The veil of innocence
Andrew Rebholz | Tuesday, February 12, 2019
“Cowardice at best” is how Grant Strobl ended his fiery letter last week regarding the covering of the Columbus murals. Strobl argues that those murals play a pivotal role in our University’s history — a history so shaped by love in the face of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant bigotry that we still call ourselves the Fighting Irish — and that covering them shows not only a gross preference for a small minority of students on campus, but also a general lack of faith in the student body’s intelligence, as if our weak and flighty minds could never understand the subtleties of the artwork and would only be harmed by its existence.
This is why, after sending his letter in to The Observer’s editor, Strobl and hundreds of members from the Young Americans for Freedom took action, signing a petition to cover the coverings that’ll be covering the murals. Offended by the coverings’ existence, these students demand that they be covered by yet another set of borders.
Of course, this caused a chain-reaction. Ellie Dombrowski, having recently sent a column into The Observer herself, began making a ruckus with a number of students to start covering some of the most in-your-face aggressive images of Catholic identity on campus. In her article, defending inclusion, Dombrowski asserted that the crusading evangelization of Christians has gone too far in the classroom, and thus, her new petition to cover Touchdown Jesus isn’t at all surprising. Surely, if the University is to at all make up for its oppressive parietals policy, such monolithic images of God’s patriarchy will have to go. But, well, they physically cannot go, not easily — hence the covering.
Such requests have left University administration members scrambling, as anyone who’s ever seen SAO function could probably have guessed. The amount of covering needed to hide all of these sacred spots could possibly extend beyond even our University’s budget (yeah, I know, it’s that much). University President Fr. John Jenkins has admitted to compromising in certain circumstances, for example covering Moses’ hand with a foam-finger so that nobody looks up toward the heavens, or decorating the top of the dome with a golden wig and scandalous clothing so that we all might just refer to her as “Madonna.” These concessions have been tacitly accepted by most protestors, since any effort is appreciated when millions of dollars are being expended to have helicopters 24/7 hold a tarp up around the basilica.
Hopefully, this all works out. I personally believe it’s an excellent idea to cover up the things we’d rather not look at — that’s gone well for everyone who’s ever tried it, right? And, of course, Strobl couldn’t be more wrong in his op-ed. What need do we have of history that hurts us? I (again, personally) loathe looking back on the times where I’ve struggled, times when I’ve had to grow, tried to improve, or at least had to acknowledge that my limited view of the world was imperfect. That’s why I hate coming home and getting into political discussions with my roommates. When one of them mentions the border, I just throw a blanket over his head and head to bed.
I think it’s a great thing to cover everything that scares us, everything that is difficult to reconcile with. It seems safer to hide from the pains of the past — after all, keeping them in the mind’s eye simply makes them pains of the present, no? I truly believe that if we can just quell all the noise trying to break into our little bubbles, we’ll finally be free of all that suffering, all the worries of history and the world and identity and meaning and such. I’d rather do that than ever have to acknowledge the serious questions, like what it means to be a Catholic university, or Catholic at all, or why any of us should bother living in the first place or what to live for. Those all seem like time-taking bothers, or conservative politicking and whenever those thoughts creep into my head, I try my darndest to cover them with something distracting, something so empty and void that I’ll never have to truly consider the beauty in the world’s light and darkness ever again.
I call such distractions my veil of innocence.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.