Oy, Tom takes the 'graffiti is a crime' approach and questions Bedoya’s take on how we need to fix the problem


Roberto Bedoya may be the nicest guy in the whole wide world. I don't know him personally but I have heard nice things about him. One thing I am pretty sure about is that he probably has brown eyes because—on one major topic, at least—he's full of crap all the way up to here. (I'm holding my palm, fingers out, up to my forehead. It's a universally accepted form of artistic expression.)

In a recent op-ed in the morning paper, Mr. Bedoya, who is the head of the Tucson Pima Arts Council, briefly decried the vulgar vandalism that struck the historic Fox Theater downtown.

Then he spent the rest of the piece whining the all-too-familiar lament, "Oh, poor babies, what has society done to make them lash out this way?" The only thing society has done wrong in this case is to give knuckleheads easy access to spray paint.

I hate the contention that taggers are just frustrated artists trying to express themselves. What they really are is punks and bitches who can't hang. Sometimes, art isn't even art. But graffiti is NEVER art. Never. No time. Not under any circumstances. Never, ever, ever.

I'm not an art Luddite. I once got three of the five questions correct on an "Art" category in Double Jeopardy. (Yeah, DOUBLE Jeopardy!) I know the difference between Manet and Monet. Edourd Manet straddled the transition between realism and impressionism. Perhaps his most famous painting is Luncheon on the Grass, which features two guys fully dressed in formal suits sitting on a blanket with a woman who is totally naked. (There's a basket of fruit and bread in the foreground so it's not a completely dirty picture.)

I also liked Manet's painting Dead Matador, which shows, you know, a dead matador. It looks like something Norman Rockwell would have done if he had taken too much NyQuil.

Claude Monet was also an impressionist and was a contemporary and friend of Manet's. Monet is famous for painting water lilies. Monet and I share a birthday. I tried to use water lilies as a mnemonic device to help me tell the two apart, but I've never known anybody named Lily and water is too general a topic to do me any good. What I settled on is that Monet did a copycat painting called Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass), but in his, the woman on the blanket is fully clothed. So, since M-o comes after M-a, that's how I tell them apart.

Bedoya wrote, "Is it possible to condemn vandalism and still listen to the message it sends?" No, because the only message it sends is "I'm a jerk and I don't care about anybody else." And who wants to listen to that message?

I have to be clear here. I'm not talking about giant murals that are painted on walls with the owner's express permission, murals that all appear to be derivative of the cover of the first Malo album (the one with "Suavecito" on it). I'll admit that I would be far more likely to steer my car into a self-serve car wash that has a giant painting of a curvaceous Aztec princess on it than one that doesn't. But that's not what we're talking about, is it? We're talking about a burnout with pants that sag because he's got no butt to hold them up writing in big fat letters a nickname that he gave himself.

Do you know how lame it is to give oneself a nickname?

There is always the possibility that Mr. Bedoya was attempting the journalistic equivalent to the sketch that Buck Henry did in the early days of "Saturday Night Live." Henry was playing a talk-radio guy who starts off his show by saying, "Today we'll be discussing the upcoming municipal bond election. Give us a call and tell me what you think."

There's this long, painful period of silence as Henry stares in anticipation at the empty switchboard. Finally, he says, "Okay, we'll widen the discussion to include the races for city council and the mayor's office." Again, nothing. Then he says, "Okay, what do you think about the race for governor?" More silence as he checks to make sure that the phones are working. Henry milked the silence for all it was worth. Each time it lasted longer than the time before and the painful silence squeezed uncomfortable laughter out of the audience members.

He kept expanding the list of potential targets as his frustration and flop sweat grew exponentially. Finally, he screams into the mic, "I think that all Catholic nuns are Communist prostitutes! What do you think about that?!"

Maybe Bedoya was just trying to stir up some controversy with his article. Let the columnist who has never entertained the thought "Wow, let's see how much hate mail I can generate with this one" cast the first stone. But I don't think that's the case. I think he really wants us to look past the defacing and destruction of private and public property and see some tortured soul.

Nope, can't do it. It's a pathetic contention, one that serves only the criminal. Art can be important to a community and should be nurtured. Graffiti is a blight and a crime and needs to be stamped out. Hard.


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