Pawnee’s Heritage Murals


[Click on to enlarge]

I had the chance to catch up with several seasons of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation”. One of the features of this classic comedy which satirizes government is the notoriously objectionable murals which hang in the City Hall. The one posted above illustrates a time in the history of the town in the series called “Pawnee”. Anything  or anyone strange was imprisoned at the Pawnee Zoo including a Jewish man visiting the town for the first time.

The following quotation is from NBC’s website devoted to the murals from the series:

“Unfortunately, the muralist chose to depict a rather disturbing and isolated event in the history of the zoo: in 1914, a Jewish ornithologist who was headed for the Mississippi River took a wrong turn, and wandered into Pawnee looking for directions. The mayor at the time had never seen a Jewish person before, and, believing him to be some kind of rare alien creature, placed him in the zoo’s abandoned otter cage.

A few days later, the residents of Pawnee received confirmation that this was merely a human being with a different heritage, and let him out with great apologies. The mayor even invited the man to settle right there in Pawnee for good, an offer which the man politely declined.

Yes, it is a harsh image, but ask yourself: would it sway your opinion if you knew the mural was painted by a Jewish man? (It wasn’t.) Also, lest you feel that Pawnee as a town was unfairly cruel to Jewish people, there is evidence that people from many other religious minorities were also put in cages: Catholics, the Amish, and Unitarians, to name just a few.”

There is probably a cage for many of us at the Pawnee Zoo.

For the fun of it take a look at


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