• Stuart Sheldon

We’re an American Banned

Below is a reprint of my current Family Matters column in the Biscayne Times. My exhibition, I’m With The Banned, opens Oct 27 at Macaya Gallery in Miami. Runs thru Art Basel. Details below.

My two young boys stood on tip toes eyeballing the chocolate-chip banana bread on the butcher-block. The five-year-old lifted the knife and, eyes narrowed like a surgeon, spent considerable time finding the exact center. You can bet his older brother studied the two pieces thoroughly before selecting. “One cuts and one chooses. Can’t be any more fair than that,” I said as they chomped their treats. With an absolutely equal say in the outcome, neither could complain that the system was rigged or in any way controversial. Beautiful Democracy!

Most issues in our household are distilled down to the question of what is fair? In theory, the same applies to our great nation. Each person gets a vote, and the most votes wins. Everyone’s desire equalized. One cuts. One chooses. Not complicated. But these are abnormal times. Currently, a huge number are going to great lengths to make voting far more difficult for some.

These democracy thieves wish to cut and choose.

Instead of making voting as easy as possible for all, a proper democracy, they apply various tricks, fewer polling places, shortened early voting, onerous ID requirements and so on, to keep others from being counted and having their reasonable say. Not fair!

I love America deeply. I feel endless gratitude that my children experience life through our bountiful prism.

But America is sick. And getting sicker. A cancer of false narratives ravages a gullible nation willing to believe what we hear from the mouths of so-called leaders. Roughly 30% of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein attacked the Twin Towers, when he had nothing to do with it. Close to 40% now think there’s something to this “rigged election” conspiracy theory. Why, because those in power said it over and over and over. And facts become irrelevant when savage emotion rules the day.

The Insidious Myth of Voter Fraud, Latex paint, vinyl, paper on canvas, 96×96″ 2016

Voter fraud is another such untruth. The fact is this, IT DOES NOT EXIST. Impressively, only thirty-one credible incidents of voter fraud have been documented out of one billion ballots cast. And still, Republican legislators across America are ramming through laws that disenfranchise … you guessed it … Democrats. Not fair!

It’s happening in our schools too.

Board of Education censors in numerous states continue to keep seminal literature from our kids, stunting the expansion of young minds to innovate, grow and learn. Even Harry Potter has been repeatedly banned for “glorifying witchcraft.” No joke.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, Latex, vinyl, paper on canvas, 96×96″ 2016

Humanity’s greatest calamities stem from false narratives swallowed as gospel by the masses: slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing. Without the medicine of truth and facts, a society rots from within. Just last week, after yet another brutal shooting, my youngest asked me, “Is someone going to come into our house and murder me?” That’s the collateral damage of the perverted false narrative that an abstract “right” supersedes all need for common sense checks and balances.

Two years after Sandy Hook and no improvement in federal gun sense law? That’s not just maniacal, it’s immoral.

How Was School Today? Site specific and video installation, 2016

When we citizens tolerate political cowardice and the current pervasive subversion of truth, we pore poison down our own throats. Flabbergasted, frustrated and frightened, I’m stepping up. As an artist and humble citizen. For the disenfranchised, for my children and for my ancestors who came here, worked fair and square and made a decent life for me.

And for our breathtaking country, because a home does not thrive when liars are allowed to continually lie without consequence. It is no different than two boys cutting cake.

Frightened American, The artist’s blood, charcoal on paper, digital photo by Christopher Irion, 18×24″ 2016

To quote recently deceased Miami street artist, TMNK, aka Nobody, “Art is my weapon.” And the battlefield is my upcoming exhibition, I’m With The Banned; I aim to change minds and drive daggers into the hearts of shameless, lying, mean-spirited people who feel objectivity is something they get to modulate. I will not stand silent as racism mutates from the tool of whisper campaigns into the playbook of an actual political campaign.

We each must scream into the faces of the perpetrators. And by scream, I mean vote! Every eligible person must use the power of the ballot. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Well, it currently needs a bit of bending back towards rightness. I’m putting my shoulder to that effort, and I hope you will join me.

I’m With The Banned opens October 27th at Macaya Gallery in Wynwood – 145 NW 36th St, Miami, FL 33127, (786) 577-0322. The exhibition runs through Art Basel.

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©2020 Stuart Sheldon.