Children love quirky things because they are naturally stupid.
Children love quirky things because they are naturally stupid. f11photo /

We need to be clear about this. The gum wall is allowed to persist because it is the essence of that horrible, regressive, politically negative thing we call "quirky." And the reason why quirkiness is so often promoted in our class/racially-stressed society is because it does not draw attention to, precisely, these kinds of real social stresses.

You will find that middle- and upper-class white Americans tend be the biggest supporters, producers, and consumers of quirky activities, art, and architecture. For them, it is a way to be creative without encountering the frictions of the political, the sexual, and the historical. There is no class, no culture, no sexes, no past nor future struggles in things that are splendidly quirky. This is your beloved gum wall.

That disgusting monument exists in the same bad universe as the Beacon Hill Library, a work of architecture that's quirky for a very obvious reason: It was seen as a way to solve the class-related fact that the architects, Carlson Architects (the firm no longer exists) who got the job, the big contract (in short, who got paid), did not represent many of the non-white and working-class households in that neighborhood. Quirky, like the word "excellence" in university and corporate language, is seen to neutralize culture.

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From my essay on the Beacon Hill Library:

Even [a] warmonger like Donald Rumsfeld can be quirky. It's fun to be quirky because it means nothing to be quirky. And something that has no meaning is striving for political neutrality. And political neutrality is the desired result of projects funded by those in positions of power, like developers and pro-business associations. Political neutrality promotes the idea or illusion that there are things in capitalist society that are universal, natural, that can be shared or enjoyed by all with no consequences.

With quirkiness, all classes can come together and be happy doing something stupid (like kids do—no one is born not stupid). How can the gum wall be about race, people might say with confidence? It is just plain zany, plain fun. Exactly, that's why it is about race, and class, and all of the major problems that are politically blocked from finding meaningful solutions. The very absence of these social stresses in quirkiness is their presence.

What is the most quirky thing in Seattle, according to Huffington Post? It is the gum wall.