This month's "Anti-Gun-Nut-Of-The-Month" award is a first. It is not, as usual, an individual "Anti-Gun-Nut" award. Instead, the dubious achievement of receiving this award has been accomplished by a group (and they know who they are): All those who agitated for the mutilation of a water fountain sculpture in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
And why did this sculpture have to be mutilated and changed? Why, because it showed a young person with -- a water pistol!
Twenty years ago, Linda Lee Strong, a local artist, sculpted a bronze fountain for a city park. It shows (or showed, I should say) two of her children having a water fight. A little girl holds a hose. A little boy aims a water pistol at her.
On the NBC "Today" show (8/3/2000), Strong says the message she sought to convey was: "Joyfulness, joyfulness and fun." But, then, after the murders at Columbine High School, many in our country went absolutely -- well, nuts against guns, any kind of guns, for any reason -- indeed, nuts against any thing that might even resemble guns, particularly handguns.
So, post-Columbine, sculptor Strong began to hear "complaints." Letters to a local newspaper complained. Calls to City Hall complained. The Santa Fe Arts Commission wanted the sculpture changed. The fountain was vandalized. Someone wrote "no guns" on the boy's legs.
And what was being complained about was that since there was a drought in the West, the water in the fountain was turned off on a number of occasions. And, since, on these occasions, there was no water coming from the water pistol, this made the water pistol look like -- in the words of "Today" co-host Matt Lauer: "An ordinary pistol"!!!
In any event, to keep a long and unbelievably stupid story short, Strong -- who says that originally she "sloughed off" these complaints -- caved-in. She agreed to saw off her boy's hand and replace it with a garden hose. Ah, yes. We all know How The West Was Won -- with a garden hose, right?
Defending her cave-in to the "Anti-Gun-Nuts," Strong has said many silly and ridiculous things. On the "Today" show, she said that though it took several months and cost $1,700 to sculpt a garden hose, and this was "a pain in the neck," still: "Everything changes.... Life changes, life evolves. And the fountain can evolve as well." She's even admitted: "I capitulated." And she has said: "We all need to take responsibility for the violence that's in the world out there, and this is the way I can do my part."
Well, now. As if all this isn't weird enough, things -- if you can imagine this -- got even weirder when we interviewed Linda Lee Strong. She didn't sound like your typical "Anti-Gun-Nut". And she seemed, at times, to regret her cave-in, though she readily admitted she did cave-in to this "political correctness carried to wretched excess," as the Boston Herald editorially referred to this ludicrous anti-gun flap.
For openers, Strong -- who says she's been a practicing Buddhist for "about 12 years" -- tells us: "You know, I was raised with guns and have about 20 in the house and most are loaded. Why have an empty gun?"
Q: "So, you're not an 'Anti-Gun-Nut'"?
Q: "You believe in the Second Amendment?"
Q: "Then why not refuse to change your sculpture? Whatever happened to standing up for what you believe in regardless of the consequences?"
A: "Well, you've got a good point.... But, I'm not giving up any of my guns."
Q: "So, if somebody breaks into your house, you will not confront them with a garden hose?"
Attempting, at this point, to try and make the proverbial silk purse out of a sow's ear, Strong notes that even though she did cave-in this is not "all negative" since she's gotten a lot of publicity and this has allowed her, as an artist, to re-introduce herself to her community and the world.
Q: "But, this is weird. You're not disagreeing that you did cave-in to the hysteria of the Anti-Gun-Nuts."
A: "No, I agree."
Q: "But, if you now admit -- as you seem to -- that you did all this against your better judgment, but your cave-in has helped your career, you are corrupt!"
Q: "But, again, you said you are not an 'Anti-Gun-Nut.'"
A: "No, I am not."
Q: "OK. Then let me end here by trying to give you a verbal backbone transplant. What can be sawed off can be put back on, right?"
A: "That's true.">[? Q: "So, recant! Say that you've reconsidered. Say that you were bullied by the 'Anti-Gun-Nuts' and went against your best judgment. Say that you've decided that the water pistol should be restored to your sculpture. And if they say no, then tell me them you want your entire sculpture removed from that park!"
A: "I just might. Thank you for calling. I really appreciate your point of view."
Well, maybe she does, maybe she doesn't. We shall see. Watch this space.