Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Porky Pig in Our Midst

On any given day, the A section of The New York Times contains more than a few remarkable photographs, remarkable in the sense of burning into one's consciousness the zeitgeist of the moment. Indeed, such photos become a part of our collective history, a fact underscored by several ads appearing daily in the same newspaper, offering for sale matted and framed photos it had run in earlier times, even earlier centuries. 

 (I am particularly taken with and often tempted by a triptych showing Lyndon B. Johnson, when he was the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, coaxing wheedling, arguing with a colleague over some long forgotten issue in which LBJ was attempting to get a vote assured. Three panels, reflecting the process of politics in operation.)

In today's issue, January 29, 2008, of The New York Times, there is a photo of such magnitude as to make anthropologists, historians, politicians, and the likes of Joseph Campbell and Mircia Elliade slather. The photo is of George W. Bush, lame duck president of the United States, bearing the enormous grin of triumph, having just delivered his seventh and last SOTU speech before the combined members of the Senate and House of Representatives. 

 Not only does he appear with a sushi-eating grin, he is surrounded by a group of individuals who also appear to have snatched sushi from nearby trays. They are congratulating him. They are to some extent acknowledging his valedictory, his accession to lame-duckness; they are also congratulating themselves for having been a seven-year co-conspirator in the man's looting and plundering of the U.S. Constitution, the persona of America, and the middle-classes of America. One appropriate caption for this photo might well be: Circular firing squad, SOTU, 2008.

If you did not know this man, this lame-duck; if you did not know these others to be United States Senators and Congresspersons, you would think, my, my; what a group of attractive, impressive, middle-agers. Surely, you would think, they seem fashionable, neat, bright of eye and demeanor. They could be scholars, moral and ethical leaders, captains of industry, perhaps even scientists .
Wrong, of course.

America has no indigenous criminal class, wrote Mark Twain, unless you consider Congress.

In what may seem a mountain goat leap of logic, I now introduce the fact that as the new semester begins at the university where I teach, it is possible to visit the university web site, enter my log-in information, the chose to see a roster of students enrolled in my classes, including their photos. None of these photos is as transformitive or sociological as the one in The New York Times of which I speak. 

 One such student, had he a line of numbers across his chest, might have come from a mug shot; another might have looked like a fugitive from a rap band, and yet another from a Stamp-out-gangs poster. This last turned out to be one of the more gifted and all-around pleasant persons I have met in some time. Which leads me back to the point.

Beyond the notion of not being able to judge a person from his or her looks or a book by its cover, or the quality of the pearl by the shell of the oyster, the point is that there are individuals bopping around among us who in many ways have some control over our collective destiny, men and women who believe in strange things. One of the United States Senators fro the State of Maine, for instance, believes the surge is working, Al Queda is on the rout, we are safer than at any time in our history, and that the economy, while possibly experiencing some anemia at the moment, is robust. There is a former Governor of Arkansas (no, not that one) who believes the world is only six thousand years old. There are those who...well, you get the picture.

This transcends Red Sox vs. Yankees fandom (go, Sox) and reminds us that there are about us nutcases, man and women who are the equivalent of army ants in the service of some ism or ology whose goal is to protect the queen, and the queen is not a person, the queen is the row of dials and prisms and mirrors behind the curtains in the emerald city of Oz.

We, too, are in service, feeling the pull of an ism and ology and acy; it is democracy. It is particularly, I believe, the democracy that allows us to line up our respective hopes and to focus our sense of love, duty, and the price of admission for having become a part of a democracy to the vector of, in this case, Barack Obama.

Back for a moment to the photo in today's NYT: those smirking individuals are part of a valedictory which, by its very definition, is a salute to what has passed. They are already adding yet another miscalculation to our sense of what democracy is; they are writing the future's historical take on them.

Wrong again, folks. But, happily, Th-th-that's all, fuf-fuf-folks. Or to be more cruel, in like the uniter, out like Porky Pup-pig.

Senator Obama calls our attention to the potential for realizing our future. (Are you listening, Sen. Clinton?)

Whatever happens next, we will have had this moment and this flare-up of hope, articulated so well yesterday by yet another United States Senator, who happened to be in the neighborhood and who dropped in to deliver some talking points and some thinking points.

For these moments early in 2008, we once again have a Pole Star by which to navigate.


R.L. Bourges said...

ok. But once we've said it; and felt it; and fought to get rid of those or others just like them; once we've yelled, screamed, wrote words for others to yell and scream, written amendments to legislation; campaigned - ah, never mind. What then? that's all. What then?

Unknown said...

I'm so glad Miss Lee pointed out this post, Shelly. I've stopped by your place before, but you speak with an eloquence that I quite frankly find intimidating, and you scared me off! However I'm glad I came back. You, TIV, and Lee are all making me curious enough to get over my disgust for politics, and to try to sift through these candidates a little more logically than before. Thank all of you for that.

tut-tut said...

Senator Clinton needs to leave President Clinton at home, if she wishes to get her points across. The enormous surge behind Senator Obama makes me realize we are at a true crossroads.

Lori Witzel said...

Words fail me.
Hopefully images won't.

Much reminds me in this splendid post of that amazing mugshot of Tom DeLay:

What is it with these guys?
Shameless !@#$%^&*!

(An aside for Square1: don't be a-scaired, and keep your eye out for Captain Spaulding...)

lettuce said...

our interest over here cannot of course be entirely detached from our own interests

but it is interesting to watch from the outside

(giggling about chicken tourqemada)