I rarely agree with the political perspective of Matt Cunningham, the blogger (paid by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce) behind the Anaheim Blog. Matt’s recent posting of a staged picture of a mutilated teddy bear, which clearly mocked the mourning rituals of Latino families and community members for their loved ones, is an example of how sometimes political rhetoric can get out of hand and cause unintended consequences.
In his commentary Cunningham linked the “death” of the teddy bear he found in a planter at Anaheim City Hall, to calls for district elections by Latinos seeking city council elections that foster more reflective and sensitive representation of the Latino community. He specifically targeted Dr. Jose Moreno, one of the plaintiffs in the Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the city, suggesting satirically, that Dr. Moreno had said regarding the “death of the teddy bear,” that: “this tragedy could have been prevented if the city council were elected from single-member districts.”
Cunningham’s post has generated significant outrage, and hurt the family members who remembered the anniversary of the death at the hands of Anaheim police officers, outside city hall the day before his post.
Cunningham initially answered critics of his posting with the following “note” prior to eventually removing the entire post.
[NOTE TO READERS]: A few humorless leftists have read the post and taken exception, so let me say a few things. I found the teddy bear as is on the sidewalk (the candles being the only added touch) – never touched it, never moved it. This post is satire. The subject is the leftist tendency to feed off of tragedies of violence – to contend they have wider social and political meaning behind themselves and exploit them to push their politics and usually a specific policy agenda. Frankly, I expected this reaction from some of these very commenters, given they lack a sense of humor about their politics.
The post has become a lightning-rod—an example—of the insensitivity of the individuals and organizations Cunningham is paid to represent with his commentary, towards the Latino community. Some have gone as far as to call his post an example of racism. I’ve known Matt for a number of years, and while I disagree with him politically, I do not believe him to be a racist. In this case however, Cunningham has managed to once again demonstrate a lack of sensitivity, and good judgment, allowing his political rhetoric to take control of his messaging on behalf of his client, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.
His removal of the post, and explanation that replaced it, fails to represent any sense of remorse on his part for his actions. By trying to excuse his actions as satire, and those objecting as overreacting, he misses the fundamental lesson he should have learned from the incident. That words and images can be hurtful and that when you hurt someone, you should say you’re sorry, and stop there. That is something Matt Cunningham should have learned in kindergarten.
It is also unfortunate, and possibly telling, that the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce has failed to make any statement distancing the organization from this posting on the internet publication which would not exist absent their funding.
Bottom-line, Matt Cunningham’s Teddy Bear post deserves an apology, not an excuse.
NOTE: Since I initially read his explanation, Matt has revised his post to include an apology which I am posting below.
UPDATED: I’ve tried to make clear there was no hurtful intent, but less clearly stated is that I am sorry for hurting anyone’s feelings. Regardless of my honest intent, it’s clear that feelings were hurt nonetheless, independently of anyone’s politics, and for that I am sorry. I have lost family members. I know how it hurts, and I know the loss of a child in the most inconsolable of all, and I sincerely wish I’d had more awareness when writing the post. I have four children, and cannot imagine losing any of them. I’m sure it’s the same for any parent, no matter the circumstances of the death or the path of decisions made and not made that led to it. But I had absolutely no intent or thought of diminishing anyone’s grief or loss.