Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of graffiti. I understand that they are a form of urban folk art, that they give expression to the talents of those otherwise excluded from the art world, that they are, like rap, authentic indigenous creations, and that their execution takes at least as much skill as was exhibited in some of Andy Warhol's multi-million dollar oeuvres, but I really would rather that the sides of buildings, subway trains, and skylights be left uncluttered. On my morning walk, I go through a tunnel under highway 54 whose walls have for years now been completely free of graffiti. Indeed, when my son, Tobias, took a walk with me through that tunnel on the way to his hotel during one visit, he exclaimed with astonishment that this site, so ripe for graffiti, was completely pristine. I felt a certain neighborhood pride at his remark. I like that barren tunnel, undecorated by local folk artists.
This morning, when I walked through the tunnel [which is always well-lit, even at 5:30 a.m.], I saw, written in bright big red paint, the message Justice for Mike Brown. I have to admit that I was glad to see it. This is a moment when America needs every form of protest it can muster against the police execution of a young Black man about to begin a college career. [No, I do not think that makes it worse than if he had not been about to enter college.] I had never heard of Ferguson, Missouri before this criminal act by a local police force tricked out in their military gear, courtesy of the Federal Government. But I have heard of countless other criminal acts by police forces in every part of the country, so although I was horrified, devastated, and furious, I was not surprised.
I do not know what it takes to get Barack Obama genuinely angry, but if this does not do it, then it is hard to see why he bothers to be President.