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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, January 12, 2009

Look Behind You

After all the millions and millions of visuals we accrue as human beings in one lifetime, you would think that photographs would slowly erode in their ability to intrigue us -- but they never ever do.

Take this instantly iconic visual of the surviving US Presidents alive in January 2009, including one soon-to-be-President, whose meeting this was his idea.



I don't know about you, but the only thing I can think of when pouring over this photo, is, "brilliant".

What a stunningly rich piece of history this is, and so dripping in details that one can spend hours looking at it, and still gain some insight into the minds of these very disparate men.

I know many people think that life is artifice, and attitudes can be faked, but let's put away the cynical mantle for a moment, shall we? It's one thing to go through life with blinders on, but when you can't trust what life gives you in front of you sometimes, that's when it's time to step back and take a deep, clearing breath.

For example, is it mere coincidence that President Jimmy Carter is the one gentleman whose body language screams "lone-wolf"? He is not comfortable amongst these men, and seems the lesser for it, almost as if he cannot let bygones be bygones. He's noticeably aloof from his nearest colleague, President Clinton, a fellow Democrat, therefore probably placed there deliberately.

Perhaps he realises that the "stink" of anti-semite, or at the very least, of heavily favouring the Palestinian cause makes him one unpopular cat to be ranged against.

It's telling, don't you think, that President-Elect Obama doesn't want any part of that, and has left the honours to the always gregarious President Clinton. However, the latter is practically nudging shoulders with the outgoing President Bush, who apparently has become a phone buddy to old Bill Clinton.

In what is described by the New York Times as "presidential small talk", these men often turn to their immediate predecessor (and consequently, their once bitter political enemy) for lengthy chats about the métier they once shared in the Oval Office. Some become fast friends, and perhaps President Carter is signalling how much he misses his own dear pal, Gerald R. Ford, who died last year. Maybe the gap is a subconcious allotment for him.

And yet one can easily imagine the genial Gerry Ford perhaps leaning into Bill Clinton, that Michigan running back physique of his complimenting the other men, who are all noticeably taller than his buddy, Jimmy's.

Carter would still be the odd man out, I fancy.

Let's examine the other Presidents. There is old George Bush to the far left, in a pose amusingly similar to a little boy called to his Headmaster's office. A shy smile, his hands in his pockets (unusual for the always proper GHW Bush), but with the easy openness of a man very comfortable in his own skin, which belies the fact that he too is an one-termer like Carter.

I'm immediately reminded of that hilarious Simpsons' skit which featured Carter and Bush Sr. trying to gain entry into a place, and being denied access because they were one-term Presidents. Carter goes over to Bush in the skit, and says something like "can you beat that?". "Get away from me. LOSER." How cruel is that ultimate yardstick of American measurement, winning or losing?

Skipping over Obama for a moment, we have the current President Bush in the centre of the photograph.

In one of the unsung characteristics of his personality, he's diplomatically asked everyone to wear the colour of tie of the other Party, to further show Mr. Obama that solidarity is on their minds, not precisely politics.

In the video of the event, President Bush Jr. speaks a few well-chosen and heartfelt words to President-Elect Obama, but continues to be his jokey, garçon eternel self. He fidgets, and jerks, and grimaces to the camera, in a way that makes some people go ballistic in hatred over him -- because for one, they do not take him seriously since he doesn't seem to.

What they fail to realise is that it's not that he doesn't take himself seriously, but that a man born to his privilege usually would, and he considers that almost despicably snobbish. He overcompensates for that, by his herky-jerks of self-deprecation.

They will never understand him...

And yet, one can't help but think that overall, the man who elicits so much hatred rarely, and I do mean rarely, exhibits any of his own towards anyone. He never once, in 8 years of the most astounding amounts of vitriol ever targeted towards one US President, lose his cool.

If Hugo Chavez practically called him a coward, a snake and a fink to his face, he didn't bat an eye. When Australian parliamentarians shouted abuse a few feet away from him, in their chamber, he praised the democratic spirit of free speech which allowed it. When an ex-Baathist journalist hurled not one, but TWO shoes at his head, he didn't take offence. In fact, he couldn't have been more forgiving and gracious.

I suppose that is the legacy of the Bush presidency no one wants to talk about -- that you can say what you want about the man, about his politics, and his decision-making, but few people can fault him about his even temper. He comported himself with an equanimity, and an inherent sense of responsibility about his Office, that would've frazzled lesser men. If Mr. Obama doesn't think much of President Bush as a politician, this other part of Bush the man he would do well to emulate.



Then we have President Clinton.

Apparently, he looked down lovingly at the Oval Office carpet, and said in loud enough tones: "I love this rug!". It's hard not to wonder just what exact memories he had of that carpet, and if they featured any kind of steamcleaning.

