TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Political Voice of Blogging Artists

My cyber-friend, Morna from Bittersweet, posted a political video on McCain that I had been trying to see for days, but something seems to be wrong with YouTube. Morna titled her post, "Be prepared to be scared--- watch the horror movie--McCain will make Cheney look like Gandhi." Like Morna, I share a profound interest in politics (although she is a lot smarter than me!). I finally got to see it and it was very disturbing. Here it is:

If YouTube is not working for you either, the clip speaks to McCain's military history and his position on Iraq and its surrounding neighbors. A critic of McCain states that he will likely continue to seek a path of war in many hot spots of the world, including a possible invasion of Iran. The critic says that if that this happens, retaliation will happen and we might as well just pick which US city will be bombed out. New York again? LA? Boston? Just pick one. The prospect is frightening.

I went to leave Morna a comment and saw that someone had already posted one there. This blogger was annoyed at Morna's use of political content on what is primarily a fiber arts blog. She basically told Morna to start a separate political blog. Intrigued, I visited the poster's blog, expecting it to be all about art. Ha! Her son is in the military (several photos of him), a military video, and other posts that had nothing to do with art (dog, flowers, Olympics), etc. But, wait a minute? Nothing to do with art? Actually, everything has to do with art! Life and all that it contains informs our body of work. What was happening here was that she simply did not agree with Morna's political position. "So, go somewhere else, Morna! I like your art, but not your politics. Go talk about that part of you where I don't have to look at it!" As I started to think about this, I felt myself seething inside. Not about her political position, but about the hypocrisy of dismissing someone else who obviously shared the same passion for a subject, but not the same platform. Get that log out of your eye, woman!

I knew I would have to write about this, but the topic brings up so much personal history for me that it is difficult to target what angle to address. Religion and politics are the two subjects most people either don't want to discuss or feel so passionately about that they can't listen to another view point. It's easy to blog about pets, grandchildren, flowers, or other niceties in our lives, but not so easy to stick your neck out into the guillotine of certain judgment. Regular readers of this blog will have caught on to the fact that I am not a Republican. All four (or five) of you (heh, heh) also know that I have a secret agenda of bringing people together from different cutural and religious backgrounds through fiber art. Hopefully, the log in my own eye is not so big that I cannot make reasonable connections with people who are different from myself: culturally, politically, ethnically, racially and whatever other "ally" is out there. And, I hope I can wade my way through this keeping my neck intact...

In the past five days, the posters have appeared mysteriously on walls and buildings across San Francisco. They feature the most enduring image of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal -- the Iraqi man, hooded, his hands tied with electrodes -- but this time, the prisoner is set against an American flag, and this time, the image is juxtaposed with a headline that reads, "got democracy?"

The poster is designed to make people question whether the United States is adhering to democratic ideals if American soldiers have been guilty of widespread prison abuse, if the Patriot Act continues to trample civil liberties, and if Washington continues to instigate questionable policies, says the poster's co-creator, San Francisco novelist Robert Mailer Anderson.

"It's not pro-Democrat, it's not pro-Republican -- it's supposed to make you think," says Anderson. "Do these people in Iraq have democracy? And do we have democracy? from the San Francisco Chronicle

The United States has a long history of both political dissent and protest through art. The world around us informs our thoughts, decisions and artistic content. Morna is not a political artist, except that perhaps her American flags might evoke passion. I find it interesting that the flag is present on both blogs, yet I am sure that as a symbol it represents completely different ideologies for both.

Morna's booth at a show.

The American flag is known around the world. It represents different things to people who may feel proud when they see it or angry, afraid, relieved, or disgusted. Rarely does it evoke indifference. Why? Because the United States has made itself a physical presence in almost every country of this world. This flag brings trade, aid, poverty, wealth, health and war. So, some artists will react to what they see and make statements through their art on their political position. And, those who write or blog, will take the "pen to paper" (keyboard to screen?) and voice their opinions for or against what they see. This is called democracy. Government by the people, even if they don't agree with each other. Some artists abhor what the United States is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, while others support it.

