Thursday, April 22, 2010

About Barack Obama Junk

It's been something that has been bugging me since Barack Obama's election: the amount of kitschy stuff bearing his likeness that has been produced. It started right after his election and probably peaked around his Inauguration. T shirts, pictures, commemorative food product packaging, jewelery, toys and more. It creeped me out then, and it still does. I was reminded of it again when I noticed these items for sale at the local K Mart.

There, I found regulation and toy sizes of Barack Obama decorated basketballs. Eeesh. With the exception of seeing the occasional T shirt, I thought this trend had passed by. Oh no, there he is. Again.

You can bounce President Obama around for $7.39 a pop.

As well as being, well, just yuk and tasteless in every way, it shows an idolatry that is not good in so many ways. Of course, placing trust in a mortal man is a spiritual sin; in the Ten Commandments, we are instructed by God to worship only Him and not other beings, or things we made. In addition, it lays a heavy burden on Mr. Obama himself, to deliver, to be "the savior" and raises unrealistic hopes and expectations on him on what he should be doing for and giving to people. Finally, paradoxically, it cheapens both him and the office he holds. Do you really want to bounce the president's face on the ground or run it through the washing machine? I can see photos and paintings, but the other stuff? No, no, no.

Oh, I feel the same way about "Jesus junk" too. Just no. Ick.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Not registered Republican. Don't like it either. Seems like a callous use of the presidency. I don't think it's idolatry though. You're bouncing that basketball on the dirty ground, or taking your shot with the Obama glass. It's the freak. I think besides showing contempt of the Oval Office it shows contempt at the voters who voted him in, oh I can't explain it exactly.

The Jesus stuff is just a part of the South somehow so I am inured to it. I don't see it as idols, either, I see it as a cultural expression brought on to counteract the lassitude of heat and humidity. Perhaps I am wrong about that. Certainly it is of longer duration.

Truly I don't think anyone (or at least, very many) worships a statue in the U.S., although they may talk to it from time to time. It's more like the walkie-talkie to heaven.

I don't know if this makes it any better for you though.

Go away, Obama merch,
Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T:
It's probably a bit of the fact that the evangelical protestant church tradition is really against icons of any kind. Although pictures of a white bread Jesus are OK(?). For me, I think it is a combo of both: a bit of dislike for worship with images, and a feeling of cheapening both the man and the office.

For a rant, this is awfully complex! :-P

Thanks for reading

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observere,
Yes, it IS complex. We are actually into a discussion about art criticism and cultural values in general. The place of kitsch, what defines kitsch over art. That as much as proper honor and reverence.

If the mural of Last Judgement is by Michelangelo, we don't have a taste problem at least. But if it is a painting of Jesus coming down and all the white people are standing to greet him, but the black people are kneeling (I have this one in a file somewhere, honest) what does that say?

And, even more, if the statue glows in the dark, is that wrong? It's not tasteful. But maybe somebody wants to remember God when they wake up afraid at night.

I never know what to do with this. I do know that Michaelangelo has become refrigerator magnets, the painting of the Coming is tainted by presuppositions, and many people buy the Jesus figurine because it makes them laugh.

But the propensity for satire or presupposition does not go away when the idols go away. It only becomes verbal to verbal. Thus we get outrageous interpretations of Holy Texts, reinforcing bad behavior, or bumper stickers of texts that are funning with Scripture.

Satire always screws with reverence, but it was also built into us, and is frequently healthy, even for religion, b/c it cuts pomposity.

So now I have argued myself into a corner I can't get out of. This is a very familiar feeling . . .

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T:
You have wonderfully unraveled the complex here! I must admit, it made me grin to see someone else argue themselves into a corner--I have been known to do this myself.
Thanks for the terrific comment.
the Observer