“Suck it up. Yes the painting does indeed show Orangemen be-decked in Ku Klux Klan garb. Yes it does indeed impose a direct connection and all the connotations of the ‘Klan’ onto the Orange Order with no doubt or ambiguity.
Yes, thanks to modern media, it does bring to mind to even the most uninitiated on the Klan, racism, lynching’s and even the image of an uneducated inbred white man. So what? Suck it up. Its ‘art’. It’s freedom of expression. Don’t be so sensitive.”
No bother. I, as one of the 40,000 plus Orangemen in Northern Ireland, will be annoyed but I already know I will indeed have to ‘suck it up’. I already know that anything perceived as ‘Orange’ or Loyalist or remotely with any traditional Christian connotations is deemed fair game for abuse with impunity.
Total, unequivocal impunity irrespective of context or setting or medium. I already know that I’m ‘bad’. I already know that laws against hate don’t apply to me, indeed most laws don’t (unless I’m in the ‘box’ of course).
I hear the cries already….. MOPE! MOPE!! MOPE!!! MOPE!!! (the derogatory expression ‘most oppressed people ever’- used to cast aside those who take objection to unfair and uneven portrayal of their beliefs). Well let’s examine the MOPE accusation.
Let’s compare this particular image scenario to some other minority groups and organisations and imagine what would be permissible to be hung on the walls of the Ulster Museum in the name of art. Would, for example, a group of travellers lurking behind a fence, the suggestion being they are waiting with intent to divulge an unsuspecting home owner of their possessions, be acceptable?
What if we stay on the Klan theme, and have a nice image of a middle class black American family sitting down to a dinner table of fried chicken and watermelon? Or, and this is a novel one, how about a group of young GAA players juxtaposed with Irish Republican paramilitaries, emphasising the very real quasi political and paramilitary undercurrents in the ‘sporting’ organisation?
(Sorry, scrap that one. We don’t need a painting, we have photographs from Dungiven on Wednesday!). What about a nice big picture of Mohammed on display? I can hear the quotes now from academia, from politicians, from journalists, from the ‘great and the good’ over-class that defines what is acceptable and what is not and interprets the law accordingly….. “Suck it up Islam!!’. As the ‘kids’ says these days ‘NOT!’
Note: I had thought of reproducing the infamous cover of Charlie Hebdo with this piece to illustrate a point. I don’t believe the context would be deliberately to cause offence, simply to emphasise the pre-eminence of freedom of expression et al. I didn’t. I believe it would have been removed. Maybe I’m wrong?
It’s art us thick Orangemen are told. You are interpreting it wrong we are told. Or, as some others tell us, just don’t look at it. On this occasion I’ll set to the side some of the more obvious similes raising their head here in terms of freedom of expression; namely the very different approach towards those who take offence at certain parades, certain music or simply just the presence of something they don’t want. I’ll set it to the side to look more specifically at this piece of ‘art’.
Have I indeed missed the immense subtlety and genius at work in the image? Am I failing to observe some truly deep intellectual commentary on modern society? I’m looking.
All I can see is that someone with exemplary artistic ability has trotted out on a canvas a line thrown out by Irish Republicanism and others who stand on polar opposite positions of Orangeism for decades. There’s nothing smart or clever. It’s an infantile regurgitation of a quasi-political propaganda message, and that in turn makes the actual painting nothing more than a quasi-party propaganda poster.
It’s no better than a German WW2 poster depicting hook nosed Jews. It’s no better than the 19th Century Punch cartoons depicting Irishmen (Green and Orange on many an occasion) as hunched, ape like, thuggish Neanderthals- though at least the Punch cartoons usually had some sort of deeper political comment to make. This ‘art’ is as deep to intellectual comment, as a puddle is to the Atlantic.
I, and the tens of thousands of other Orangemen, and women and children, and our families will indeed have to ‘suck it up’. We know that already. We will just add it to the list.
Unashamed Ulster Loyalist. Marching band activist and band member for over 25 years. Contributor for the Belfast Newsletter and currently studying History at QUB.