'A Fire In My Belly'

The big news this week is that in the Senate, the Democrats have joined with the Republicans to pass tax relief contained in an extension of the hated Bush tax cuts. Certainly by early next week, the House of Representatives will have done the same. Thus, the burden overhanging the economy of a huge tax increase is eliminated for two years. After that, it sounds as if our president, if he still is our president, threatens to raise taxes. Somehow he came around to accepting the argument that one does not raise taxes in a slow-growing economy. A few months back, it appeared that in the unlikely event that the senators and the representatives extended the hated Bush tax cuts, our president would veto the bill. Now he has accepted it. Has he learned anything?

His behavior suggests that he has not. He calls the Republicans "hostage takers" whose tax cuts are their "Holy Grail." And he has not a kind word for the Democratic opponents of the tax bill, though he says he agrees with them. This is not a happy compromise for President Barack Obama. He is sticking with "Das Kapital," or the economic logic in it. Well, I shall stick with Rep. Paul Ryan's "A Roadmap for America's Future." We shall see which of the two tomes is more agreeable to the electorate in 2012.

Otherwise my eyes feasted on the news this week that The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is threatening to pull its financial support from the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian's transgression is to bow to objections raised by two Republicans and by the president of the Catholic League to its hosting a video showing ants crawling over a crucifix, titled "A Fire in My Belly." It is now on display for the curious at the New Museum in New York. I shall not be going to the New York showing, even if it were expanded to display ants crawling over the exhumed body of Andy Warhol, though doubtless there would be an audience for it. I wonder whether The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts would pay for it.

The foundation's indignation is but another manifestation of modern liberalism's fundamental value from which it never varies, disturbing the peace. In art, in education, in governance in general, the liberals believe that it is fundamental to disturb the peace, though not the peace of a liberal. To do that is to commit some ancillary crime, a "hate crime," or civil rights violation or some other act of conjured-up horror. If the ants were swarming all over the Quran, it would clearly be a hate crime, and out it would go without The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts' having a leg to stand on.

Actually, the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, did describe "A Fire in My Belly" as "hate speech" and anti-Catholic, though it just as easily could have been pronounced anti-Christian or anti-art. Yet his protest does not trouble The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts at all. "For the arts to flourish," writes Joel Wachs, president of the Warhol foundation, "the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack." Actually, this is the first time I have heard The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts have a go at defending freedom. But if Wachs wants to ship off to Iran to join in the street demonstrations, I shall pay for his flight over there — or to infiltrate North Korea, for that matter, possibly armed with a depiction of ants on Kim Jong Il.

In the course of his defense of freedom, Wachs was interviewed by The New York Times, wherein he said that the Smithsonian "can't just bow to this kind of bigoted attack." Now that shows another liberal habit of mind, the psychological condition called denial. For the creator of "A Fire in My Belly" to portray ants on a crucifix is not hate speech. It is art. For a Christian or simply a sensitive person to object to having "A Fire in My Belly" displayed in the capital with taxpayers' money supporting it is illegitimate. It is bigoted. In essence, Donohue does not exist. Nothing exists save art as defined by a man by the name of Joel Wachs, who thinks ants have aesthetic value.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery." To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief ofThe American Spectator.