Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who am I?



The great Nina Simone: Drawing by Marcel Flaubert Creative Commons 3.0

Once on the road with a couple of friends nothing seemed to be on the radio, so I pointed to the cassette player and said, "Does this thing work?" My friend answered, "Yes, but I only have a few cassettes in the car, see what's in the box." I stuck a loose tape in the player and a strong, clear voice from the speakers rang through:
Do you believe in reincarnation
Do you believe in reincarnation
We arched our backs as if at attention: Who was this? The voice continued:
Were you ever here before
Have you ever had dreams
That you knew were true
Some time before in your life
Have you ever had that experience
So you must question

All the truths that you know
All the love and the life
That you know and say
Who am I
I haven't found any reason to believe in reincarnation and yet who hasn't felt a feeling of astonishment on being alive? In the Bible encounters with heavenly hosts were responded to with awe, a close kin to terror. There are quite a number of videos of great performances by Nina Simone at YouTube. Like a few artists Simone could inspire awe. Consider this performance of Feelings--yep that song. Who Am I? was composed by Leonard Berstein as incidental music for a 1949 production of the play Peter Pan.

Early in the week I visited an old friend of mine, in town to assist her father who was having a medical procedure done in Pittsburgh. It was great to see her and to get her take on the presidential election season. She doesn't like politicians, so views it all slightly askew and without any favorites. Her position on voting: "Why encourage them?" I feel more invested in the outcome, which causes feelings of dread in me. Nonetheless both of us think the selection of Sarah Palin makes things interesting and I mentioned my fascination with her involvement in Pentecostal churches. She commented about how many people think Barack Obama is Muslim, but that, of course he is a Christian.

My friend then related that because she's an atheist they both seem crazy to her. The one disqualifying characteristic of a presidential candidate in America is being an atheist.

Questions of identity are tricky. This week the press has spent many, many column issues on John McCain's outrage over remarks made by Barack Obama. The accusation boils down to:
Obama called Palin a pig.
McCain has been posturing himself as a Maverick to Obama's calls for change. All this animal talk has my head spinning. Clearly none of the candidates are anything other than human beings, why then the totemic public identities?

For McCain identifying as a maverick, an unbranded, that is, a wild horse, which can be the property of the first to burn a brand in its hide, it is perhaps a way to turn his reputation for extreme disagreeableness into an asset. We might say to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

The McCain campaign has been running ads to introduce Sarah Palin as a maverick too. But in her convention speech accepting the Republican Party nomination, she donned a different animal metaphor:
She's A 'Pitbull With Lipstick'
So when Obama tied to wrest the mantle of change back from the McCain-Palin campaign ads portraying Palin and McCain as the "true mavericks" in the campaign,Obama said at a campaign appearance:
You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig
It seems clear to me from the context of Obama's remarks that he wasn't calling either Palin nor Mcain a pig, clearly the references were to policies. But I'm not so sure that the subsequent outrage to his remarks by the McCain campaign was "phony" as Obama suggests. There's a ferocity to it which suggests sincerity. So strong is their identification as animals, a horse and a dog, that any talk of animals better be sure to pick the right ones--shades of Orwell's Animal Farm.

McCain's campaign is run by "former" lobbyists. His campaign manager Rick Davis has proclaimed:
This election is not about issues.
Apparently it's about animals and what sort of animal makes for a good president.

Metaphors obscure as much as they reveal. And metaphor is not analogy. Reincarnation looses its sense when one proceeds by saying: It is as if once I were a dog. No the power in metaphor is to be once a dog, even a dog wearing lipstick. But dare not say aloud the plain implication of Sarah Palin's metaphor: "I am a bitch." These animal coats our politicians are covering rather exposing their humanity. Rick Davis perhaps right that the election will be decided by voters perceptions of the candidate's personalities. Dressing up as animals serves to disguise rather than reveal John McCain and Sarah Palin's humanity. But that in itself seems revealing. They are cunning, and hiding themselves from view.

2 comments:

Pingting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pingting said...

preach papa john!

and how about that nina simone!
whew!!