Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wrapped in the flag

Note: I wrote the following to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Sunday mostly because I really do like the idea of constitutional government, but also because so much of the political discourse from the Right has been wrapped in the flag in recent years. I wanted to frame Impeachment as a patriotic action, and I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

The Sun-Sentinel is published in Rep. Wexler's congressional district.

At http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-editgsimpeachsbjun12,0,916824.story, the Editorial Board published an opinion piece which begins:

Issue: Some in Congress want an impeachment

And concludes:

BOTTOM LINE: Get on with REAL issues.

It is not only some people in Congress who want impeachment, and feel it is a "REAL" issue. We want impeachment for the reasons that this nation's Founders went to the trouble of of establishing the United States in the first place: in order to form a more perfect union. If we settle for Bush and Cheney's theory of a Unitary Executive acting above and outside the law, then we will no longer live in Lincoln's "nation of laws". The Constitution of the United States, which Mr. Bush has twice sworn to protect and defend, will have indeed become what Mr. Bush has also described it: "just a god-damned piece of paper!"

My third-grade son knows that the Constitution is the foundation of the Republic of the United States. It doesn't take a constitutional attorney to work this out. If you would pledge allegiance to the flag and the Republic for which it stands, then you must take the defense of the constitution seriously: and the extra-constitutional declaration of war against Iraq is just one of thirty-five charges of high crimes and misdemeanors that Representatives Kucinich and Wexler brought to the House of Representatives this week. They,like Mr. Bush, take an oath of office, to preseve and protect the Constitution. They have no higher duty as our elected delegates. We know that Mr. Bush lied to us about the reasons for going to war, and has sacrificed the lives of over 4,000 US troops for what is still no good reason. We are not safer: the danger we find the Republic in has not diminished, but persisted and grown under this administration's leadership - to the Constitution's cost.

The bottom line, then, is that Kucinich and Wexler are dealing with the very real, basic, issue, which is worth every minute of their time, ours, and yours: the continuing, constitutional, existence of the foundations of the United States. Perhaps you think gossip, tittle-tattle and turf wars matter more than the real Constitutional issues Mr. Bush's presidency has raised: if so, you are free to call in your editorial pages for a Continental Congress which seeks to recognize that the Republic is defunct, and a new Constitution establishing a new form of government is almost eight years overdue.

I, for one, would not wish you success in such an endeavor.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Three From Britain show, Rose Gallery, Santa Monica

This is from an email I wrote to my friend Ian Macdonald, a very fine photographer, about a show of photographs by three British photographers, Graham Smith, Chris Killip and Martin Parr. Ian knows Graham, and kindly got me an invitation.

My invitation finally came this week, and the show closed yesterday, so I went down and had a look. I couldn't afford any of the pictures, the Killip pictures were priced at $4500, but I bought a couple of books: Graham's photo essay of pictures by him and his father in Granta, and Killip's 55. I recognized Martin Parr's work very quickly, from New Brighton, and from the books he has out I think he's had a lot of commercial success and doesn't need me to buy anything.

I was down there at 10 AM when the gallery opened. Because I had an invitation in my hand, I got a personal tour from the only gallery assistant who'd turned up on time. She was wide-eyed, blonde, informed but not very knowledgable, and deferential: for example, there's a picture of The Commercial pub which has a billboard with a poster advertising paint. Henry Cooper is holding a paint can and a roller, and smiling. The slogan for the paint is something like "step back and admire the view", and Graham takes Henry at his word: a grey morning, foggy, damp, people in motion, all the windows dark. The assistant didn't know who Henry Cooper was, so I explained. There's a boxer here who's retired and sells stuff, George Foreman, he has five sons all called George, and he sells a grill, like a grilled sandwich grill, but at an angle, so that you can grill a hamburger and the fat all drains out.

I like Graham's pictures a lot. They're very clean, visually he doesn't seem to intrude, but the stories which go with the pictures show a deep intimacy with his subjects. He's funny, too, "I thought I saw Liz Taylor and Bob Mitchum in the Back Room of the Commercial" is hilarious. They also remind me of Camden Town in the '60's, when there were still Peabody Buildings at the end of the street, and the rag and bone man came with his horse and cart once a month. The first one I looked at was of a lock-in at the Commercial, with three decades of fashion - a '60's Rocker singing, '70's shaggy haircut on the guitar, and an '80's New Romantic with a pint in her hand. A bare lightbulb, peeling paint, and lino tiled floor. Brilliant. The maintained surfaces are on the people, more or less.

His pictures of prostitutes show similarities with Brassai, though his prostitutes don't have the security of a brothel, and they don't have the same standard of living that Brassai's Parisian prostitutes did. He's also strongly social realist.

Chris Killip, on the other hand, is very hard scrabble. His politics is completely overt in the seacoal pictures. Graham was a gentleman about it, but Chris rubs my nose in my smug bourgeois comfort. Beautifully, too. It's hard to believe that seacoal could still be a way of life, but there it is. Graham's working class could buy a pint in a pub; Chris' sniffs glue on the beach. Graham's pictures are mostly open to friendship; Chris has people's backs to the frame, in one case, looking at a wall. The clearest political statement, though, is the Alcan fence, keeping the seacoal pickers from a beach owned by Alcan: here is a corporation stiffing the little man, again.

Martin Parr, then: all his pictures in the show were from 1988. Chris and Graham's pictures ranged from the mid-'70's to the mid-'80's. So almost all the show was from the Thatcher years. Parr's pictures were mostly of the south west, the middle class, and the tories. Looking at his pictures is like looking at Durer: there's something cautionary about them, I think he looks for naked Emperors and points at them, laughing.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?