Dung-Splattered Virgin Mary & Confederate Flag

Are they the same? Seems to me that both are symbols that can be represent different things to different people. But most folks I talk to think that one (Dung-Mary) deserves its space in a public place, even though it offends many, while the other (flag) should be taken down because it offends many. This seems inconsistent. Or is it OK to offend Catholics but not OK to offend Blacks? What am I missing?

I think the difference is in the “venue” or place where the object is displayed.

Flying a flag over a state capitol gives it an “official” connotation that displaying a painting in an art museum doesn’t have.

By the way, are you referring to one of the “straight dope” columns? Or should this be in the Great Debates forum?

A friend offered this thought-provoking comment on the subject. “Suppose the dung-splattered picture was of Dr. Martin Luther King instead of the Virgin Mary. Would it be roundly denounced as racist by the same liberals that raise the anti-censorship banner because the subject is religious?”
My thought is that he’s probably right.
If so then the dung-spattering itself is not the objection so much as whose image is so besmirched.

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago. —Bernard Berenson.

As one of said liberals, yes, I probably would think it was racist.

And I also would think it was censorship if the Mayor tried to force the museum to take it down.

(and I think this is in the wrong forum)

As I understand it, this particular artist puts elephant dung on everything he does. It’s part of his style. Also, IIRC it’s only in one area of the painting, not splattered all over it. Would you accuse any other artist of drawing on the virgin mary because they signed their painting?

It is too clear, and so it is hard to see.


This is a misrepresentation of the painting. It is not “dung-splattered”. It has a lump of elephant dung used as an element of the painting. It is a mixed media of sculpture and painting by using three dimensional elements in a 2-D forum. It is not like he took a bucket of feces, used a brush, and splashed it all over the Mona Lisa.

Sadly, there probably would be a reaction calling it racist. I wouldn’t. It might be dumb, ugly, grotesque, silly, lame, confusing, insulting, culturally ambiguous, or just bizarre, but not racist. Though Martin Luther King, Jr., would look pretty funny with breasts, IMO. (That is what the lump of dung is used for.)

And I agree with Arnold, it’s not who it offends, it’s the venue.

And this thread doesn’t belong in this forum. This is for questions on Cecil’s Comments. If you have a general question, take it to General Questions. Or Great Debates.

Sorry, I put the initial post in the wrong place. I won’t do it again. If I could move this one, I would.

There is also another difference. A flag actually used as a flag is, by definition, a political statement, especially when it is officially used by a political body.

That flag, flying where it is, amounts to an official government proclamation: “To Hell with all you niggers an’ nigger-lovin’ Yankees; we wuz right!”

When, oh when will the South have the courage to admit that it was wrong and move on? (Not that the North doesn’t have things just as bad to confess.)

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams


Irishman, you’re probably right. And thanks for the update on the actual nature of the picture. We are too often swayed by sound bites that omit relevant detail and shoot from the hip when we shouldn’t shoot at all.

Truth is never neat and tidy. It comes at you from all directions, when you least expect it, and its shirttails are always hanging out.–Warren Murphy

Whenever I hear about that Virgin Mary painting I think about the Monty Python sketch between the Pope & Michaelangelo:

“Why have you painted the last supper with three Christs?!

“Cause it works mate! The two skinny ones balance out the fat one…”

Funny how everyone mentions the elephant dung in that picture. There are also magazine cutouts of pornography surrounding her.

When you go to that exhibit, its not even close to the most “offensive” piece of art. There’s an exhibit of flies in a glass box, with a cow head, there are mannequins of deformed children with phallic shapes coming out of different orifices, etc.

And you know what? It was a fantastic exhibit.

And if they wanted to add a confederate flag to the exhibit, that seems appropriate :slight_smile:

at least it wouldn’t be hanging over a public institution. Come on, get some class.

Moved to General Questions.

Hail Ants: there was actually an event like that. Veronese painted a version of the Last Supper with a dog, a couple of midgets, some Germans, etc mixed in. Was questioned by the Inquisition about it, and finally just decided to “retitle” the painting so that it was a Christ in the House of Levi, instead of changing the picture.

No, it amounts to an official governmental proclamation: “Although we
don’t agree with everything that the Confederacy stood for, overall we are
proud of our heritage.” There is a differance between being proud of
one’s racist ancestors and being proud of one’s ancestors’ racism.

But are people demanding that the American flag be removed from public buildings to show just how wrong America has been?

[Life Cereal mode]I don’t want it. You have it.

I know, let’s give it to David B. He’ll argue anything. [/Life Cereal]

(Sent to Great Debates, like they don’t have enough Battle Flag theads over there already)

Livin’ on Tums, vitamin E and Rogaine

I’m going to pipe in here and ignore most of the thread, and keeping to the original message - address the issue of what is really “dung spattered”.

In the area of Africa that the artist of the work in question comes from, elephant dung is commonly used for sculpting small fetish items and other uses that would usually be dome with clay. However, elephant dung has something better going for it. Unlike clay, it is considered sacred, believe it or not, because it comes from the elephant. Next will we lament clay figures fired in an oven fueled my horse dung or the like? hmmm.

My source - NPR, that pinko commie radio station.

The ignorance of the intended meaning of the dung is kinda racist too.

So, compare as you might, but all you are left with is on the one hand, an icon that is culturally strange to us but not disrespectful in that culture, and on the other hand a symbol that is disrespectful in it’s own culture - the South.

They can feel free to fly the flag, but soon the allegiance to the dollar will win out, as it should be. People don’t vote with their pocketbooks enough, this time they are. It’s not an issue of right or wrong, it is a choice of what people want. If SC wants no tourism, they can fly it all they want. But no one can MAKE African Americans like it, and if they want to boycott, it is their right.

I boycott Disney every year by not going to Disneyland. Why? No particular reason, except it is not my “thing”. Confederate Flags are not a lot of people’s “thing”.

Actually I hope SC flies it until the state goes into an economic depression.

A note about the argument if the painting was of MLK, it would be called racist -
There WAS a painting of the late Harold Washington of CHicago, during his reign, that depicted him in women’s underwear. It was a student show at the Art Institute, it was pulled down by officials (literally) and it was handled in court later.

In this case the issue of racism came up, but in fact Chicagoans in the know, realize it was about homophobia. It was too embarassing and complex to get enough media, the city just wanted to hush it up.

In the case of the Battle Flag flying under the US flag at the South Carolina Capitol, I would agree with the above statement.

But, the Georgia state flag is another matter. It was deliberately changed in the late fifties for little more reason than the “To Hell with all you niggers…” sentiment stated earlier. It was acts like this that caused the Stars & Bars to become akin to the swastika.

That would be Manchester, England.