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Tag: Barack Obama

My 9/11 Thoughts

It has been ten years since my grade 11 science teacher came into our class room and announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Details were vague, but they were clear by second period: there had been two planes, the towers were down and it was not an accident. My Modern Western Civilization teacher pulled in a TV and turned it on so we could watch the news. His simple excuse: “This is history.”

I had never before witnessed an event which dominated every area of the media. Magazines naturally were the first reflections of the new environment. The changing colours of autumn that year would not be red, yellow and orange but red, white and blue. ‘Entertainment Weekly’ arrived with an American flag on the cover and the query “What lies ahead”.

The world appeared momentarily united, but this was an illusion, as was George W. Bush’s sky-high approval ratings. ‘Vanity Fair’, no friend of the Republican Party, profiled Bush, Dick, Condi and company with all the patriotic heroism they could muster.

‘Vogue’ featured the Star Spangled Banner and Britney Spears. Inside, the editors had pushed up a photoshoot of spring’s romantic white dresses by American designers set against the New York City skyline. Fashion in 2001 had, as James Wolcott put it, become utterly bored with itself and its dominatrix-Madonna-1980’s retreads. Reacting to the changed zeitgeist with remarkable speed, fashion editors, designers and stylists pulled a giant U-turn: 2001’s black spiked boots would be replaced by 2002’s soft peasant blouse.

Movies, on the other hand, responded to the shifting culture with all the swiftness of a lumbering brontosaurus. Then Hollywood rushed out two different 9/11 movies, neither of which anybody saw or liked. Perhaps you need more distance from an event to memorialize it with the ‘Gone with the Wind’-‘Titanic’-‘Pearl Harbor’ treatment. The wars started as a result of the terrorist attacks are still on-going, as is the threat of violent extremists. As the clichéd joke would have it, the 9/11 films had come ‘too soon’.

The only reflection of this anxious decade I see reflected in cinema are the popularity of super hero movies (we un-ironically yearn for saviors in tights) but I suspect their abundance has more to do with CGI advancements and movie studios eager for franchises than the shakiness of the collective psyche.

I felt a personal loyalty to New York City. I had visited only twice, but it was the first place I arrived in feeling like I had been there before. From Big Bird to Carrie Bradshaw, my life had been filled with Manhattan-dwellers and Brown Stone steps.

When I wore a ‘I Heart New York’ button on the first anniversary, I remember a girl at school rolling her eyes: “Oh, that’s just Americans exaggerating again,” was the jist of what she said. A shocking example of warped political priorities.

We all know what happened next. Bush missed his opportunity to capture Osama bin Laden and instead spent billions of dollars invading a country which had nothing to do with the attacks. In doing so, he frittered away both his popularity and international goodwill, and, by cutting taxes at the same time, began the debt crisis which he deposited on his successor.

Ironically, it was Barack Obama, the one suspected of being a closeted Muslim and Manchurian candidate by hysterical Republican conspirists, who made a priority of finally capturing the al-Qaeda leader. But it will be the Bush recession which will plague his re-election bid next year.

And now it’s been ten years and what have we learned? Sometimes it seems like not very much. We’ve learned to be cautious about political leaders who will use national tragedies to ram through their agendas. We’ve learned that violent extremists can crop up anywhere (the ‘Toronto 18’) and can come from any religious or cultural background (Norway’s Anders Breivik). We’ve learned that combating religious fanaticism while respecting spiritual freedom is a very tricky balance to strike, yet one we must continue to strive for.

I realize this has been a messy, unfocused post. Perhaps on the 20th anniversary my thoughts will be a little more ordered.


This Hopey-Changey Stuff

Sometimes it feels like I’m the last supporter of Barack Obama still out there. Maybe ‘supporter’ isn’t the right word, as there are still many people who respect his intelligence, who understand the difficulties he inherited and who recognize that the opposing party is filled with crackpot ideologues who would continue to drive the American economy off the cliff.

Perhaps ‘well-wisher’ is a better word, because the most depressing political event of the last two years wasn’t how fast the Republicans regrouped, demonized the president and ‘energized their base’. The most depressing thing was how fast his would-be supporters on the left cut him adrift, folded their arms and threatened to take their toys and go home until the next easily-vilified Republican president was elected. Progressives tend to hold their ideals dearer than their leaders; right-wingers stick with their elected politicians no matter what. In a vastly-oversimplified manner, can this not help explain why lefties have such trouble staying in office?

