11.14.2008

The thing about Unity, see...

I was in the fancy mall in Charlotte's South Park neighborhood this afternoon, wandering around while my wife shopped for stuff... I stumbled into the Urban Outfitters store, looking a little out of place (Khakis and a long-sleeved golf shirt, tucked in.  Penny loafers, with pennies).  I go in there once in a while because I love how soft their t-shirts are.

The first t-shirt to catch my eye today was this one:

Okay -- I get it.  Retro... borderline authentic looking.  Pretty cool.  At least, before the election.  Now I know what some of you will tell me: Urban Outfitters has never represented authentic counter-culture... it's a kind of bourgeois/faux-rebel shop.  Thirty dollars for a gray t-shirt?  Okay: Fair enough.

But it does really seem that we're entering in on a historically shaky moment here: Obama certainly began his career as a populist, and he got elected President while keeping it more real than any politician I've ever seen (with the possible exception of Jesse Ventura).  But as Mxrk's Dad's letter reminded me the other day, Obama is "the man" now.  He might be a better version of "the man," but he is power.

So I hope there are young people somewhere who understand how much of a sell-out it is to wear the President's picture on your t-shirt.  I suspect they do: a few of my 18-year olds told me that Obama seemed to them like just another stiff suit (which could've been a cover for racism, but could've also been a sign that wearing a track suit on Sundays doesn't count as keeping it real -- I suspect the latter, since the same students who said this of Obama weren't even close to supporting McCain.).

Don't get me all wrong here: I spent a whole dissertation of my life clamoring for Unity, begging for people to come together in a spirit of New Americanness, etc.  I'm super glad Obama defeated that old, divisive, dying fellow.  But let's stay on our toes.  Mainstream/partisan Democrats should bask in the glow just as the Republican base did in 2000 and 2004... but I get nervous when I hear academics defending institutional power.

It's possible that we're sailing into a golden sunset here -- but just in case our boat gets head-butted and sunk by a scary white whale, I'd like to be one of the few who cling to the floating casket of a drown cannibal.  (I'm not sure if that's a metaphorial allusion or not...)

No comments: