Nothing says 4th of July like painting over a mural of George Washington

Here’s a heartwarming story that will surely inspire patriots across the nation right around the country’s birthday. Out in San Francisco (where else?), there’s a school that has a massive mural depicting the life and times of George Washington. That seems rather appropriate since the school in question is George Washington High School. The mural consists of multiple panels and has been in place for more than eighty years. But it’s 2019, so what are we going to do? Paint it over, of course, because Washington is “problematic.” (Associated Press)

San Francisco will spend up to $600,000 to paint over historical artwork at a public school depicting the life of George Washington, a mural once seen as educational and innovative but now criticized as racist and degrading for its depiction of black and Native American people.

The “Life of Washington” was painted by Victor Arnautoff, one of the foremost muralists in the San Francisco area during the Depression. The San Francisco School Board’s decision to paint over the 83-year-old mural is prompting some to worry that other artwork from the so-called New Deal era could face a similar fate because of changing sensitivities.

Apparently, there is one panel that depicts a dead Native American and another scene showing slaves working in the fields at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Since the artist, Victor Arnautoff, painted the murals directly onto the walls, the mural can’t simply be removed and relocated. So they’ve decided to cover it up in what will literally be a case of whitewashing away the nation’s history.

Yes, Washington was a slave owner for at least part of his life. And it’s true that the newly arrived Europeans engaged in warfare and skirmishes with the indigenous tribes of North America. Those things actually happened. They are part of our history, not all of which is really glorious when viewed through the lens of 21st-century sensibilities. But much like statues and other artwork paying homage to the civil war era, are we to simply pretend that it never happened?

Another aspect of the story that makes this as San Francisco as possible is that they’re spending $600,000 on the project. Yes, you read that correctly. They’re putting up more than half a million dollars to paint a wall. Of course, a lot of that money is slated for the expected legal challenges to the decision, as well as conducting an environmental impact study. (I’m guessing they might have used lead-based paint on the mural?)

Putting a big wall around San Francisco and treating it like Escape from New York simply isn’t a practical idea. But we should still allow them to secede from the union and put a massive wall around the entire state.