Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well aware of just how polarized American politics has become. It seems that you can't look anywhere these days without seeing some sort of a political spin applied to even the most mundane of daily activities. Everything from Dr. Seuss movies to Christmas trees has become fodder in the never-ending, supercharged, back-and-forth drama that is American politics. The 24/7 media blitz of talk radio and cable news seems to have only exacerbated the problem, as pundits spew hateful rhetoric that depends less on journalistic integrity and more on sensationalized entertainment and doomsday predictions. We have become a society where we prefer to listen to the man/woman yelling at us the loudest through their microphone instead of considering the quiet, steady reflections of level-headed and thorough thinkers.
But this rhetoric isn't limited exclusively to the spoken word. Though political rhetoric does depend greatly on the vocalization of a particular viewpoint, artwork too has an important seat at the table. Whether taking the form of cartoons, posters or campaign ads, the visual image is arguably the most effective and important arrow in the quiver of both partisan and politician. An inspiring painting, a poignant photo, a stirring motif, all have the ability to rouse the soul to higher (or lower) levels of thinking than almost any discourse or poem could hope to accomplish. As the saying goes, a picture really is worth a thousand words!
And sadly, some “artists” have embraced this reality to the point of virtual insanity. Case in point: Jon McNaughton. My Mormon friends are probably more familiar with McNaughton's ilk...er..."art" than are others. As a devout Mormon, his "art" is often a feature in stores like Deseret Book and (until recently) the BYU Bookstore (that is, until BYU became too "liberal" for the uber-sophisticated McNaughton and banned his crap). To put things as simple as I possibly can, Jon McNaughton is a troubled individual. He has taken what I would consider to be a truly remarkable gift (painting) and used it for nothing more than to make a series of cheap, lame, classless, tasteless, mindless, heartless, pointless, idiotic, rude, obscene, hateful and downright pathetic pieces of political propaganda. See for yourself:
Of course, for some, this "art" probably seems like an appropriate summation of "reality." To those of such sentiment I will simply say this: I don't begrudge you your right to your own political views, nor to I deny the fact that Mr. McNaughton has some real talent, but please, for the love of Karl Marx, QUIT BELIEVING EVERYTHING YOU HEAR ON THE DAMN RADIO!!! For once in your life, set your political beliefs aside and consider the following: 1.) Is Jon McNaughton's "art" uplifting in any way, shape or form? 2.) Is Jon McNaughton's "art" the type of stuff that invokes peace and harmony? Or does it breed anger and contention? 3.) Would Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Theresa or any other remarkable person of great character choose to hang Jon McNaughton's "art" in their home? Or would they not even give it the time of day? If you can answer "yes" to any of these three questions, then chances are you probably hate my humble little blog for its "socialist" leanings and have already de-friended me from Facebook for being an evil fascist. That's ok, no hard feelings. Chances are you haven't even read this far into my post anyway, so you won't have the chance to hear me say, "I just won the Mega Millions jackpot and want to buy you a new car!"
The truth of the matter is this: Jon McNaughton is not the problem, but is the SYMPTOM of the problem. McNut...er...McNaughton is the end result of a society that has diluted its political discourse to little more than short, apocalyptic soundbites bent on spreading fear and hate for the "other guy." McNaughton's "art" is essentially a fancy political bumper sticker that tells the world, "My political views are better than yours. Na-na nana boo-boo" Simple-minded men like McNaughton are easy prey for all of the Limbaugh's Hannity's and Beck's of the world. They feel the "call" and begin their "quest" to "save" America from all that is evil in society, which, coincidentally, just happens to be everything found on the other side of the political isle. This is how they can justify creating "scary" pictures of evil, liberal Black presidents burning the Constitution, destroying our freedoms, and receiving the heavenly rebukings of Jesus Christ and our Founding Fathers (while, of course, those of conservative leanings are showered with the gifts of eternal life and always being right). American politics at its best!
We live in a world where religious fervor and political passion are virtually synonymous, so much so that it can be difficult work to separate the partisan politicians, priestly pastors, and philosophical professors from one another. And this convoluted mess has created a labyrinth of confusion that makes almost any sincere political discourse virtually impossible. Any rational or thoughtful inquiry is rendered completely helpless to the impenetrable wall of the prideful partisan mob mentality. This is precisely where Jon McNaughton resides. He is not a critical thinker. He is not a valiant voice crying in the wilderness. He is a bitter, hateful, silly little man. This may sound too harsh or hard but that's ok. I'm sure that Mr. McNaughton is familiar with the verse from the Book of Mormon which states: "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." Besides, most hate-mongers rarely if ever realize that they are hate-mongers. They see themselves as brave voices of change who are misunderstood by the "evil" majority of their day. In addition, they usually rationalize their hate by appealing to religion as a justification for their actions (i.e. the KKK, Civil Rights opponents, etc.) But these weak appeals to religion serve as nothing more than temporary salves for their cankered souls. Hate, no matter how it is camouflaged, will always be hate.
In conclusion, if given the chance to meet him face-to-face, I would simply say to Jon McNaughton's the following: Don't give up on your passion for politics. Don't give up your religion. Don't give up on your amazing artistic talent. But please...PLEASE spare us this pointless nonsense. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain with the "art" you have produced as of late. As a professional artist, I am guessing that you are probably familiar with the RIDICULOUS work of one Andres Serrano. If not, let me introduce you to him. He is the IDIOT "artist" who created the "Piss Christ." The "Piss Christ" is a picture of a crucifix that was submersed in the artist's urine. According to Serrano, the purpose of the "Piss Christ" was to "get people thinking" and to "question what we believe." Shockingly, this pile of nonsense was even sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. Not shockingly, the public saw the "Piss Christ" for what it really was: cheap shock value nonsense masquerading as sophisticated "art."
And though you haven't urinated in any of your own art (more like vomit than urine), isn't your political "art" essentially the same thing, Mr. McNaughton? Like Serrano, didn't you also say that the purpose of your "art" was to "get people thinking." Aren't you just wielding your brush as a weapon of mass DISTRACTION that does nothing but piss people off? You may have avoided urinating on your art itself, but you have certainly pissed all over President Obama. Again, I don't begrudge you the right to your political views. You are entitled to believe what you want to believe. But is that really what you want to call the fruits of your amazing talent? If so, I pity you. But, if not, I look forward to your other art...your REAL art. The good stuff that I would be more than happy to display in my home:
“In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal.” -Thomas Jefferson