Teacher’s Political Paraphernalia Collection Is Unique to Classroom

When entering Tom Musselman’s classroom, anyone can tell it is far from ordinary. On the walls are tacked dozens of political posters; his desk is decorated end to end with political bumper stickers, some overlapping; directly behind it stands a life-size cardboard cutout of John Kerry.

Musselman is an AP U.S. History, AP U.S. Government, and Sociology teacher at Fredericksburg High School in Fredericksburg, Texas. But that’s only his day job. A political man himself, he is also the city mayor.

Although he wouldn’t describe himself as a collector, Musselman has accumulated political paraphernalia ever since he joined the school’s social studies department in 1995. Because he wishes not to present a bias toward one political party or another, Musselman displays local, state, and national signs from both the left and right.

POLITICAL PARAPHERNALIA ABOUNDS in Tom Musselman's classroom in Fredericksburg High School. This grouping of posters hangs directly behind his desk, and shows a mix of local and national campaign signage. The John Kerry cutout to the right is Musselman's personal favorite.

“I get my signs and bumper stickers from the political headquarters of the candidates,” Musselman said. “I have also accumulated some from various rallies I attended for state representatives.”

Adding a personal touch to his collection, signs from his own run for city councilman and later city mayor hang behind his desk. Musselman calls them “the most important.”

“However, the John Kerry cutout is one of my favorite pieces,” Musselman said. “I inherited it from my son who acquired it at a Kerry rally in 2004. It ended up in the backseat of my car when I moved him to Austin. I would like to find a similar one of George W. Bush.”

Other than the Kerry cutout, Musselman does not openly favor any signs.

“I of course have my personal favorites, but as mayor I try to be non-partisan. That is why I have signs in my classroom for educational purposes, but do not have any political bumper stickers on my car or other personal property.”

Aside from strictly signs and bumper stickers, Musselman has also lined the back wall of his room with newspaper headlines and clippings covering the disputed 2000 Bush-Gore election, in which controversy arose over vote counting. Nothing in the room lacks a political touch, and blank spaces are hard to locate.

Musselman has even inspired some of his students’ enthusiasm for political signage.

“A few years ago, a student in my AP U.S. History class made a poster reading “Musselman For Dictator,” which he would hold up during pep rallies,” Musselman said.

On a more serious note, however, Musselman feels the signs are valuable in the sense that they foster political awareness and encourage political participation among teens.

“Having these signs and stickers in my room sparks discussion, and talking gets students to reason about real issues happening day-to-day,” Musselman said.



Street Artist Influenced 2008 Obama Campaign

Designed by Chicago-based street artist Ray Noland, this perfectly outlined work of stencil graffiti depicts Obama shaking the hand of America. While no year is listed, it was presumably done shortly after Obama took office. It’s similar to another Chicago piece featured a few postings ago which portrays Obama delivering his Inaugural Address to the American people.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - Chicago street artist and graphic designer Ray Nolan depicts newly elected President Obama shaking the hand of America in a tried-and-true gesture of trust and sincerity.

Demonstrated by the oldest gesture of friendship and trust in the book—the handshake—this piece is a spot-on representation of the relationship between the president and the American public. It makes no qualms about the expectations of the president, who gives his word to be honest and fair to U.S. citizens with the simple shake of a hand.

Dubbed “the creator of Barack Obama street art,” Nolan’s designs contributed to swells of support for Obama and his presidential campaign in 2008. His most significant contribution was the “Go Tell Mama” campaign, in which a number of materials—posters, buttons, t-shirts, etc—were mass screen-printed with the slogan “Go Tell Mama I’m For Obama.” The campaign was not limited to the streets however, but went viral with an animated video as well. While the campaign had its roots in Chicago, its accompanying images and message quickly spread to other cities like Detroit and New York, making Nolan a subject of mass influence.

GO TELL MAMA - The first poster in the "Go Tell Mama I'm For Obama" campaign initiated by Ray Nolan featured Obama's face surrounded by megaphones resonating with shouts of support. A rally on Obama's shoulders shows supporters picketing with signs containing messages like "Surge of Diplomacy."

Nolan continues to feature Obama in a number of his works, rallying the populace to back the president again as runs for reelection this year.












In this YouTube video, street artist Ray Nolan talks to the Chicago Tribune about his “Go Tell Mama” campaign and other designs featuring Obama. 

Satirical Art Not Always Funny

For anyone who was seeking validation of virtually any rumor surrounding Obama back in 2008, it was handed down on a silver platter, courtesy of The New Yorker magazine.