Body Count by Adrienne Sloane

Abu Graib, Abuse of Power by Susan Crile

What we, as Americans, do overseas has profound consequences that can last for generations. When 9/11 happened, the world wept with us (except for a minority of nuts who succeeded in making their awful point). The weeping stopped when our government abused its power by using public lament and fear to secure its interests in the Middle East and Central Asia. Public protest against the United States has seen unprecedented participation in the last eight years (ahem, the Bush years...). I spent the first 18 years of my life in Brazil as a missionary kid. In the 1960's almost every Roman Catholic home there had a portrait of the bleeding heart of Jesus to one side, a statue of the Virgin in the middle, and a portrait of John F. Kennedy on the other side. Jimmy Carter was and still is well-loved. President Bush does not hold that esteem in Brazil:

BBC News reported that over 10,000 protestors turned out in Sao Paulo when President Bush visited in 2007. The Culture Kitchen blog concluded, "This is a time when world opinion is solidly against America. This is dramatically show by a recent poll that showed that people view America as marginally MORE destabilizing a force than North Korea and only slightly less destabilizing than Iran. To the world, America is part of the Axis of Evil." In another post they also stated something that I had not heard before and found interesting:

"While John McCain is eagerly embracing Bush and vowing to continue Bush's failed policies, it may be a good idea to remember what Ronald Reagan thought of the Little Bush:

"A moment I've been dreading. George brought his n'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida; the one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."

From the REAGAN DIARIES------entry dated May 17, 1986.

So this is the guy we had shoved down our throats and who John McCain wants to emulate.***

(***Note: An anonymous reader left a comment saying that this statement about Reagan is incorrect. Snopes documents it in an almost as interesting post: http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/kinsley.asp. Great to have attentive readers and great for such a wonderful tool as Snopes!)

Do we really want all this anger directed to the United States? BBC News reported on protests against the war around the world in March 2006:

Unknown News dedicates itself to reporting news that is not known or not known enough.They state in their page, updated monthly, on casualty statistics in Afghanistan and Iraq:

"At least
687,079 people have been killed, and 1,318,163 seriously injured in Afghanistan and Iraq during the U.S. and coalition attacks and occupations, based on lowest credible estimates. More than 98 times as many people have been killed in these wars and occupations than in all terrorist attacks in the world from 1993-2004. About 229 times as many people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the ghastly attacks of September 11, 2001."

McCain's official page makes some vague promises of helping Iraq reach stability and not leaving until they can govern on their own. Then, what I find scary:

"Call for International Pressure on Syria and Iran

Syria and Iran have aided and abetted the violence in Iraq for too long. Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating within its territory. Iran has been providing the most extreme and violent Shia militias with training, weapons, and technology that kill American and Iraqi troops. American military spokesmen have also said there is evidence that Iran has provided aid to Sunni insurgents.

The answer is not unconditional dialogues with these two dictatorships from a position of weakness. The answer is for the international community to apply real pressure to Syria and Iran to change their behavior. The United States must also bolster its regional military posture to make clear to Iran our determination to protect our forces and deter Iranian intervention.

What does it mean to bolster military posture so that Iran understands our intent? It doesn't sound peaceful to me.

Well, I think I have made my political point on a fiber art blog: Artists have voices, the voices will not agree with each other on many things, but it is our right to use them in all that is important in our lives, be it dogs, kids, flowers, or politics. I believe that unless this path of violence is not curtailed, we are going to lose a lot of our dogs, kids, and flowers, so political voices are especially needed in this time of danger. Am I scared? Petrified.

However, fear does not bind me or blind me. Neither has it filled me with hate. On the contrary, I understand why people want to respond with force. I watched both conventions. I understand that Obama is criticized for his lack of experience and I had to roll my eyes, too, when his speech finally came and was full of those over used catch phrases that everyone had used before him. I felt empathy towards McCain and all that he had suffered as a prisoner of war and his long service to our government. I liked his wife and thought it was wonderful they have this Bangladeshi daughter. I am not a political scientist or expert, but I listen, read, discuss, and try to inform myself. After all of this, my conclusion is that Obama offers the only hope that we, as a people, can redeem ourselves before the world. If McCain is elected, disaster lies ahead for us. My hope is that Obama will surround himself with a think tank that will use every peaceful means available to solve this mess. He may not have much experience, but he knows how to ask the right questions and the world abroad is thrilled about him. That in itself is worth alot!

