Friday, January 23, 2009

In Which In Which I Try To Stop Worrying And Learn To Love The President

Here's the next stage. I've made large area selections for the sky, ground, and water and have added two layers of color using two different blending modes.

Half the fun of this project is splashing around and making the blots. When I found out it was going to be raining yesterday I set some paper out -- museum board, heavy watercolor paper, and some coated stock something like a glossy plate bristol board -- and squirted gouts of black and white tempera on them. Then the rain came and washed the paint randomly all over the place.

The results are pretty darned cool. The museum board took an overall varied grayish tone, there are good blot patterns on the watercolor paper, and the coated stock just needed a good squirt of ink to turn into something interesting. I'm just worried about what state they'll be in by the time they're dry enough to move inside...

It's interesting. My reaction to Obama's election is considerably different from the people around me and it's making me realize just how misanthropic and cynical I actually am. I've always regarded these characteristics as essentially being a form of realism -- but now I am, to an extent, questioning that.

For all the talk of the significance of race in this election -- and I do not mean to diminish this -- I find myself more fascinated by two different prejudices. One is American anti-intellectualism. For the first time in a long, long time the smartest candidate won. Obama didn't pull a Bush-style shuck-and-jive where an Ivy-league son of inherited wealth tries to act like a goddamn yard man. Instead, he made a virtue out of his education and intellect. And it worked.

The other is my own prejudice against authority figures. I have to confess that when watching Obama speak, there is something in me that draws back and prepares for a fight. To see anyone -- anyone -- stand up in front of a cheering crowd and feel proud and comfortable in that situation punches a button in me.

I voted for Obama.

Let me clarify that. This is the first presidential election where I've had the opportunity to actually cast a vote in favor of someone I wanted to see in the White House. Nixon was my introduction to the concept of government and nation. Vietnam, Watergate -- when I think of government, these are the kinds of things that come to mind.

Ever since I started voting, I've always voted against a candidate. It's always a situation where I've said, "Well, Dracula does suck the blood of virgins but at least he's got a better foreign policy than the Wolfman does."

But this time around when I looked at Obama's history and stated policies I found myself nodding in agreement. The way he ran his campaign was exemplary in the sense that it should serve as an example for the future of American politics.

But to see him in front of a crowd, clearly proud of his achievements and reveling in the historical moment that he created...

... something in me said, "Uh-huh. Looks like we got us a president here." And I just don't trust presidents. My whole life I've believed that the main problem facing mankind as a species is that we are hierarchical in nature and the people drawn toward positions at the top of the hierarchy tend to be scum.

The last eight years have done nothing to affect that opinion.

But perhaps I need to step back from that. Perhaps I should consider the possibility that there are leaders who are not essentially predatory or parasitic.

I have decided to tentatively regard Obama's decisions to associate himself with people like Rick Warren as a good thing. While I don't approve of Mr. Warren, his inclusion in the inauguration gave a broad swath of the American populace a reason to feel that they were not being shut out. That's a good thing. Were Mr. Warren to be put in a position to decide social policy I'd feel differently about it but to allow him to recite a little mumbo-jumbo does no serious harm.

I don't know, though. I may or may not be able to conquer my detestation of authority and power. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it. Somebody's got to hate and it may as well be me. I'm good at it.

But maybe I should allow myself to have a little hope.

And just as an aside, I've heard two songs in the past few days that really struck me as appropriate for the way I've been feeling about this -- Pomps and Pride by Toots and the Maytalls, and Ambiguity Song by Camper van Beethoven...

All across the nation people are getting together
From many ideas they form a single goal
Some people gonna benefit and others gotta sacrifice
but everything seems to be up in the air at this time

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