October 11, 2006

The New Political Picture


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Tired of the same old script?

Keith Ellison, running for the House in Minnesota, is virtually assured of becoming America’s first elected Muslim Congressperson, as well as the first black Representative elected from his state.  (NYT link.)  In right wing, race-baiting tradition, his opponent has referred to Ellison as Keith X Ellison or Keith Ellison Muhammad (for a brief interest KE had in the Nation of Islam during college, before he converted).

Besides Ellison’s pride in who he is, this NYT pic previews what visual changes we might expect in a post-Rovian, post-Stepford Administration, post-neocon, post fundamentalist political environment.

Besides the general feeling that we’ve come out of a coma, here are a few differences represented by this single picture:

This image is informal.  It’s closer to a snapshot than a portrait.  It’s more populist than elitist.  It’s not set on government property or in a room specifically rented for the occasion.  Presumably, the subjects didn’t need a background check, a ticket, or a formal invitation to be there.

The shot is a more true expression of ethnicity, as opposed to a heavy-handed, “compassionate-conservative” hugging or hand-pumping gesture of being down with elected or appointed others, or others in uniform; others in Jesus; others as victims; or others as examples of self-reliance.  (As well, the shot is not a tutorial poster of others — in most cases, the children of others — being behaviorally or intellectually re-inculcated in some fashion.)

That said, the photo is a campaign shot, and balances a range of sensitivities.  In his positioning, for example, Ellison stands as a bridge, a protector and also a cultural “go between.”  In body, he directs himself to his tradition and a very key constituency.  In his causal Western dress, however, with his eye to the camera and the unidentified figure, his mind and attention is looking as much to the outside.

…And, oh yeah.  There’s one more thing you can expect to see a lot more of with the demise of the elephant.  That is, images of people having fun, not faking it.

(image: James Estrin/The New York Times.  Minneapolis.  Published October 8, 2006.  via nyt.com)

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Michael Shaw
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