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In February the office of the honorable representative from New York’s 9th Congressional District (which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens) posted a Craigslist ad pawning off Triumph of Civic Virtue by renowned sculptor Fredrick MacMonnies. The statue was originally intended for City Hall Park, but was deemed inappropriate and sent to Queens by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1941. Civic Virtue is depicted as a nearly naked muscular man triumphing over two women with lizard-like tails representing vice and corruption.Weiner has been joined by a chorus of other local politicians in condemning the statue as offensive, sexist and a “tasteless piece of New York City history.”
Fast forward to early June and Weiner is engrossed in a “tasteless” sex scandal, joining the club of other disgraced New York politicians: Charles Rangel, Carl Kruger, Eliot Spizter and Pedro Espada Jr. Once thought to be the next likely mayor of New York, his career is all but over having admitted to sending sexually suggestive photographs to at least six women via Twitter, Facebook and email. In one Weiner coyly looks into the lens sitting next to two sleeping cats with his left hand preciously positioned on his genitals. In another he reveals his finely sculpted chest -an athletic physique reminiscent of Civic Virtue – and in the background photographs of him with his wife and other politicians are clearly visible. Others include Weiner in a snug pair of boxer briefs and showing off his erect penis. The amateur quality of these self-portraits are akin to those of anonymous posters looking for sexual indiscretions on sites like Craigslist, adam4adam and manhunt. They are inviting and mysterious, exposing just enough to entice viewers into a coy sexual game. And while they are not meant for public consumption, the internet is a space for revelation and access.
After many years of neglect, Civic Virtue shows signs of decay. The once mighty hero has been vanquished by time and neglect. Yet, despite the cracks and discoloration, he remains a timeless symbol of good government over dishonor and a model for politicians and citizens alike to take noble steps in service to the community. Money should be directed to preserve Civic Virtue as well as promote educational programming so that the general public could understand its timeless moral.
As made apparent with the recent Weiner scandal, corruption and vice are persistent problems in the political arena. The statue honors those who dutifully serve, confirming art as powerful in reflecting national pride and vulnerability. And when it comes down to it, Civic Virtue and Weiner’s career have a lot in common: both are crumbling and may soon amount to nothing more than a pile of rumble.