Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
When a building is deemed unsafe, as a society we grant ourselves the power to condemn it. If it cannot be made safe, we demolish it, and we use the space it leaves behind for some other function — another, safer building or a green space or a parking lot.
Consider a home that should have been condemned years ago; a home that should never have been built in the first place. The architect had a great deal of passion but no sense of proportion or arithmetic; the contractors ignored most basic principles of construction and used cheap materials to ensure a higher profit for themselves. The zoning permit applications were improperly filed but were granted anyway on flimsy, blatantly corrupt pretexts. The painters and interior decorators had done an impressive job of obscuring the faults and fissures, and from a distance it looked like it fit well with the other houses in the neighborhood.
Several times when people had set foot inside or around the house, however, they had suffered grievous injury or death. And yet the ones who owned the house, who had inherited it from their parents who had inherited it from their parents who had inherited it from the original architect, had learned to negotiate the uneven stairwells and dance around the rusty nails, knew what walls were inexplicably load-bearing and knew never to lean upon them. They had stopped calling them errors and instead referred to them as quirks. So when their upset neighbors would tell them that the house was both an eyesore and a menace, the owners would dismiss their concerns and spin stories of the house’s legacy, of the dreams their ancestors had expressed in the mildewed master bedroom and the wilting flowers planted in the alkaline gardens. They insist that a long history of pain and disaster is no reason to demand any changes of the house, and they will continue to live in it for as long as they wish.
The vast majority of us agree that the above is an absurd scenario — that an ill-conceived and badly built structure, that has already caused a great deal of harm, is continuing to cause harm, and will only cause further harm the longer it remains standing should be swiftly condemned and removed.
When I started this short essay I was thinking specifically about American monuments to the Confederacy — the statues, flags, and honorary names attached to public schools — that we continue to debate for no good reason at all.
By the time I arrived at this sentence I was thinking about much more than that.