NPR On Modern America: Lynching Is 'Inescapably Us'

From the home page and the Most Popular list at National Public Radio took up the cause of social-realist art in government buildings on Monday's Morning Edition, and its ameliorative effects at the Justice Department. "This building is a sermon, a hymn to justice, a tour guide is quoted as saying. NPR Justice Department correspondent Ari Shapiro introduces the art as hymn: "That hymn includes verses that are progressive, controversial and even radical."

The main subject of praise is a mural from the 1930s depicting a lynching attempt thwarted by a courageous judge. Opposing lynching is hardly controversial today. But oddly, Shapiro finds a liberal expert who says this exposes "us" in modern America, even if our youngest voters were born in 1990:

"This is art really doing its work," says [Roger] Kennedy. "And it tells us what our country is really like. It's inescapably us: not somebody else, not the founders, not the 19th century. Because what illuminates the scene are two things: the flame of hate in the back, and the car headlights in the front."

Doesn’t our departure from the 20th century matter? Don’t the liberals usually proclaim to conservatives who cling to traditions, "come on, we’re living in the 21st century now?" Roger Kennedy’s accusation that lynching defines "us" is odd in this piece, considering that Shapiro concluded his "hymn to justice" by winding it back around to warm words for Barack Obama’s nominee to head DOJ, a living sign of racial progress:

Eric Holder is set to be the first black attorney general in American history. When he walks through the halls of the Justice Department, he will pass all those murals, reminding him that this is his story and ours, and that his job is justice.

By the way, Roger Kennedy worked for Bill Clinton as director of the national parks, and was an NBC News reporter in the 1950s.

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