A matter of months into the terms of office of various far right governors and legislatures supported by the Tea Party crowd, and the beginnings of a new “know nothing” cultural movement has begun to take shape.
Tea Party Governor Paul LePage has had a mural of Maine’s labor history removed from the state’s Department of Labor building, on the grounds that it might make businessman uncomfortable to see the events portrayed. (The full mural, part of which is reproduced here, is now the banner on the web page of the Maine Democratic Party.) Maine businessmen are apparently such a sensitive bunch that LePage also felt the need to erase the names of labor leaders, from Frances Perkins to Cesar Chavez, from meeting rooms in the building. While deeply concerned about the tender feelings of Maine’s fledgling bourgeoisie, LePage refused to attend Martin Luther King Day celebrations, and said of the Maine NAACP, “they can kiss my ass.”
At the blog of the New York Review of Books, noted author Gary Wills compares the removal of the labor mural to the infamous destruction of a mural painted for New York City’s Rockefeller Center by renowned modernist Diego Rivera, after John D. and Nelson Rockefeller took offense at the inclusion of a cameo portrait of Lenin in the painting.
At the same time, Steve Greenhouse reports in the New York Times that right wing foundations have filed Freedom of Information inquiries into the email accounts of labor friendly academics working at state universities in Wisconsin and Michigan. Greg Scholtz, the director of academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors, told the Times: “We think all this will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. We’ve never seen FOIA requests used like this before.”
Is it any surprise that in state after state, including Maine, these Tea Party partisans are seeking to overturn protections against child labor laws?