sound Transit's Capitol Hill station instead of warplanes.” The resolution also said that given that the neighborhood is a “major hub of artistic activity,” Sound Transit should hire a local artist to decorate the planned underground station.

Janice Van Cleve, a precinct committee officer and coordinator, said that people also will send letters and e-mails “protesting the cultural insensitivity of Sound Transit to the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

When the proposal was unveiled, Ross said he would arrange the planes in “a non-aggressive way” that would show two fuselages sort of kissing in the air.

How loud a message can the 43rd Democrats send? Well, their dislike of the Pledge of Allegiance has traveled far.

The Stranger’s Eli Sanders wrote earlier this month about the district caucus.

At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos. Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the Pledge of Allegiance up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag (of which there was only one in the room, by the way, on some delegate’s hat) was shouted down.

This week, that anecdote led the Sunday column of Jack Kelly, who writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

Kelly used it, with a mention that it is home to Congressman Jim McDermott, as a piece of evidence of what he says is the Democrat’s wrong-headed approach to the world. Other examples cited by Kelly included former President Jimmy Carter’s planned trip to Syria and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move that stopped a vote last week on a free trade agreement with Colombia.

I'm not questioning the Democrats' patriotism. (They're doing a fine job of that all by themselves.) But Democrats do exhibit a disturbing tendency to subordinate the national interest to narrow partisan interests.

Wow, from Pennsylvania our little 43rd Democrats look as important as the House Speaker and a former president.

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Posted by Dave

11:47 AM, Apr 17, 2008

Yup, 43rd district is Obama country. From Pennsylvanis (home of the bitter bumpkins who cling to their guns and religion) comes a critique of those who won't say the pledge (because it says, "under God" or because they haven't reached Michelle Obama's new found pride in the country?) and who don't want cut up warplanes because they have too many guns & are two warlike.

What would be acceptable art to Capitol Hill? Instead of two fuselages sort of kissing in the air would two men kissing be better? Or instead of a cut up plane would a cut up fetus from a D&C be more acceptable?

I find Capitol Hill protesting "cultural insensitivity" to be the epitome of irony.

Posted by Bothsides

11:51 AM, Apr 17, 2008

"Wow, from Pennsylvania our little 43rd Democrats look as important as the House Speaker and a former president."

Uh, wrong, they look as ridiculous as the House Speaker and former president. Typical from the left is their "inclusion" of everyone's ideas or their tolerance, as long as it suits their idea of art, lifestyle etc. everything is just fine.

Posted by eric

12:43 PM, Apr 17, 2008

It's the height of hypocracy for the supposedly "liberal" 43rd to insist that art be acceptable to them. True liberalism champions freedom of expression and tolerance of differences in opinion, belief, lifestyle, etc. Art doesn't have to be beautiful and it doesn't have to fit in with the values of the community. Art can challenge people to think. Unfortunately the members of the 43rd District Dems have lost touch with what it means to be a liberal.

Posted by green is as green does

1:08 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Great art promotes discourse, and on that score we have to say the agency picked a winner here!

Sidebar - David, you are a true regional gem. Your coverage of regional issues (like Sound Transit) is what keeps me buying the paper and supporting its advertisers. Balanced, in depth, and fair - in your case, it isn't just an empty expression (as some of our friends on TV would have it!). Namaste.

Posted by Mike

2:52 PM, Apr 17, 2008

This is ridiculous, as per usual of democrats, they are over sensitive to the point of insanity. But it is ok to be insensitive to patriotic needs? BOO!

Posted by HuskyPhD

3:43 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Wow, I thought art was supposed to be stimulating. Isn't that the case artists always make when they produce something offensive, like the Crucifix in a jar of urine? Or a sculpture of Mary made out of elephant manure?

This just goes to show you what hypocrites the "Capitol Hill-types" actually are. They support freedom of expression as long as it's something they agree with.

The artist of the warplanes should find room for an aircraft carrier, too.

Posted by Maurice

6:35 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Van Cleve is a long-time light rail opponent, and worked for years to get an elevated monorail built on Capitol Hill. (One can imagine how well that would have gone over, given all the condos with views up there.)

This isn't so much about art, but rather, one of those famous Seattle grudges.

Also, people who cannot see irony in art should not be trying to judge art in the first place.

Maybe Pat Robertson will now be made an honorary member of the "Fighting 43rd?"

Posted by Mickey

9:23 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Does this tell you all how silly these people are??? Nothing more need be said.

Posted by upchuck

1:04 PM, Apr 18, 2008

"...our little 43rd Democrats look as important as the House Speaker and a former president."

...hardly, in the past their resolutions have been promtly ignored by their very own local dem state reps in olympia.

Posted by Ann

3:39 PM, Apr 18, 2008

Why should all art in seattle be made by local artists? Art can't be allowed to grow if we all worked in silos. Besides, are you saying seattle artists shouldn't be allowed to work in NY? Quid Pro Quo, dude.

Posted by ducttape2

11:48 AM, Apr 19, 2008

What we call Liberalism isn't about freedom of choice and open expression. It is proven time and again.

Traditional Liberalism is about open markets, personal choice and responsibility. These people have hijacked these concepts for the promotion of their "advanced" ideas.

I find it funny that they are claiming this as a cultural insensitivity issue. What culture are the refering to?

Maybe they could put a decommissioned nuke in there instead.

Posted by Thirteenburn

6:53 PM, Apr 20, 2008

Typical of how the collective stupidity of the liberal, whiny, knee-jerk, bleeding-heart, Anti-American Democrat Party is overshadowed and surpassed ONLY by their mind numbing intellectual dishonesty.

Posted by SE Lovettt

10:47 AM, May 22, 2008

I think that's nonsense. This sculpture is challenging their beliefs and offering a chang in perception. They are using politics to get thier own points across. I don't think that is culturally senstive either.

Sarah Lovett MFA

Posted by Brian Wise

2:25 AM, May 23, 2008

I can not see said resolution on the 43rd Dems' website. Where is this resolution, and what is the cite for it?

As a 43rd Dem and an avid supporter of the work, I would sincerely like to find this resolution for the simple, expedient fact of finding out who voted for it.

Please provide a cite, information source, or link to the text and information of the resolution; which, on the 43rd Democrat website, is conspicuously absent from the latest resolutions.

Without that, I'm having a hard time confirming this blog post's assertions; and if the reporter is in fact accurate in his reporting, I will certainly attend next month's meeting, counterresolution in hand, to repeal the former resolution. Or, conversely, condemning self-righteous art criticism masquerading as public policy.

For truly, if one screams "think of the children" at the top of one's lungs, one's no better than Jack Thompson.

Posted by Charlton

11:58 AM, May 23, 2008

Since Conservatives are incapable of making art (or humor), why not appreciate this funny and brilliant parody of the Republican Death Culture?

As we say in New Hampshire, Live Free or Die.

Posted by Eve Enslow

9:39 AM, May 30, 2008

I am writing in support for this project. I believe in art that expresses both the triumphs and the shortcomings of humanity. Far from being a glorification of war, Mike’s design captures both our legacy of war (the burnt out jet fighter base materials) and transforms into our hopes and aspirations for peace. He also embraces the NW passion for recycling – making what is old and unwanted new a beautiful again.
It is sad that those who take action are generally the folks who wish to shut something down. Please also consider all those who have not written, but have clearly represented themselves with their participation and support in the many progressive artistic endeavors of this fine city. -

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