The Pose Goes On

In keeping with the Uncle Sam tradition, I chose this spin-off as my next subject.

When you think about it, all politicians DO exhibit a characteristic Uncle Sam pose at one time or another, don’t they?

WE WANT YOU - Channeling Uncle Sam's favorite pose, modern-day politicians use it for the same effectiveness, primarily to encourage citizen involvement in politics.

Looking straight at the American public, they point their promises and emphasize alignment with U.S. citizens. Emphatically swearing to change this, better that, and improve everything, they sound good to eager ears.

Just as Uncle Sam recruited millions into the army, politicians today are encouraging involvement in politics by making citizens feel obligated to participate, else be viewed as lackluster patriots.

Uncle Sam wanted citizens to be on board with America and support the land of opportunity. Modern politicians recall his methods to rally support for themselves and lure the American public into feeling engaged in the political world.

With meaningful expressions (although Obama and Clinton don’t achieve the same level of sincerity as Uncle Sam), politicians remind the public that their votes matter, their ideas matter, they matter. And the people, unaware that this showing is mostly a put-on in modern day politics, naively eat it all up.

Rhyming Illustration Makes Obama Shine

Using the Obama ‘Hope’ poster by Shepard Fairey as inspiration, this illustration shows George Bush and John McCain in the same style, but with less than confidence-inspiring messages.

Bush, in characteristic ‘Bushism’ guffaw, looks rather a dope indeed. And Cain is certainly unlikely to haul in the necessary votes with such a clueless expression, and his prospects of taking office after the 2008 presidential election are summed up concisely with the word ‘nope.’

LINE 'EM UP - In this set of three similarly drawn illustrations, Obama shines next to then President George Bush and 2008 running-mate John McCain.

Only Obama, full of intention and contemplating a vision, shows any promise. He stands in sharp contrast to the two Republicans, which is the primary reason this illustration is so powerful. Bush and McCain look like amateurs next to Obama’s obvious sense of identity and purpose. Obama’s ‘Hope’ poster alone is effective, but stacked up against these two, it positively shines.

Obama is hope personified in this illustration—hope for the people, the country, and the future.

Mixing Old and New

This one plays tricks.

When my eyes first glanced over the images in this picture—and before I’d read the words—I had apparently unconsciously formed the mindset that this would be a propaganda poster about the World Wars or reflect some earlier period of history. I know that I had unconsciously developed this idea because it came as a shock to me that this poster is in fact protesting ‘Obamacare.’

It’s like a time warp: mixing the ideas of today with the design of the past.

WHEN PAST AND PRESENT COLLIDE - This propaganda-themed poster actually leans toward political protest upon closer inspection. Utilizing imagery from the past, it protests a present-day issue.

I’ve decided I like it, although it’s still screwing with whatever portions of my brain distinguishes between past, present, and future.

By no means will I even attempt to delve deeply into the political argument behind this message, however. Health care is quite the sore topic. No pun intended.

In essence though, this propaganda-themed poster satirically suggests that the implementation of ‘Obamacare’ would revert Americans back to a time when rationing was a necessity and citizens were expected to be content with less. In effect, through use of historical imagery, this poster says that ‘Obamacare’ is a step backward, not forward.

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.

Cornered: Street Art Wraps Around Two Walls

Painted shortly after Obama’s 2008 presidential win, this street art in Chicago, Illinois depicts Obama delivering his Inaugural Address to America.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - A street corner depiction of President Obama delivering his Inaugural Address to the American public.

I’m fond of the double-sided aspect of this piece. Up to this point, I haven’t seen street art that wraps around a corner, but it’s an intriguing dynamic. Any pedestrian walking along would naturally wish to see what’s around the corner, and thus the artist achieves his goal of attracting attention to the work.

The custom of delivering an Inaugural Address, or a presidential speech in which the newly elected president informs the public of his intentions as the nation’s leader, began with George Washington on April 30, 1789.

Debatably the most listened-to speech in a president’s term of office, it’s no wonder that the words and phrases used by some presidents are familiar to the public. Here are a few famous quotes from various Inaugural Addresses:

  • “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin D Roosevelt, 1933
  •   “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.” – John F Kennedy, 1961
  • “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan, 1981
  • “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” – Bill Clinton, 1993
  • “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” – George W Bush, 2005
For more famous excerpts from Inaugural Addresses, click here.

