Responding to the post office mural

Oh, brother, or is it “oh, bother”? Please tell Joshua and his eternal mate to stay away from the South Pacific. There is no room for their narrow view of how people should dress anywhere.

Yes, America has some serious problems when it comes to attire, but it ain’t at Lynden, Washington’s Post Office. It’s in the heart of the person staring or glaring at the wall.

— Warren Pugh, formerly of Lynden

 

I have visited more than 9,700 post offices across all 50 states, and have documented hundreds of works of art created under various agencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

I’m disappointed at the amount of coverage the Lynden Tribune gave to a couple seeking to censor historic artwork at your local post office. Just because Joshua and Dana Parriera are self-righteous and loud does not mean they’re deserving of the promotion of their condescending hogwash. To wit: “Even the people that disagree with us, they’re just uneducated in the fact of where this all leads.” Oh, really? Where, exactly, is this “leading,” given as the “nice and cute conservative town” of Lynden has managed to co-exist with this piece of art for 77 years? I fail to see how the societal fabric of the community has fallen apart. This artwork has not harmed anyone, much less the Parrieras. In fact, they were treated respectfully and given an appropriate, reasoned response from the Postal Service, which is tasked with the maintenance of thousands of similar treasures across the country.

So why is this still up for discussion? The people to whom you have given this “airtime” are basically anti-vaxxers: They object to something innocuous in the name of “protecting the children,” will never accept any response that does not conform with their worldview, and in the end do nothing more than cause irreparable harm to society. (To be fair, in this instance they aren’t actively jeopardizing children’s lives.)

Unfortunately, the Parreiras are merely continuing a troubling trend toward conjuring outrage out of innocuous works of art. Numerous other communities have begun applying their current sensibilities to censor the past. For example, in Oak Park, Illinois, school district officials recently removed a 1937 mural from one of its middle schools — which depicted white children playing winter sports — after some in the community took offense that the art did not “reflect the current diversity of the school and community.” (The outrage has since spread, and two other historic murals deemed unfit for the town’s current sensibilities are also slated for removal.)

This modern-day infantilization of human emotional capabilities, and the baby-proofing of public spaces at large, does nothing to help us learn, grow, or evolve, either as individuals or as a society. It’s possible for some person to conjure outrage over anything, but can we try keeping it to the realm of homeowners associations, where that belongs? There’s a term for situations like this: teachable moments. It sounds like Joshua and Dana Parriera are two people with much to learn.

Perhaps society is actually fine with 80-year-old works of art — odd as they might appear to the modern eye — and the bigger threat stems from erratic would-be censors who seem prepared to physically vandalize a piece of history in the name of their own self-righteousness.

— Evan Kalish, Queens, N.Y.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Parriera contend that the mural, which is significant historically and artistically, is an “example of pornography.” This mischaracterization is laughable. The definition of pornography is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” To clarify further, breasts are not sexual organs.

In an email to Postmaster Brian Mouche, Mr. Parriera suggested defacing the mural by “painting tops on the two topless women in the Post Office of Lynden.” (One must assume that the “topless women in the Post Office” are the women in the mural, not actual women in the Post Office.)

Although Mrs. Parriera claims that those who disagree with her and her husband are “just uneducated,” Mrs. Parriera’s comment was far more offensive than our mural.

She would do well to educate herself regarding the mural. The local postmaster has no authority regarding any changes to the mural. Certainly no local authorities have any influence over the mural, although in their online petition, the Parrieras name Mayor Scott Korthuis and several other individuals as “decision makers.” Initiated in May, the petition has garnered 46 signatures. Prompted by the response of many people in our town, I began my own online petition (www.change.org/p/united-states-postal-service-lynden-post-office-mural-is-great-and-needs-to-remain-as-is), not to protect the mural from being altered, because that isn’t going to happen, but rather to demonstrate that rational, reasonable people are, by and large, opposed to any changes to our mural. In less than a week, the petition I authorized has already had in excess of 1,900 signatures. Clearly, the Parrieras are directing their energies in futility.

— Maria Risener, Lynden