Something old, something new,
something borrowed, something blue
--Victorian Good Luck saying
His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him
so he's got to buy the best,
cause hes a dedicated follower of fashion
--Dedicated Follower of Fashion, the Kinks
We have seen the best of our time.
Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all
ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves
--King Lear (Act I, sc. ii), Shakespeare
Obama is riding the nostalgia express. Take a look at the young uns' today wearing peasant blouses and checkered pants to get the idea. Probably a lot of tunes on Obama's iPod feature samplings from the 70's and 80's. And the nostalgic craze is just that deep; it's a fashion statement. Though his watchword is "change," it is a retro kind of change promising to herd you and your country to your better self, which presumably means pre-Me Generation bloating.
Throw in the too-cool facts like his announcement of running mate via text messaging (oooh), and you can't beat it. He's new, but he's old school too, but not too old. If he wore the checkered pants they'd be Brooks Brothers or Burberry's, though definitely not chav; McCain's would be back of the closet, with moths flying out.
The Baby Boomers are high on the same nostalgia, but for them it is for themselves. All things 60's + Dr. King find their embodiment in the person of Obama. Such solipsism is rarely a problem for the ever-egotistical Boomers. Complementing such unreality is Mr. Obama's partner Mr. Biden, who is every Hollywood West Wing inhabitant you've ever seen: smiles and tanned, for miles and miles.
Within 10 minutes of the Democratic convention last night I heard references to lynch mobs, the March on Washington, Civil Rights and the statement that with Obama, we finally have the realization of Dr. Martin Luther King's efforts in the 50's and 60's and someone who will pick up the Civil Rights torch in the 21st century.
This is insulting to every civil rights worker of the last 50+ years. What about Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who oversaw the implementation of so much civil rights legislation? What about every civil rights advocate, black and white, who laid it on the line, and every president since who has enacted legislation to serve underrepresented and oppressed populations in the U.S.?
I resent the simplicity of the message that Obama is the quintessence of the Civil Rights era, ergo, Obama = Change. He offers naught but a bromide, riding the coattails of great orators like MLK. Once one gets behind Obama's soaring generalized rhetoric, there is no particular message of change.
The next patter is no better. Today, McCain announced his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Ms. Palin has been governor for a little over 1 1/2 years. Her previous governmental experience was as two-term mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of 6,500. But, she is a white woman, and the country has just dealt a killing blow to Hillary, a white woman with a sizable base, albeit for the other team. But those disillusioned Hillaryites may become switch-hitters, something which McCain may be hoping for.
Ms. Palin is, well, pale. And young. On the scales of many voters, adding her age (44) + his (72) / 2 = a reasonable balance. Qualities the McCain ticket offers are: all-white, ostensibly maverick, a bit of a change (the other 50% is represented) yet still properly medieval regarding things like abortion rights. Ms. Palin sports funky black geometric glasses, giving the same young-hip vibe as Obama. Hip as Alaska gets, and there is something quirky about Alaska, plus there is oil up there.
But if the Republican party really wanted to cover some bases, why not a black woman? While you're there, why not go whole-hog? Lay on with the niche groups: woman of color, lesbian (Cheney surely couldn't disapprove) -- the possibilities are endless. One could really pile on in the p.c. department. At 44, Palin is hardly many years Obama's junior. The republicans need something completely different.
Since matters of state importance are scuttled to the periphery, matters of no consequence become the focus. Gender, skin color and plasticity and age are the things most occupying this Nip and Tuck sort of viewing audience.
Since neither candidate has successfully brought matters of national import to front and center, pundits focus on the messenger, rather than the (absent or inadequate) message. For McCain's supporters, as with Cheney's, his hoary bearing gives him gravitas. For Obama, his alterity alone says "change". By virtue of his chromosomes he is different, right?
Then to the wives. McCain, who in choosing his current wife Cindy has done what 90% of American males would do given the chance, is branded a golddigger, an unforgivable offense in a male, especially an alpha male.
Some white liberals figure they will flatter Michelle Obama by referring to her attractiveness, or at least, acceptability. They note that "at least she is not wrinkled." Some went so far on the complimentary to scale to say things like, Obama better watch out or their white selves would give her a run for her money.
Ditto white women on Obama. Because, y'know, Obama's clean and bright, to quote running mate Biden. These are two blacks who probably do not harbor HIV, separate as they are from their brethren who accounted for 50% of new AIDS cases in 2005 (CDC Bulletin). They are not the one's at whom President Bush's "Healthy Mariage Initiative" is aimed -- the almost 70% of unwed mothers who are black. The Obama's are acceptable blacks, blacks with whom we might even have relations. Though most of us do not.
Racism is as omnipresent in 2008 as it was in 1950. That Michelle Obama is attractive is only in comparison to her nappy-headed sisters. That is why white men feel it is such an impressive compliment to say they would go for her; the implication is, she is not your run-of-the-mill ho, who they most certainly would not consider chasing.
Or at least she's not an old white woman, like Pat Nixon or Lady Bird Johnson, let's say. (It is a given that a Babs Bush of any age would not be a contender.) Crones of any color are also the butt end of jokes in this racist, ageist America.
To make such a statement belittles not only women but black women in particular. It seems the best we can say of her is that she would elicit a sexual response in members of the opposite race. She can be an unwitting receptacle for the male, not even one of her own choosing. She should be flattered.
However, this is the appropriation of the slave body in yet another guise. Reverse the claim and see how it plays: a black man says of a white woman that her husband better be on the lookout, because he's on the prowl to get some of that strange stuff. It is the reverse of the Mandingo fantasy, and we are looking to eradicate that, no?
If coveting the female body is the highest form of praise men can offer, then we are at square one the evolutionary table regarding gender relations; forget race. This isn't politics, but it is the subtext of politics. The politics of gender and race is the issue in this election, an election in which foreign affairs should be the focus.
Obama and Biden, McCain and Palin. Tokenism--no great achievement for EOE.