The Citizen received a press release yesterday from the Sheriff’s Department regarding a poster that was hanging across the street from the main entrance to the high school. The 3 x 4 foot cardboard poster hung 10 feet above the ground and depicted two red stenciled brains, a black line and two, red, assault style rifles beneath. There were no words and no signature. In light of recent tragedies, school staff and law enforcement were concerned about the poster.
On Facebook Jimmy is entertaining his “friends,” of which I am one, with cutting remarks about society. It’s his right to speak freely. Jimmy’s Facebook friend’s were lauding his artwork, deriding law enforcement and calling him a pawn in the latest crack down on free speech in Salida.
Free speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas. Do I stand on the podium for free speech? Certainly. I just danced in the street on Valentine’s Day. Jimmy’s poster represents free speech, but if his message was anti-gun, or peace— his message failed. It was too veiled in it’s meaning to communicate his intent, and that’s where art and speech differ greatly. The symbols he used confused and scared people. In this rural community young children and parents saw guns. Many of the people that were alarmed were tasked with protecting our children.
I am appreciative for artists who help to raise this kind of dialogue, and as a long time friend, I will defend Jimmy as one of the most passionate peace promoters I know.
But, as a parent, the two most important people in my life walk in those doors every morning. In this current political climate, assault weapon art outside a school is threatening. I for one am grateful that the school administrators, staff, and law enforcement took this as seriously as they did.
Let’s be clear about the difference between free speech and blindly defending art, particularly when sinister messages are the takeaway by the majority.
photo credit: Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office