Never mind.

His broad, bear-like body practically fills the void left by President Carter on his side, who one blogger amusingly said stood away from Bill as if he had cooties. Look at that smile. Yes, he's always been at-heart a real big phoney, but he's still also a very likeable guy. Think about him what you will, but you can't take that away from him.

And this word, "likeable", finally brings us to President-Elect Obama, seen leaning into President Bush Sr.

Given my unadulterated dislike of his politics, I think those of you reading this may have to reach for some smelling salts after reading what I have to say about him.

Because I cannot tell you how much I like Obama in these series of photos. I mean, look at him: he's fantastic.

A young, handsome, elegant man, with the weight of the world about to lower itself unto his shoulders, and yet looking for all the world as if he just found four really great guys to hang out with, and he's loving every minute of it.



That's the kind of confidence I like to see!

That's the incipient bearing of a President of the United States, without artifice, without advisors, just him in front of the camera, letting his body language speak louder than any stump speech.

I adore this photo because it allows me to lower my defences for a moment, and become complicit in this act of solidarity with these ex-Presidents.

I too want to like this guy, and feel he's on my side. I want to feel proud of him. I want to be able to reach across that bitter aisle, and say, "I didn't choose him, but he's mine now."

Putting away the rancour of the past year, I can already approach this Barack Obama chap with the toothy, delightfully boyish smile, and see a President of the United States before me.

If nothing else, this photograph sets the right tone for Americans.

A new beginning is dawning on January 20th, 2009.

But you know what? There have been many many January 20ths in our country's history. Each one ultimately yielded highs and lows. This new presidency will too. And at the end of the day, whether it's in 4 years or 8, another man or woman, will stand amongst these men and be greeted in exactly the same way Obama is.

The message will be identical as it is above.

No one can do that job alone. Watch him closely, sure. But we're all behind you, Mr. President.

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14 Comments:

  • Guys, thanks for waiting for me to come back. I have decided not to blog about what happened to me, but rest assured that everything has turned out okay (toi toi toi).

    Monday will be my first real day back to the swing of things, so I will keep blogging light. I updated the missing days with three posts, for the sake of continuity.

    Many, many thanks to those of you who said I was in your prayers. Hey, they worked. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 12:42:00 am GMT-5  

  • As always, you have our love, support, and respect Victoria. I'm glad all went well...whatever it was! :)

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Jan 12, 02:18:00 am GMT-5  

  • I'm just so glad you're back Victoria. I haven't the time to read through your posts just know, but promise I will!

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Mon Jan 12, 03:15:00 am GMT-5  

  • In one of the unsung characteristics of his personality, he's diplomatically asked everyone to wear the colour of tie of the other Party, to further show Mr. Obama that solidarity is on their minds, not precisely politics.

    Erm, Obama is a Republican?

    Because I cannot tell you how much I like Obama in these series of photos. I mean, look at him: he's fantastic.

    I completely disagree. In the pictures, and particularly in the television footage, Obama continued to strike me as insufferably arrogant, as well as insecure (two characteristics that often go together, of course). I fear the man is going to be an even bigger failure than I had anticipated during the campaign.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 12, 04:41:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria,
    you managed to put everything I feel about these pictures into words ... When you're not around, you are missed. Glad to have you back.

    By Blogger Ms Calabaza, at Mon Jan 12, 06:24:00 am GMT-5  

  • As always, you have our love, support, and respect Victoria. I'm glad all went well...whatever it was! :)

    Thanks, Ron! I so appreciate your kind words. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 11:23:00 am GMT-5  

  • I'm just so glad you're back Victoria. I haven't the time to read through your posts just know, but promise I will!

    Hey, thanks, Chickenlittle! :)

    They are not too onerous, on purpose. I'm easing us all back into the saddle, gently.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 11:24:00 am GMT-5  

  • Erm, Obama is a Republican?

    It's funny you mention that. Look at him: the man can wear a Brooks Brothers suit as if he were born into it, and he looks more purely conservative than either of the two Republican Presidents flanking him.

    Whereas Bush Sr. has a gorgeously aristocratic pinstriped suit, and wears it with the insouciance of the manner born, his son is business-like in a more sensible cloth.

    Both the Bushes look absolutely comfortable, and the most Presidential of the five men. It's uncanny.

    Obama looks like he's trying hard to "belong", but I tell you, he's already more there than Clinton (always too flashy) or Carter (perpetually downhome).

    As an aside, I can imagine Bush Jr. telling his fellow Presidents about the tie colour thingie as a surprise for Obama, who obviously wasn't informed. Obama only has one red tie, the one he wore at Grant Park and when he and Michelle went on the exploratory tour of the WH, so his choice was a foregone conclusion.

