I Believe in Graffiti

Meredith - Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
Entered on May 28, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in graffiti. Strange, isn’t it? And no, I have never vandalized anything. But, I have always been intrigued by the people that make their mark on the world, no matter how. It does not matter that the spray-painted letters are in dark alleys where few may see them. It does not matter that this “art” enlightens only the few who randomly pass by. Many believe that this is the art of delinquents, hooligans, and drunkards. But I disagree.

Perhaps hooligans are the wisest of us all. They will be remembered, even if it is for their illegal activities. There are slogans and names scrawled onto walls where they will never wash away, unlike their anonymous artists.

When I see graffiti, I question those disgusted by this “vandalism”. Is there not a tiny prick of awe for graffiti in the bottoms of our souls? Personally, I admire that simple someone brave (or stupid) enough to push at the law just to show what they believe, whether they write “End Violence” or “Down with School”. Either way they are putting a little bit of their souls into paint cans and releasing them into the stiff, conformed world we live in.

If graffiti were not illegal, what would our world be like? Close your eyes and breathe in the sickly scent of paint fumes. The walls of schools and homes explode with color, and even trees twist in alphabetic paintings to the sky. The bottoms of your shoes are printed with still-drying paint, slapping in sticky schhhhleeeeps sounds against the no-longer gray sidewalk. An “artist” darts away into an alley, their painting still shimmering in the late afternoon sun. Behind them an empty paint can clatters onto cement. Can you imagine this world?

Open your eyes. Look out the window. Our world is cleaner, safer…or at least it seems that way. Maybe it’s better that graffiti is outlawed, because then the memories of these people wouldn’t be so…special, if you will. The tangle of remembrances would be like three orchestras playing different tunes at once—it is impossible to hear the hundreds of solos contained in that huge, confused group. We would not feel the rush of admiration for the graffiti artists if they were as routine as the oxygen we breathe.

These artists are not celebrated in art museums, in books, on websites—they are not viewed with admiration. Graffiti is a gritty kind of art, an art that makes me question law, society and everything I thought I believed in. So, next time I see the mark of another human on a wall, I will pause a minute and try to see and hear what they were trying to say. Remember them for splashing civilization with the slightly dirty art of their thoughts and ideas. Observe the illegal arts that struggle up against the paint beneath and above them.

This I Believe.