Deep within the halls of the Art Institute of Chicago there is a disturbing painting titled, “That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do.”
It is a work by Ivan Albright, who was born in south suburban Harvey and is best known for another creepy painting, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” prominently featured in a horror movie about a young man who never ages because a portrait in his attic reflects the evil in his soul.
Albright’s lesser known work is equally disturbing, featuring a door that looks like cemetery slab, decorated by a funeral wreath. But what ultimately grabs your attention is the sight of a horrifying disembodied hand sneaking around the doorway on the far-left side.
It’s a rendering of the psychological torture that torments anyone with a conscience. We are haunted by memories of things we should have done and did not do.
I thought of that while listening to a debate last weekend about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Tamika Mallory and the Women’s March.
Mallory, an African-American woman who is a co-founder of the Women’s March, is an enthusiastic supporter of Farrakhan, and has called him the “greatest of all time.” A prominent religious leader in Chicago for decades, Farrakhan is known for spewing anti-Jewish hate speech.
In addition to saying that Jews control the government, the news media and Hollywood, he has claimed they were behind the slave trade and the experimental use of drugs on black Americans.
In his Saviour’s Day speech last year, Farrakhan said “powerful Jews” are his enemies and that Jews are “responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out turning men into women and women into men.”
None of this is really new. He has been saying such things for decades.
What is new is that Mallory, as a leader of the Women’s March, and as someone who claims to be a unifying force in the progressive movement seeking to unseat President Donald Trump and the forces of evil, can’t bring herself to denounce Farrakhan.
And neither can many of her liberal friends in the women’s movement.
In interviews, Mallory has said that just because she supports the Nation of Islam and the Rev. Farrakhan, it doesn’t mean she agrees with everything he says. She emphasizes that he has done lots of good stuff, especially for poor inner-city blacks and those in prison.
That sort of apology for hate speech was common in the 1960s but viewed as unacceptable even then, especially by those who considered themselves enlightened.
Today we live in an era in which supporters of people who voice such beliefs are expected to repudiate them.
When President Trump described some neo-Nazis and Klansmen as “good people too,” he was mocked and ridiculed as a racist. Though there may be people in the Klan who attend church, help the poor and provide jobs for people leaving prison. Republicans who normally stand with Trump were forced to denounce his words.
If a public figure were to say that women had too much power, that working mothers were responsible for youth violence and drug addiction, I’m sure Tamika Mallory and her friends in the progressive movement would immediately recognize such language as harmful, damaging and just plain wrong.
Watching the TV interview shows, listening to the verbal gymnastics of liberals trying not to offend Farrakhan, Mallory and their supporters, I saw something horrifying clawing its way out of a crypt.
You can pass laws against racism, bury religious bigotry under mitigating rhetoric, and carry torches on behalf of equality for all, but that will not kill the hatred that lives deep in the human soul.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said.
That which I should have done I did not do.
Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org.