3 big questions we should all be asking about this painting in the halls of Congress.

It all started with a congressional art contest.

The winner would get to display their painting in the long hallway that connects House office buildings to the U.S. Capitol. It would be seen by thousands of people, including some of the most powerful in the country — members of Congress, staffers, lobbyists, and visitors.

David Pulphus, an 18-year-old student in the Missouri district represented by Rep. Lacy Clay, won the contest with his striking painting of a violent and tense clash between police and protestors — a nod to the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that garnered national attention in 2014 after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson.


As promised, Pulphus' painting was displayed in the hallway of the U.S. Capitol complex, where it hung for seven months. Then things got interesting.

For better or worse, the painting has become the centerpiece of a complicated conversation about race, power, and the role of art in politics. The painting depicts police officers as pigs. Literally. (Actually, they're more warthog-ish, but that's just my interpretation.)

Some police organizations took issue with this depiction and asked, in a strongly worded letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, that the painting be taken down. Shortly after, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) took it down himself. Then Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) put it back up. A few hours later, two other Republican representatives — Dana Rohrabacher and Brian Babin — took it down again.

If the point of art is to get people talking, here are three big questions we should be talking about:

1. First, what really is "offensive"? And what should you do when you're offended by something?

If you're a police officer, being depicted as a pig is probably offensive to you. That's fair. Likewise, you'd probably want to speak out against any narrative that all police officers are bad or inherently violent or racist.

If you find the painting offensive, however, consider this: Is the painting more offensive or horrifying than the number of unarmed black people gunned down by police officers every year? Isn't it totally reasonable and completely understandable for black Americans to want to express their feelings and speak out through protest, the written word, or visual art?

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

When members of Congress took the painting down without the permission of the colleague who hung it up, that was a declaration that their point of view on the issue — that the painting is offensive and police officers shouldn't be depicted looking bad — takes precedence over Pulphus' right to express how he feels about the police.

When one of the most powerful people in the United States government calls an 18-year-old's painting "disgusting," he contributes to the kind of active silencing that Pulphus' painting speaks out against.

2. What kind of art should be in our congressional halls, anyway?

The halls of our Capitol are where history gets made and where the giant machine of government operates (in theory). Presumably, the artwork in those hallowed halls should reflect the best of us.

There's definitely something to be said for not wanting to hang a painting that depicts a moment in our history no one is proud of. If that’s the case, though, those speaking out against the painting should hold all of the art in the Capitol complex to the same standards.

It kinda makes you wonder why those same people haven't done anything about these giant marble statues of racists and slave owners:

3. Is it possible there's a larger point being missed?

Maybe? Just a little?

All this quibbling over whether the painting should hang in Congress means no one is really talking about what the painting actually depicts.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The unrest in Ferguson happened after the shooting of Michael Brown and escalated after a report found evidence of racial bias in the town’s policing. That’s a real problem that people — especially black people living in Ferguson — were right to be mad about.

It's also a problem with some tangible solutions. If only the people fighting over the painting had some sort of power to introduce or support legislation that could address it. If only! Perhaps their time would be better spent doing that rather than playing hide-a-painting with their colleagues in Congress.

What we have here is a sobering reflection of the state of conversation around race relations in the United States, and it reminds us why we need art like this so badly.

One side is voicing frustration about the violence and distrust he sees in his community, asking only for someone to listen or to see what's happening. The other side frames it as an attack on police officers who are simply trying to keep communities safe. It's not really about the painting — it's Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter condensed into a petty quibble you might have with a roommate.

So make no mistake: The fate of this painting is important. Not just because it will settle this particular argument, but because it will set a precedent for what the government is willing and ready to pay attention to.

Ask yourself: If members of our Congress can't even stand to look at a painting, how can they be prepared to take on the complicated and sensitive work needed to heal the divide that the painting represents?

If art exists to raise questions and ignite discussion, than this painting has gone above and beyond. Maybe that was the point. Art has a way of getting under people's skin and getting them to talk about things they might not have otherwise.

Art has a way of revealing the truth.

There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

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