Recently the governor of Maine, Paul LePage, incited a national furor by ordering the removal of an 11-panel mural from the Dept. of Labor. The mural is a tribute to the history of working people in Maine, and includes some powerful scenes, like union protestors being arrested. Overall, the mural does not focus on unions or the Labor Movement, as the artist, Judy Taylor, points out.
LePage’s reasoning is that the mural offends a “handful” of unnamed business people. He also referred to a letter from a supporter who likened the mural to North Korean propaganda.
Robert Reich wrote an article on this horrible travesty titled, “A governor destroys history in the name of promoting business”
You can read more details and get more links here, if you like:
Bangor Daily News on Mural Removal
I was greatly honored when I was invited to give a short speech during the press conference held at the Dept. of Labor. Below is the content of that speech. You can also read it on the following blog, mainelabormural.blogspot.com, which is an excellent site run by Joan Braun and other concerned citizens.
Available on the blog are other speeches, including one given by Shanna Wheelock, a very talented artist and sculptor who drove four hours from Down East Maine to participate:
Shanna Wheelock's Speech
Thanks for reading. What grim and urgent times, when governors in the pocket of big business annihilate the hard-won moral victories of the Labor Movement.
As a final note, let me add that, in addition to removing the mural, LePage is changing the name of the Caesar Chavez conference room to something that doesn’t offend big money.
Sad and disgusting.
My press-conference speech, held at the Dept. Of Labor in Augusta, March 25, 2011:
Money Makes Right
In a travesty of governance, Paul LePage has belittled and dismissed some of the brightest aspects of Maine’s history. In deference to a “handful” of unnamed detractors, who object to some few elements of a visually eloquent compendium, the Governor has opted to dismantle the entire magnum opus, a mural in homage to labor on display at the Dept. of Labor. The artistic excellence of this masterpiece is not in dispute.
As a metaphor, we can imagine a handful of privileged men, who walk into a garden, proclaiming that they do not like several of the flowers. In response, over the shock of the gardener and the general population, every single flower in the garden is plucked up. The garden itself is carved and removed.
The few flowers that are offensive to this small group, in reality represent some of the brightest victories for dignity in human history.
For most of civilization, slavery reigned. After slavery came Dickensian work conditions. We can thank the Labor Movement for uplifting the American people out of horrific industrial sweatshops, what William Blake referred to as “dark Satanic mills.”
LePage and a blinkered few to whom he caters, are attempting to obscure the heroes who ended the practice of children having to toil in crowded, unsafe rooms.
LePage and an influential cadre, are attempting to efface those brave and unquenchable souls who brought us the 40-hour work week and the weekend. The word “efface” means to rub out or erase. Etymologically, it literally means to remove the face from. To deprive of a face.
This is crass censorship at its worst. An attack on a history rich with moral pearls. LePage would crush those pearls and replace them with a brine of obeisance to the lowest considerations, the sad and unsupportable principle of “Money Makes Right.”