Letters to the Editor: San Francisco’s Taliban-like destruction of a George Washington Mural

Washington mural
San Francisco school officials voted to paint over a historic mural at George Washington High School.
(San Francisco Chronicle)

To the editor: In 2001, the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan dynamited two sandstone statues of Buddha that dated to the 6th century. In 2017, the Islamic State destroyed the tetrapylon and the facade of the Roman theater in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria. (“San Francisco should not paint over mural about George Washington,” editorial, July 24)

Historically, authoritarian regimes have destroyed or sequestered art that they found offensive. But here in America?

Now, the San Francisco Unified School District will paint over an 80-year-old mural depicting the life and deeds of our first president. What’s wrong with this picture?

Wisdom demands that we take a hard look at the degree to which current cultural dictates are, increasingly, narrowing discourse and diminishing creativity and self-expression in our land. Best intentions and genuine sensibilities aside, might we perhaps be at risk of becoming censors and dictators in our own right?


Jeff Denker, Malibu


To the editor: I was delighted to read your editorial in favor of preserving the Victor Arnautoff mural on the walls of George Washington High School in San Francisco, a priceless treasure painted during the New Deal years.

I’ve seen many expressions of public outrage over the San Francisco Board of Education’s vote to paint over it at the cost of $600,000 because the depictions of ugly aspects of our history might offend students, but your editorial did a particularly fine job of identifying the key issues.

The controversy over the mural represents a wonderful “teachable moment” for students. We don’t want to engage in Taliban-like destruction of art in this country.

Glenna Matthews, Laguna Beach


To the editor: I hope we can save that mural for the future.

Why can’t the school district just cover it with drywall and paint every country’s flag except that of the United States and just let the mural be?

Then maybe when this crazy era is over, we can take off the drywall and still have the mural.

Bill Verdell, Los Angeles