Steve Rose — Objectors to statue need to get a life

10/01/2013 4:20 PM

10/01/2013 4:20 PM

It is difficult to believe that here I am writing for the second time about a statue.

But write I must, because based on what I hear chatted about, this must be one of the most important issues of the day.

The subject is the bronze lady with the bare breast in the Overland Park Arboretum, and the fact that an activist is out gathering 4,700 signatures to trigger the formation of a grand jury to judge whether the statue is obscene.

This would be the second attempt. The first was about a year ago, when enough petition-signers did cause a grand jury to be seated. The grand jury of 15 citizens mulled it over for a day and dismissed the charges.

At the time of the first controversy, I suggested in my column that the city of Overland Park simply move the statue to, say, the Nerman Museum at the Johnson County Community College. If the statue bothered that many folks, then it wasn’t worth the controversy.

But that was then, and this is now.

If a grand jury was called and decided the statue was not obscene, the case should be closed. End of story.

In the meantime, however, the Kansas Legislature, in its meddling wisdom, changed the way things are to be conducted.

In last year’s grand jury proceedings, the Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe was in charge. It was an orderly process. Howe called no witnesses, because he probably never dreamed anyone with real credentials would testify in such an absurd case.

Under the new law, the citizen protesters can create their own circus.

So-called expert witnesses can be called — if they can be found — to testify that the statue is causing great harm to children, that somehow it will leave a lasting negative effect on their fragile consciences.

Even though the statue is “sexting,” it is not going to warp the minds of children. But, I will repeat, it is inappropriate for a public park.

A few words keep repeating in my head, over and over, as I consider the petition-gathering efforts and a second grand jury: “Get a life!”

How could an activist plus 4,700 petitioners believe this statue is worthy of a grand jury, let alone a second grand jury?

Not that this is costly to Overland Park.

The city spent $35,000 on forming its defense in the first grand jury. They will use the same defense the second time around, so it should cost the city nothing more, except wasted time.

I still think the statue should be moved, because it is obnoxious to more than a few citizens. But I would never, ever sign a petition to form a grand jury to judge whether it is obscene. That is way over the top.

Hopefully, if we are all lucky, grand jury No. 2 — even after hearing all the experts and pleas — will decide within a number of hours that the statue is not obscene and is not harmful, even though it may be annoying.

If things turn out differently and the statue is somehow found to be damaging to the youth, that would be obscene.

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