The magazine’s July 21, 2008 issue featured on its cover a depiction of Barack and Michelle Obama that sparked some serious controversy in the realms of politics and journalism.

Standing in the Oval Office and wearing traditional Muslim garb, turban included, Obama was seen fist-pumping his wife, Michelle, who sports camouflage pants and an AK-47 slung across her back. As if that weren’t enough to hit home the point, an American flag is burning in the fireplace, while a portrait of Osama Bin Laden looks down approvingly at the fist-pump.

RISKY SATIRE - This illustration depicting Barack and Michelle Obama was the satirical cover of the July 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker magazine. Though published in an attempt to alleviate fears about Obama and his presidential campaign, it backfired by perpetuating misconceptions and generating controversy.

Yikes. Talk about confronting a touchy subject. No white elephants in that room. In an effort to put it all on the table, the illustration perpetuates every right-wing stereotype possible to paint the mother of them all: the Obama’s as terrorists.

Drawn by Barry Blitt, the illustration is titled “The Politics of Fear,” and according to a press release by The New Yorker, was intended to “satirize the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.”

The problem? Not everyone gets the punch line.

While the cover was almost certainly published in an attempt to alleviate some of the prejudices and rumors about the Obama’s by making these misconceptions appear ridiculous and absurd, it missed the mark a bit. Somehow ridiculous got a tad too close to real. Considering that a lot of Americans are predisposed to be fearful of Muslims and to associate Islam with violence, especially after the 9/11 attacks, the publication of this illustration seemed a serious oversight on the part of New Yorker editor, David Remnick.

Instead of alleviating fears that many Americans may have had about Obama, this illustration reinforced them. It paints Obama to be a radical extremist, the worst of conservative fears. While it must have been intended to point out the ignorance of people who believed Obama lacked patriotism or was soft on terrorism, it paints him out to be both of those things, and in a complicated satirical way that not everyone understood. This cover is simply dangerous. Sad as it may be, too many people were (and still are) resolutely convinced that the rumors surrounding Obama were true, and this merely provided ammunition for their arguments.

This cover was not supposed to be a satire of Obama, but a satire of the misconceptions about him. But for a satire piece to be truly satirical and have the intended effect, it has to be presented in such a way that everyone can recognize the irony and laugh at the joke.

This one just wasn’t funny.

The Don’t Vote Campaign: It’s A Joke

Now here’s a twisted sentiment.

In short: don’t vote (it won’t accomplish anything), don’t trust anyone (no politician ever utters truth) and advocate anarchism (because a lack of government is clearly the answer to all of America’s political, social, and economic problems).

This graphic and its slogan is used by the 'Vote For Nobody Campaign,' which advocates for the establishment of an anarchic system of government and encourages supporters not to vote to show their disenchantment with the current model of U.S. Government.

This message is courtesy of the ‘Vote for Nobody Campaign,’ a group who calls themselves anti-political—a bit redundant if you ask me. This graphic appears to be their official logo. Apparently lending itself to graffiti art, its gained popularity with the walls and buildings of various U.S. cities.

I might like the man best. The faceless image—Nobody!—adds a nice touch, I think.

Supporters of the ‘Vote for Nobody Campaign’ truly believe that leadership will always do more harm than good, that all government is bad government, and above all, that anarchy is the only method to freedom.  It’s all just so far-fetched. I can’t imagine when this campaign thinks the U.S. Government is ever going to fashion itself on a model of anarchy. With an end goal this out-of-reach, the campaign’s arguments are pointless.

The following is an excerpt from The Anti-Electorate Manifesto, (www.anti-politics.ws) otherwise known as the Bible to these hopelessly disillusioned believers.

“We, the Anti-Electorate, do not believe there is a need for “strong leadership” in government. We are not drawn to “intellectual” authorities and political “heroes.” We are not impressed with titles, ranks, and pecking orders – politicians, celebrities, and gurus. We do not struggle for control of organizations, social circles, and government. We do not lobby the State for favors or permission to control those with whom we disagree. Rather, we advocate freedom. By its very nature, the State does not. Exercise your right to say “No” to the warfare-welfare system. Refuse to vote. Then tell your friends why.” — Wally Conger, The Anti-Electorate Manifesto

Maybe I’m not cynical enough, but I still stand by voting, even if it’s for no other reason than to say you stood for something. These people and this campaign—they’re standing for nothing.

To learn more about the ‘Vote For Nobody Campaign’—and to read everything they don’t stand for—visit their website at www.anti-politics.ws/faq.