And we may as well embrace it.

The ethical debate borne of the painting of those red goats on them planters way back in the fall is one of those teapot-tempests which the argument over could fill up a whole semester of Philosophy 101. Were they art, or were they vandalism? Were they protest to be protected, or were they transgression to be troubled over? Should their creators be lauded as civic champions, or get the book thrown at them by the courts?

I confess I have thought about this a long time, longer than many more important matters both in civic and personal life and still can’t come up with a certain answer. To those who are sure they are vandalism, I would ask them to consider how much better they look than the sloppy, ill-conceived tags which are showing up on the vast, white, blank, damn-near-irresistible canvasses which those planters undeniably are, and will continue to be as long as they stay blank. To those who are sure they are art, I would ask them to imagine owning a pristine Wimbledon White 1966 Mustang convertible, and then imagine how pissed off they would be if they woke up one morning to find that some jokers spray-painted some freakin’ farm animals on it.

Maybe this was the plan or maybe it wasn’t, but the goats have in the interim between then and now taken on an additional symbolism. Part of this is due to canny Facebook marketing on somebody’s part, but that marketing has worked because the red goat is a great symbol — simple, striking, edgy, easy to remember and easier to associate with a sense of stubborn defiance. People get paid a lot of money to come up with stuff like this, and hereKingstonis getting it for free. (Well, except for what it cost to get them off the planters in the first place and what it’s costing to prosecute those two.)

Which is not to say that guerilla marketing like this should receive blanket endorsement; the rule of law is, after all, the rule of law and if we are to have a reasonably orderly society, its rule needs to be respected much more often than not. Mayor Gallo’s out-loud thinking that the suspects in the case should be offered adjournment in contemplation of dismissal is a good plan; I might go one step further and require the creator to sign over the goat copyright to the city so as to balance the karma.

Yes, I know all about how you’re not supposed to reward bad behavior. But let’s face it — we all know that if the goats are rejected simply because of a scandal-tinged provenance, whatever the putting-things-on-the-planters process coughs up in their place won’t be as interesting, and it won’t have the recognition the goats already have and which money can’t easily or reliably buy.

So, in this dropout philosopher’s humble, albeit long-considered, opinion, let’s let utilitarianism win over deontology this time and go with the goats.