Students who passed the corner of 12th and Merchant Street last Wednesday may have noticed some politically charged graffiti on the northeast corner’s sidewalk. The topics ranged from a perceived police state to this year’s tuition increase. And with a quick spray from a water hose, the latest attempt at political subterfuge in Emporia was relegated to memory. Chalk just doesn’t stick.
There’s a reason politically conscious graffiti artists use paint. It tends to resonate, due in no small part to the difficulty in concealing it. The vandal(s) who laid an impressive claim throughout Emporia Tuesday night chose perhaps the flimsiest mode of dissidence one can imagine. It is difficult to take a message seriously when the medium is reminiscent of an 8-year-old’s doodling in the driveway.
The Bulletin does not condone wanton vandalism. We do, however, believe that politics is something that should be taken seriously. Clearly, the chalk graffiti was based in strong conviction. Maybe it spurred some introspection on behalf of the student body. Hopefully people thought about what was portrayed and how they might be implicated.
The message was not very clear, however. Are they implying that Emporia State is a police state, or simply that one exists somewhere? Are we to assume that a protest against the tuition increase is forthcoming, or is it merely an amusing thought? Is this all symptomatic of the New World Order they clearly think exists?
The messages lacked a precision and depth. They were nothing more than ad hoc slogans that one could find at the nearest Hot Topic outlet store. One shouldn’t spend much longer than a few seconds attempting to decipher the code.
It’s important to understand that there is no separation of medium and message. Our friends in the communication department will attest to that. Graffiti is a particular kind of message that relies entirely on geographical placement and context to garner meaning. Not only was the “vandalism” not very creative or compelling, it was an embarrassment to the perceived level of political discourse at ESU.
Rather than involving students and faculty in frank discussion of school policies and larger, conspiratorial phenomena, we are relegated to the functional equivalent of hop-scotch as protest.
It’s not even clear at this point whether the “artists” were students at all. But we encourage the vandals to come forward and speak up. Own your politics. If you have something to say, then say it in a way that can’t be erased by light rain or a stiff breeze.
For the rest of us, we can learn something from last week’s act – don’t become a parody of yourself.