Columns / Discourse / January 28, 2009

Neurocolumn: So buttons

So, hey, guess what? We have a new president. He took up about 15 hours of network programming last week, because MSNBC thought it would be stimulating for the viewer to see footage of this guy pressing his hand down on an old book that his wife must like a lot (she does seem to carry it around everywhere).

I can’t quite remember his name. Truth is, I’ve never had to commit it to memory. His moniker was, just last summer, plastered on front lawns, decorating stock-sized T-shirts, glued to billboards on Lake Shore Drive, popping in and out of commercial time slots, and printed on window clings, calendars, and 3-ring binder decals.

That name (whatever it may be, and I think it rhymed with “for your mamma”) was so recently spoon-fed to the masses with one giant and very expensive blue spoon. As of last Tuesday, however, the title has been shortened to the more generic term, The President. That says enough for me, but I’m slightly disappointed. Where have all the reminders gone?

It’s not very vogue to wear the t-shirt of the current administration. To root for their future success, to give your cause a 100% cotton leg-up, that’s normal. That’s progressive. But, bottom line, there’s a reason that no one sports their Hot Topic “Vote for Pedro” ringers anymore, and the reason is not that the public recognized Hot Topic as an unnecessary trend machine. It’s because Pedro won. Don’t you remember all that fanciful moon-boot dancing that sent his poll numbers skyrocketing? He no longer needs the support of your red-lettered chest fabric. That is so 2004.

Speaking of years around 2004, the only time I saw a George Bush T-shirt or messenger bag during his two terms in office was either when people assumed it was still funny to crack stale jokes about him (“village idiot,” “our children is getting enough education,” etc.), or when I was in the presence of an Anti-Flag fan. The proponents of such regalia are probably very cautious about sporting anything endorsing Mr. New Guy now that he is president, for fear it might be construed as the same sort of mockery.

Mockery or not, though, it would have given me a name to work with. Since November 5, 2008, the constant reinforcement of this man’s name and face has gone by the wayside, since, of course, it was no longer crucial to drill it into people. However, after a hibernation of two months, a small resurgence occurred.

On Inauguration Day, I managed to spot a few passers-by with our seemingly good-natured president-elect emblazoned on their chests. (I assume Inauguration Day was the last socially acceptable day to wear them — and only before noon.) But those didn’t provide me with the clues I needed; they mostly just sported the face along with some catchy slogan. Unless, of course, I have that wrong. His name very well could be “Hope,” “Change,” “Yes We Can,” or “Progress.” If so, I don’t know the nationality of any of those names, though the last one might be Czech. At any rate, I don’t know the origin of anyone else in this country, either. It’s America. It’s a rather frenzied hybrid. I myself am the Polish-Irish product of a Catholic family with a Jewish surname. And I kind of love that.

So ultimately, a name doesn’t matter, even if we spent a two-year campaign letting it roll around in our mouths. Even if I never find that elusive appellation ever again, assuming every campaign sign and button is boxed up awaiting its spike in value four decades from now, I suppose I will be content. What matters is why we have made the name so important, why we donated space in our lungs to utter it, why we used up so, so many blue Crayola Markers in support of it. And you know what your reasons are.

You’d think it would be contradictory to my entire article to end with the conclusion that Mr. New President’s name is irrelevant. But really, I’m just searching for the right person to thank.

But is it Sasha Something? I think his name might be Sasha.

Marnie Shure


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