Social Note:
Sacking Sacklers
3 June 2019

ΒΆ I am quite sure that this must have happened at least five years ago: I was walking through the Museum with my grandson when I noticed the sign posted over the entrance to the Sackler Wing. (Which houses, among other things, the Temple of Dristan.) How long can that last, I wondered; for I had already heard of the connection between the Sackler family and the OxyContin/opioid crisis. (I read Beth Macy’s Dopesick last summer.)  It seems to me to have taken the general public a long time to catch up with the embarrassment of the situation. Only this weekend, the Times ran a clutch of Letters to the Editor on the subject.

Should the Museum give the money back? Amazingly, the answers split right down gender lines, with the male writers responding pragmatically while the female writers fulminated radically. (The ladies’ letters were, at least as printed, much shorter. Bam!) 

I tend to side with women on most issues, but here I have to side with the men, almost all of whom pointed out that all the famous museums (and arts organizations) have been enriched by philanthropic fortunes derived in nefarious ways. Would the women really rather go without? Or, as I suspect, are women just a little bit impatient with history? With men’s ability to use it to justify anything?

My solution is very simple: we’ll take your money, but we won’t acknowledge you as the donor until you’ve been dead for twenty years, and then we’ll see how your reputation smells. There used to be a consensus that it was unseemly to erect statues in honor of living persons. We need to rekindle that one. 

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