A Child Shall Lead Us

From Holden:

With all the recent discussion of the lack of respect for the First Amendment displayed by America’s youth, this is certainly an uplifting story.

Jeffrey Eden devised his award-winning project less than 30 minutes after his high-school art teacher asked him to express a thought or two in a three-dimensional way.

So, in the wake of last year’s polarizing election and the war in Iraq, the 17-year-old built an abstract scene comparing President Bush’s war policies with Adolf Hitler’s pillage of Europe.

The student’s diorama-like assemblage juxtaposes Hitler quotes with Bush statements, Nazi swastikas with American flags, desert-colored toy soldiers with olive plastic figures. And so on.

Eden said he’s trying to point out certain similarities between the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the German blitzkrieg – without actually equating Hitler to Bush.

In this, the success of his project is debatable.

Nonetheless, it has earned the Charlestown student a silver key at the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards. It has also tested the contest’s commitment to an overriding principle: that students should be encouraged to express their own thoughts through art.

The piece, titled “Bush/Hitler and How History Repeats Itself,” triggered a complaint soon after it was displayed at a store with other award-winning entries last week.


The store refused to remove the exhibit, but the store did attach a disclaimer. The views of the artist do not represent the store, it said.

“We don’t censor art,” said store owner Hershel Alpert. “We’re not in the business of censoring art.”

Eden hopes to study art after he graduates from Chariho Regional High School next year. Eden said that although he supports U.S. soldiers, he believes the invasion of Iraq was unjustified.

The recent election in Iraq has not changed his views.

“At the time we invaded we did not have the justification nor the intelligence to take him (Saddam Hussein) out the way we did,” he said.

Eden thinks the work is comparing Hitler and Bush – not equating them.

“I felt I was clear about what I was trying to get across,” he said. “I believe those who misconstrued the artwork didn’t take the time to really read into it.”

His teacher, Lynn Norton, believed he got his point across. She gave him an A.

The artist is too charitable. Jeff thinks that “those who misconstrued the artwork didn’t take the time to really read into it.”

I think they are willfully ignorant.