Friday, February 27, 2009
Drinking the Kool-Aid
OK, I promised some visuals, and here they are: photos from the Obama quilt show, “President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts,” in Silver Spring, MD, at the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Art Center through March 5, 2009.
The quilt show was inspiring for all the sophisticated quilting techniques: We saw fused, pieced, multi-media, and painted quilts. Some quilts looked like pointillist paintings and others like photographs, and still others like graffiti drawings. I loved the quilt entitled “What Dogs Dream of,” which featured a (rescue) greyhound dreaming of being Sasha and Malia’s White House pooch (awwwwwww). The greyhound’s dream was embroidered in a style reminiscent of vintage tea towels. There was also a vivid pieced quilt that was an American flag, but one that incorporating exuberant Hawaiian elements for the stars and stripes. I was impressed by some of the portrait quilts that were painted by artists in a photo-realist style and then machine quilted, which gave the portrait an almost 3-D effect.
I was awestruck by the outpouring of creativity and beauty that the Obama presidency has inspired. (Honestly, I don’t remember our last president inspiring art works of beauty and hope. Wonder why…) One of my friends responded that she just didn’t get the Obamamania… and wasn’t drinking the Kool Aid. I pressed her on this and she explained that the expectations placed on Obama are just unreal. He’s a mere mortal and can’t fix everything. And when people figure this out, they are going to be mighty disillusioned.
A recent Chris Hedges post on fame and celebrity (http://www.alternet.org/story/126497/fame!_i_wanna_live_forever:_how_narcissism_conquered_reality/) on Alternet pointed out the dangers of our obsession with celebrities, and he included Obamamania as another form of celebrity worship. Worshipping at the altar of a celebrity is a passive activity, and worshippers are trying to fill a void within. It’s an abdication of personal responsibility and it’s a dead end. And in politics, it’s a dangerous dead end. Hedge’s concerns are valid and they are the same concerns that my friend was trying to articulate at the quilt show.
The heart of the problem: what is our duty as individuals to pull ourselves out of this mess? What can we do?
Another post on Alternet (Andrew Lam, “We Need Obama to Help Heal the American Soul,” http://www.alternet.org/story/128878/we_need_obama_to_help_heal_the_american_soul/) points out the importance of Obama’s value as a symbol in getting the nation back on track after decades of rampant mindless consumerism, environmental pillaging, and nearly six years of an unjustifiable war. That our collective spirit, as much as our broken economy, needs healing, and an inspiring and charismatic leader like Obama may be exactly what we as a nation need right now. (The body won’t mend, after all, unless the spirit is healed.)
Synthesis of the two viewpoints: Yes, celebrity charisma is dangerous, but if Obama inspires hope in us and we respond by acting on that hope—getting involved in our community, volunteering at our children’s schools, creating a work of art with recycled materials, rethinking our values and priorities, adopting a rescue animal, bicycling to work, planting a victory garden—our collective reawakening will be more valuable than any piece of stimulus legislation that Obama can sign. But the responsibility is on each of us to act and make changes. Obama can’t do it all for us—we have to do it for ourselves.
So yeah, I’m drinking the Kool-aid. I’ll take another glass, please. It’s the only beverage in town.