    I completely disagree. In the pictures, and particularly in the television footage, Obama continued to strike me as insufferably arrogant, as well as insecure (two characteristics that often go together, of course). I fear the man is going to be an even bigger failure than I had anticipated during the campaign.

    You know, I saw on that day what you are seeing here. Obama was clearly trying hard to look the part, and since he's naturally arrogant, he can't do so humbly.

    However, I have pray that he's a quick study and will surprise us.

    IOW, I'm trying my best to have...hope.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 11:32:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria,
    you managed to put everything I feel about these pictures into words ... When you're not around, you are missed. Glad to have you back.


    Aww, thanks, Ms. Calabaza! I have a lot more inside, but it was overkill for one post back. :P

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 11:35:00 am GMT-5  

  • Hiya Victoria -

    Thank you so much for this very well thought-out and well-written post on your blog.

    As I always said, I will continue to respect the office of President to which Barack Obama was elected.

    I am not sure that I would want to be in his position for all the tea in Boston, China or India. He has a tremendous amount on his plate.

    I heard part of President Bush's news conference and I read about it. It has to be very bittersweet for Dubya to leave. I think he is very even keeled and easy going. Perhaps because he is a Cancer (July 6). Here is a description of their personality types:

    A crab is able to walk or run sideways. Similarly, Cancer natives can sometimes "move about" in life, in a figurative sense, in an indirect manner. The crab's body is covered by a carapace (shell). Cancer natives are self-protective and sensitive, and often retreat into themselves when hurt. Crabs are able to resist changes in the environment, thereby protecting themselves from hostile elements in various habitats. Similarly, Cancer natives are thought to avoid too much change, and to be on the defensive. Crabs have "complex behavior patterns" (1). The inner world of Cancer natives is thought to be rather quirky and complex. Some crabs "conceal themselves by decorating their bodies with plants and animals" (2). Cancer natives tend to try to blend in with their environments, preferring not to make a big splash in life.

    Perhaps that summarizes why President Bush was the way he was. I gave him a lot of credit for staunchly defending his ways and policies the past 8 years.

    I wish President-elect Obama success with the initiatives he has planned. It'll be a tough road to hoe....that's for sure.

    Again, thanks for your post.

    May you be well....and live life large, Victoria.

    To 2009 -

    Peggy DaValt

    By Blogger Peggy Gero DaValt, at Mon Jan 12, 04:34:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Is Obama as tall as you thought he was?

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Mon Jan 12, 08:49:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Chickenlittle:

    No.

    :)

    I was thinking that exact thing just a second ago! Funny that you remembered that from Althouse.

    George Bush Sr. is still the tallest guy in the room, even though he must've shrunk a bit since his Presidency. That says something about just how stately he always was.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 10:09:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Peggy, it's funny too that you mention his star sign. Like many people who talk about such things, I don't exactly believe in astrology. In fact, I don't at all. I believe in free will.

    But one has to be blind not to see that there are uncanny characteristics tied to the topic.

    I am the archtypical Leo, as are Clinton and Obama. There is just too much there there to dismiss it offhand.

    Even if I didn't know that Bush was a Cancer, I could've guessed. People born under that sign are carousers when young, who settle into a studied passivity bordering on the boring when older. In gentler terms, they are homebodies, a little lazy, but driven by a sense of inferiority that often can seem dynamic. They also hate people who put on airs.

    That is Bush 43, almost to a tee.

    Thanks for your lovely words, my Peggy! Sorry about that Movie Guide. I did see The Reader on Saturday, and was impressed by Winslet, though it left me a bit cold. The opposite of the absolutely wonderful Revolutionary Road.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 12, 10:14:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I'd love to see The Reader with Kate. The subject matter is probably as you said, "cold" but I do love her. She had the most wonderful acceptance speech at the Globes and I do love her charm, wit and British humour. I love her on Jay Leno.

    I saw Gran Tourino this weekend. What a grand movie. Eastwood was at the height of his game and gave a stunning performance. Truly a masterpiece of a production. Please see it.

    I hope to see Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire, Valkyrie (but after your review, perhaps it's a rental), and Defiance not to mention some others out there....

    Thanks for your response. While I am not an astrological nut case, I do see lots of personality traits common to signs, as is evidenced by my comments about 43.

    As a Taurus, surrounded by a father, a sister and brother; Tauruses as well...there was a lotta bull in our home. Mom is a Capricorn and Ruth is a Virgo. At least for the most part our signs are compatable with each other....*lol*

    May you roar with the best of them, Victoria!!

    Peggy :)

    By Blogger Peggy Gero DaValt, at Tue Jan 13, 12:36:00 pm GMT-5  

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