Political Signs Become Local Attraction

***Names have been changed to Mr. and Mrs. X to protect privacy

One yard in Fredericksburg, Texas is attracting quite a lot of attention—and not for the landscaping.

At the home of Mr. and Mrs. X, two large signs sit blatantly in the front yard. They’re hard to miss, and townspeople have taken notice.

The first, placed in the yard approximately two years ago, features a picture of former president George Bush waving and the words “Miss Me Yet?” underneath. The second, introduced about a year later, shows a picture of President Obama and reads, “Voted Obama? Embarrassed Yet? You Should Be!”

The first of two politically-charged signs to be placed in the front yard of Mr. and Mrs. X in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Mr. X was prompted to create and purchase the signs after being disappointed by the 2008 presidential election. While he discovered the Bush design through an e-mail thread, he designed the Obama sign himself.

The Obama poster was the second to arrive and was designed by Mr. X. Both signs have now been in the front yard for approximately two years.

The signs, a familiar sight to Fredericksburg residents, are now attracting the attention of visitors.

“Lots of people come by to take pictures,” Mr. X said. “Many tell me the merchants on Main Street are sending them by, like a tourist attraction. It’s actually very difficult to get yard work done on weekends. Everyone wants to stop me to visit about the signs.”

In conservative Fredericksburg, the signs have received a lot of support.

“We’ve only received two negative comments in two years,” Mr. X said. “One unsigned card from a Chicago resident passing through, and the other from a lady I go to church with.”

While Mr. and Mrs. X have been lucky to receive relatively little backlash, both signs have been vandalized once. On the Bush sign, it appears that George may have a pink mustache, while there is a hole near Obama’s eye in the Obama sign.

“Some kids drove by late one night and shot at the Obama sign with a paint ball gun. They missed twice, but hit once in the eye, making a hole,” Mr. X said. “I suspect some kids from down the street marked on George with a Marks-a-Lot. When my wife cleaned it off, the cleaner lightened the picture in some spots.”

The sun, too, has faded the Bush sign from its original bright pink color. Currently, Mr. X is working on a new sign to replace it, featuring both George and Laura Bush with the words, “Miss Us Yet?”

While plans for the new sign are underway now, Mr. and Mrs. X did contemplate removing the signs after about a year of having both displayed.

“To our surprise, everyone we mentioned it to begged us not to because they had someone they hadn’t been able to show the signs to—kin from out-of-town, things like that,” Mr. X said.

So for now, the signs will remain a Fredericksburg landmark. But despite their touristy aspects, the signs deserve recognition as political statements. Furthermore, they foster political awareness and have generated a good deal of political talk in the community.

“We get to meet a lot of folks that come by. All have been fun to talk to and hear their take on the current political situation…even if they keep me from getting my yard work done,” Mr. X said.

Bumper Stickers Target President

This video was sponsored by Veer to the Right, a company which offers a variety of pro-Republican t-shirt designs and right wing bumper stickers, along with other conservative political memorabilia.

Video compilation of anti-Obama bumper stickers: 

As a marketing scheme, Veer to the Right compiled what they call “the best anti-Barack Obama bumper stickers” in this three-minute video. Now, I couldn’t even definitively say what political party I support more, but I do think this video is fairly disgraceful—not because I’m a liberal taking offense, but because I think it’s sad that art, in this case, is used to target someone.

The bumper stickers range from the more popular, such as One Big Ass Mistake America” and “Nobama 2012,” to the less-known, such as “I Hated Obama Way Before It Was Cool.” Another celebrates what could be his last day in office with “1-20-13: Obama’s Last Day!” while yet another cites his supposed lack of experience with:

“What a surprise that a man who served 7 years in the state legislature and 3 years in the Senate is not prepared to be President. What. A. Surprise.”

Others focus on his accomplishments in office, or lack thereof, as this one would have citizens believe: “Why pick on Obama? It’s not like he’s done anything!”

Finally, there’s a number protesting Obama’s policies, such as this protest on his support of Medicaid and other programs for the poor: “Work Harder: Millions on Welfare are depending on you!”

It’s not like I haven’t seen these bumper stickers or variants of them before, but seeing them all together in one long roll is a bit more shocking. One alone can come across as funny or clever, perhaps even despite a person’s party affiliation; in a group like this, they are nothing more than hateful.