There has been a Roman controversy on social media going on over the past couple of weeks. I have been passively witnessing it, and I have decided that these three images perfectly summarize the essence of Rome, and Romans.
It all started with street art. Those of you who have visited Rome but did not venture far from the tourist hotspots might not know this, but Rome is overrun with graffiti. It is everywhere, and most of it is stupid tagging. However, there is also a decent amount of street art, and this most recent mural by the artist known as Maupal is no exception.
As you can see, the mural depicts Pope Francis playing tic tac toe with peace, while a Swiss guard looks out in an effort to warn him of anyone approaching.
Here’s the thing. The mural was drawn in a nice neighborhood, very close to the Vatican. Despite the fact that one could argue that the mural is not painting the Pope himself in a negative light, it was deemed too offensive to be left standing, and against the public decorum. Within one day, the city had it removed, and people documented this removal with outrage.
This is censorship and hypocrisy, Romans declared. We live in a city covered in graffiti, and the city doesn’t do anything about it so long as it’s in the neighborhoods that the tourists don’t see. But a piece of art? One made by our own “Roman Bansky”, close to the Vatican and that the Pope doesn’t like? We can’t have that! Remove it immediately! Government pushback to free expression in the guise of “maintaining pubic decorum” is also a sad truth of Rome, and something that Romans feel is what is holding our city back.
But the, of course, this went up a few days after that.
That’s Roman dialect for “Whatever, we’ll paint another one anyway”.
And there you have the essence of my city, perfectly summed up in 3 images. 1. art and expression. 2. Government hypocrisy, let’s not rock the boat with anything too controversial, despite the fact that we don’t work for the Vatican, completely forgetting that controversial art is part of being an international capital city. 3. Whatever man, it’s going to take more than that to shut us up!
This is my favorite social media controversy of the week.