Thursday, December 26, 2013

OPD Officer Bossman wants everyone to really look at the Energy Systems mural. We did, and were reminded of the ugly controversy that OPD has reawakened

     Today, officer Mike Bossman (yup, that's his name), of the Omaha Police Department, invited inattentive civilians to really scrutinize the huge mural on the outside of the Energy Systems building at 13th and Webster.
     Some of us already have, and to a degree to which Bossman seems not to have, or he probably would have avoided stirring up a lingering controversy.
     We don't know if the officer has himself lived in Omaha long enough to have earned the right to credibly exhort long-time Omaha residents or natives to pay more exacting attention to local historical facts, but if so, he somehow seems to have remained clueless to the resentment which still simmers in some quarters about that mural that he so high-mindedly invited others to consider in detail.

     For those of you reading this who don't live in Nebraska, Father Flanagan founded Boys Town, the orphanage made world-famous in the 1938 MGM film of the same name. He was portrayed by acting legend Spencer Tracy.
     Peter Kiewit was an ultra right-wing Omaha construction magnate.
     While Kiewit is prominently portrayed at the extreme left of the mural, Father Flanagan is not depicted at all.
     Apart from several Omaha cinema legends (Astaire, Brando and Henry Fonda), who are in a fame category all to themselves, Father Flanagan is one of the most enduringly famous Omahans ever, almost certainly more so than Peter Kiewit, whose company's renown far eclipsed his own and who was never the subject of a popular motion picture biography.
     (Incidentally, if an odds-maker ever asks you to bet on whether Father Flanagan or Peter Kiewit will be declared a saint in your lifetime, do not put any money on Kiewit.)
     Why Father Flanagan was completely ignored by Philadelphia mural artist Meg Saligman is a mystery to us. Although the Kiewit foundation, which funded the mural, may not actually have blackballed Flanagan (as some have darkly suggested) it nevertheless seems to have raised no objections to his conspicuous and shocking absence in a mural which purports to recount even a rough outline of Omaha history.
     The mural, according to the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts:

...tells the story of Omaha’s past, present, and future by featuring historical references, present-day communitites, [sic] and portraying the passage of time...

No comments:

Post a Comment