I am the lone Democrat in a Republican family. At least that is my perception- we have agreed to disagree on both religion and politics, so we don't talk about either. I live in a Southern State where many of the people I know have served in the military, have relatives overseas and are Republican. I understand why. The military is a career option that offers much more stability (even if you get shot at a young age...) than what is available around here. I love them all, my Republican family and friends. Whatever we believe in, we must learn how to get along, how to accept diversity, and how to be respectful with each other and that begins at home. And, Morna, whatever political post you have on Bittersweet, you can bet that I will be there to read it!

Peace Quilt for Peace Plaza (Rockford, Illinois)



  1. 1. I dont see why blogs have to be 'on topic' all the time. I dont understand why some people feel they should be. needlework is a small part of my life and the other things i do and think (gardening children, envirnomental concerns) influence what i stitch (as you pointed out).
    2. a blog is about your and your interests, not the reader. write what you like and they can go elsewhere if they dont like it.
    3. I have tucked some political content into my blog, mainly on environmental concerns, i havent had any complaints yet, but i am sure to surround it with lots of 'on-topic' (ha) content to assuage the needlework purists.
    4. i have very purposely NOT mentioned US politics, because even though I am interested in the outcome, I dont feel it is my place to comment on OS politics, so any political comment i make is local (Australian)
    5. I think a blog is a very good way to 'enlighten' people about issues they may not have thought of. I have actually made(and some planned to make) some 'art' quilts which have a fairly clear political message - i will have no hesitation blogging about them when the time comes.
    6. if i lived in the US I would be politically about 3 miles to the left of Obama.....
    7. I dont, and wont, discuss religion, except i mentioned in passing, and with a great deal of dread, that I am not religious (i drew the line at calling myself an atheist - mainly because i think that is a bit too confronting for people, and unneccessary to get my point across). no one commented. phew.

    extreme left atheist doesnt sound as 'right' and appealing as Christian Right somehow. grin.

  2. it may be a good idea to remember what Ronald Reagan thought of the Little Bush:

    "A moment I've been dreading. George brought his n'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida; the one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."

    From the REAGAN DIARIES------entry dated May 17, 1986.


    Phony quote:


  3. Wow - this is an incredible post - and I thank you so much for this point of view. I was worried that I would be offending people - it's nice to be pulled back to reality. You are such an excellent writer and your research is always fascinating to me - you find so much information! No way am I "smarter" than you! In fact, my daughter phoned a while back to say she had read your post and she said, "whoever that woman is, no way are you smarter than her - she's really a great writer." That's my own daughter speaking - and she thinks I'm very smart! So, no more self-depredation allowed. Thanks, very much for the vote of confidence.

  4. Brilliant post.
    Luv it.
    Thank you so much for sharing,


  5. EXCELLENT post! We talk about art, politics, history, religion all the time here with our visitors. You write so well that I'm just going to print this out, stick on the shop and cafe walls, point and say "READ"!!!...especially when we have American customers.

    Those Americans who travel understand how very important this election is, and how vital it is to restore America as a 'force' in the world for GOOD, not war.

    Artists should be concerned with politics - I don't mean in a 'red state/blue state' sense, but as interpreters of events and harbingers of what may come. We have a different view than most of the world around us, and must express what we think, controversial or not. These are certainly not times to play things safe!

    As an artist living in an 'interesting neighborhood' which includes Iraq, Iran and Syria (not to mention Georgia AND Russia), I find it heartening that the Turkish government hosts talks between Syria and Israel, and tries to communicate with all the Heads of State around us. It may be only business talk about oil and natural gas, and Turkey is certainly no perfect democracy, but I'm grateful they think that words are better than bombs. (Now, if they would only feel that way about a certain group in the mountains of Northern Iraq. But that's a WHOLE other story...)

    Human beings everywhere in the world love their families, their homes, their pets, their gardens, the beauty that surrounds them. Human beings everywhere also have their share of hardship and hurt. Better we all strive to express these shared elements of life through art, music, conversation and understanding than fear, alienation and 'might makes right'.

  6. Hi Rachel - I nominated Fiber Focus for the "Brillante Blog" award...You can see it here.


    As you know if you've ever visited my personal blog, I agree with the kinds of things you wrote about in this post.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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