In advance of the 2024 RNC, a Milwaukee convention center director decided to destroy a potentially MAGA-triggering public display of literary art.
The installation by sculptor Jill Sebastian, created in 1998 when the Wisconsin Center was built, features texts spanning four centuries from a diverse group of 48 Wisconsinites. Included are lyrics from an Ojibwe tribe song, indigenous voices Black Sparrow Hawk and Mountain Wolf Woman, and writers Aldo Leopold, Carl Sandburg, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edna Ferber, John Muir, Lorine Niedecker, Susan Engberg, Zona Gale, Larry Watson, Antler, James Hazard, Folami Abiade, Kyoko Mori, and Lorrie Moore, among others.
Even if Brooks was not driven by a desire to protect GOP convention goers from some imagined strain of “wokeness,” his assertion of unilateral authority to make hugely controversial decisions involving the destruction of art would be worthy of notice. Nor would it be altogether different from other contemporary examples of shameless overreach—from the Texas judge who wants to make an abortion medication unavailable, to the Tennessee lawmakers who voted to expel two black elected representatives for being too brash in their efforts to address gun violence, to the Republican members of Congress who are actively trying to interfere with a local district attorney’s criminal prosecution of former President Trump.
Even if Brooks does find some way to alter the status quo without ripping the writers’ words from walls, it might be a good idea to look into whether he overstepped his authority, for whatever reason. What happened here is important. This is a case in which the public reaction to a questionable decision seems to have been strong enough to turn the tide. There will be many such skirmishes to come.