It may be a hazy line, but someone has to draw it

by Anthony Montgomery

In a free society, the powers of government are shaped under the pressure of society's own values, conduct and expectations. Many people seem to have lost the ability to discern the difference between artistic expression and obscenity.

Consider the artist Andrea Serrano. Like most artists, he wants his work to be displayed and admired. What sets him apart from most artists is his idea of what is "art." As an altarpiece of his exhibit, Serrano chose a photograph of a crucifix, a replica of Christ dying on the cross, upside down, submerged in a vat of urine.

Even more incredible is that he received a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for creating "art works" composed from human body parts and decapitated heads of animals exhibited in glass vats. This "work of art" apparently captivated the judges of the Award in the Visual Arts program of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art of Winston-Salem, N.C., because they chose it for display and tour.

Consider also Luther Campbell, the lead singer for 2 Live Crew. The group's album, As Nasty as They Wanna Be , has the distinction of being the only album in record industry history to be censored and taken off store shelves after a Florida judge declared it obscene. Campbell was also charged with misdemeanor obscenity after being video-taped at a public concert where he invited a woman on-stage to perform oral sex on him. A second woman followed with the same performance.

In Singapore, the Undesirable Publications Act forbids lyrics with references to drugs or have obscene connotations. In South Korea and East Germany, until recently, the government had to approve every song, book, film or play.

More than 15 states in this country have ordinances already in place, or in legislation, that would require warning labels on record albums containing explicit lyrics descriptive of, or advocating, one or more of the following: suicide, sodomy, incest, bestiality, sadomasochism, adultery, sexual activity in a violent context, murder, morbid violence, use of illegal drugs or alcohol.

Had the Founding Fathers known this sort of subject matter would one day blast over our airwaves, they would've made provisions as to what is acceptable as art and entertainment and what is vulgar trash!

Have we in this society become so calloused and apathetic that we can no longer distinguish between what is good and uplifting and what is shocking and grotesque? As we approach the 21st century, America is in the midst of a cultural crisis. As we citizens of this free Republic continue to ignore all the fundamental rules of human conduct which keep any society free and strong, the tentacles of government will continue to intrude into our daily lives telling us what is best for us.

Are we on the verge of losing our most basic freedoms because of our irresponsibility? Can this country continue to prosper while it crumbles morally? Rome had no enemy strong enough to conquer it by force. The Romans became their own worst enemy and collapsed from within. Are we destined to do the same?

Montgomery is a former UH student and a UH staff member.

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