Archive for May, 2008

The American President

John McCain’s first post primary ad that ends with the line the American president that Americans have been waiting for brings up some interesting issues. First of all, have we ever had an un-American president? Aren’t all of the candidates American? Does wearing a flag pin, made in China, or displaying a plastic flag on a stick, again made in China, make someone more American or more patriotic than someone else?

Harold Meyerson’s column, McCain’s America is Exclusionary, in the Washington Post makes some great points about this. Here are a few excerpts:

Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain’s Americanness by noting that it’s Obama’s story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama’s white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president.

That’s not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, “American” is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats. Such separation has a long pedigree: Campaigning for GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon in 1936, Republican leader Frank Knox said that the Democratic Party under President Franklin Roosevelt “has been seized by alien and un-American elements. Next November, you will choose the American way.”

This year, we can expect to see almost nothing but these kinds of assaults as the campaign progresses. The Republican attack against Obama all but ignores the issue differences between the candidates to go after what is presumably his inadequately American identity. He is, writes one leading conservative columnist, “out of touch with everyday America.” His reluctance to wear a flag pin, writes another, shows that he “has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism.”




Shop Vac Terrorist

Spring has been beautiful here in Norfolk. The air has been cool and crisp and flowering trees and bushes abound. We thought we would take advantage of the fresh air and started opening the windows on the rental house we are living in but they are old and the caulk holding in the glass panes is chipping out like crazy. Mark decided to rent a shop vac to clean it all out and went to the local B&H tool rental to get one.

He came back a couple of hours later having bought a new shop vac. The sales person at B&H Rental told him they could not rent to him without a valid Virginia driver’s license. Being a resident of New Jersey with a valid New Jersey driver’s license was not good enough. The clerk went on to explain that since 9/11 and all the threats of terrorism they would not rent equipment without a Virginia license. 



Old Weird America

I just got back from the opening of The Old, Weird America, a show that includes my Nineteen Lincolns, at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. I had a fabulous time thanks to Toby Kamps the Senior Curator of the show and the CAMH and Linda Shearer the CAMH Director. They threw a great big ol’ Texas BBQ before the opening with music, drinks and great conversation due to the fantastic arts scene in Houston. I didn’t know Houston was so much fun!

The Old, Weird America explore’s the resurgence of folk imagery and history in American contemporary art and examines ingrained cultural forces and overlooked histories. The show features approximately 75 recent paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, installations, and video works from nearly 20 artists and collaborative groups, including Eric Beltz, Jeremy Blake, Sam Durant, Barnaby Furnas, Brad Kahlhamer, David McDermott and Peter McGough, Aaron Morse, Cynthia Norton (a.k.a. Ninny), Greta Pratt, Dario Robleto, Allison Smith, Kara Walker, and Charlie White.

The CAMH also produced an amazingly, beautiful catalog for the show which features work by all the artists and essays by Kamps, Michael Duncan and Colleen Sheehy from the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, where the show will be from August 2008 to Jan 2009.