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Editorial: A Ph.D in vandalism

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An article on graffiti appearing last week in the "Queens Neighborhood" page of Newsday is breathtaking in the arrogance and ignorance expressed by people who spent the better part of their youth destroying other people's property.

The story centers on a pair of self-professed graffiti vandals - they prefer to be called "artists - who are currently on the university circuit explaining to a "younger generation" why graffiti is really "an important means of expression." Lady Pink and Ket, a young man from Richmond Hill, explain the history of graffiti, including how "crews" of boy vandals eventually came to accept a girl vandal. After all, when it comes to defacing other people's property, shouldn't girl vandals enjoy equal opportunity? In fact, Lady Pink sees herself as a pioneer.

But sending these two retired vandals on the lecture circuit gives a distorted view of the problem of graffitti, just as Paul Simon did when he sang that "the words of the prophet are written on the subway walls." To really understand the phenomenon of graffiti, these students should also listen to the people who have spent thousands of dollars removing graffiti from the walls of stores and homes. They should listen to the folks at the Greater Ridgewood Redevelopment Association, which has fought the city's most successful war against graffiti. They have won only because they have made this battle a full-time job. Or perhaps they should meet some of the elderly people who are frightened the ugly scribble on neighborhood walls. But why consider their feelings by when people like Lady Pink or Ket feel the need to commit "art."

We do not deny that Lady Pink has enormous artistic talent. The mural shown in the Newsday story is proof enough of that. Many of the people who do graffiti have talent, although most apparently do not. Most graffiti, including the infantile bubble letters, is just plain ugly. The goal of the vandal is not to create art. The object is to get one's tag on as many walls as possible. When crews ran out of factory walls and bridge abutments, they moved on to storefront gates and then to homes, cars and trucks. When the MTA bought graffiti-proof subway cars, the vandals invented "scratchiti," in which the tag is permanently scratched on train windows. This form of vandalism is so widespread that on some trains it is literally impossible to see out.

Is that art, Lady Pink?

We are dismayed that students at New York University could listen to this pair without challenging them to justify the damage that they have done. We wonder how they might feel if they returned home at semester's end to find the house that their own homes "bombed" by graffiti vandals.Is graffiti an art form worthy of being treated with respect in the ivy-covered halls of America's universities? Like hell.

Thank you, Reverend

Having devoted most of this week's space to two young people who feel the world should be grateful for their vandalism, we turn our thoughts to a man who has truly earned the community's respect. After nearly two decades of service to the College Point community, the Rev. William Cameron is retiring as pastor of the First Reformed Church. During his tenure, this has been a small church with big ambitions. Each week the First Reformed Church has held a free community dinner open to anyone of any faith or no faith in need of a hot meal. The church also runs a food pantry for people who can't make ends meet. And there is the annual dog show and ice cream social.

Rev. Cameron has run the good race.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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