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Cervantes: Expression under attack

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | MARCH 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Feb. 26, a video created by ISIS was released for the world to see. The content showcased the terrorist organization invading the Nineveh Museum in Mosul, Iraq. They then proceeded to deface and destroy several ancient works of art and literature. The film went into great detail to highlight how extremists took up sledgehammers and drills in order to accomplish their task of brutalization, all in the name of their specific ideology. According to a translation done by the Inquisitor, the reasoning cited by ISIS for this defacing is that “The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him.”

It’s hard not to be disturbed by ISIS’s action. In the blink of an eye, more than 3,000 years of history was ruined and vandalized because of a religious association. However, that is not the most disturbing part of this perverse event. The absolute worst portion of this occurrence is that so little people seem to care.

I first saw the video in my Art History class. Afterwards, I immediately forwarded the news to some of my fellow Hawkeyes. While I was disgusted by what was shown, my peers, on the other hand, treated the situation with only the slightest apathetic regard. “It’s just art,” one said. “They didn’t hurt anybody, so why does it matter?”

This attack matters because an attack on any type of artwork is an attack on the entire idea of free expression.

Art is perhaps the greatest form of idiosyncratic expression in the entire world. Not only does art contain the personal feelings of an individual, it also reflects the society and culture of the time. It is a historical snapshot to times that would be otherwise unattainable. UI art-history Professor Joni Kinsey called this destruction “an international tragedy.”

Our greatest value in America is our ability to freely express our views without fear and being able to choose how to do so. Therefore, I find that any form of art (whether it be a painting, sculpture, or work of literature) to be a most democratic virtue. Consequently, for ISIS to partake in such a vicious incursion on the vehicles of expression is, in fact, an assault on the qualities of our democratic lifestyle.

As an Opinions columnist, being an agent of expression is in my job description; I do this so I can prompt others to do the same in the face of adversity. Whenever I see that video, I feel as if all that my colleagues and I work for is under siege. That is, by no means, something that doesn’t matter, for it is a symbolic threat to all we hold dear as a republic. This is as much an attack on us as a people as it is on the artistic world. For some to not notice this speaks volumes of how much of our rights are taken for granted. Hopefully, now we can appreciate the entitlements that come with being born in a democratic society and work toward assisting those less fortunate than us.


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