Also depressing was the CNN coverage of the midterm elections last week, with the ‘Republican tidal wave’ storyline prepared and locked in long before the first results arrived. Rather than focus on the Democrats’ failure to get their base to the polls (along with the fact that young voters never turn out for midterms in the same rate they do for presidential elections), the anchors and pundits suggested that all of Obama’s voters had turned Republican as “punishment” for the economy, for the size of government and for healthcare reform (How dare he!).

Thus the story of the night became whether Obama “got the message” (because clearly, the voters spoke with one voice) and whether he would change course. Reporters from across the board seemed shocked when the president, in his press conference the next day, didn’t accept their premise that the Democrat’s loses were a repudiation of all his policies and that he didn’t reverse himself entirely and embrace far-right neo-conservatism. Imagine what they would have said about him if he had.

No, polls seem pretty clear that while one segment of the electorate equates expanded health insurance and employing more workers with government contracts as Nazi fascism, they are counteracted by voters who thought health reform and the stimulus package didn’t go far enough. These are the supporters who didn’t come out in the numbers they did in 2008 and who Obama will need to woo back in time for his re-election bid.

You’re never going to please everyone, especially the columnist/blogger caste, who have the luxury of treating one issue in isolation (bank bailouts, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’, climate change) as their sole deal-breaker. The average American middle and working-class voter has very few luxuries these days, and the Democrats have to continue to work for them, softening the recession while passing legislation which will prevent future greed-fuelled financial meltdowns.  The contrast shouldn’t be too hard to draw as Republicans, for all their lip-service about the ‘heartland’, are distracted with holding on to the Bush era tax cuts for millionaires.

America still needs ‘Change’.

America still needs ‘Hope’.

The Ford “Revolution”

Somehow, I’ve ended up relating to two groups I never expected I would: strategic swing-voters and American Republicans. What a weird election.

In every past one I can recall, I knew who I was supporting early on. As a New Democrat, I’m used to my candidates losing, but you should always vote for the person you believe in. Voting strategically, holding your nose and casting your ballot for the perceived ‘lesser of two evils’, often doesn’t work and results in political leaders no one actually likes.

But this election the stakes seemed much higher to stop Rob Ford. Not since Hillary vs. Obama had my parents been divided, with my Mom supporting lefty Joe Pantalone and my father arguing that only George Smitherman could save Toronto from the embarrassment of a Ford mayoralty. Unlike at the provincial or federal levels, when there’s multiple viable candidates and parties can build on past successes, mayoral races are one-time shots, and my Dad worried that a Ford victory would send the alarming message that even in Toronto rightwing candidates can win by mindlessly chanting “lower taxes” over and over again.  

I was leaning towards Pantalone as the torchbearer for David Miller’s Toronto (and no, Miller’s tenure wasn’t the complete disaster the papers think it was) but also because I resented that Smitherman squandered his early lead by not representing anything, by not articulating why he wanted to be mayor and that his campaign ultimately boiled down to ‘Anyone but Ford’.

In the last day I realized that I was doing what I didn’t want to do, voting against somebody rather than for.

Still, polls were tightening and I always liked Pantalone when I read about him or saw his cute diminutive frame on TV.  

I honestly didn’t know who I was going to vote for until I was standing in my old high school’s gym, looking down at all the names. I waffled back and forth before drawing the black line with the sharpie.

My candidate didn’t win, but I’m comfortable with my choice.

It was ridiculous how quickly ‘CP24’ called the election for Ford. Eight minutes past 8.00pm, when the polls closed. They cut straight to his family home in Etobicoke, where the already red-faced Ford turned even redder and distractedly answered questions as his family jumped around him.  Watching his large, blonde brothers (even his nieces looked a bit like him) I started to feel that here was a different side of Toronto not usually represented in downtown politics.

I felt the same way watching his rambling victory speech, when the rag tag group who surrounded him on stage appeared intent on distracting attention; a baby in the back wailed; a weird dude, before being instructed to step off by security, placed a Hawaiian lei around Ford’s neck, which he wore for the remainder of the speech; and a man in a black leather cowboy hat, perhaps a brother, tried to give him a shoulder massage before being scolded by the formidable Mama Ford herself.

Because it’s 2010, and old media feels the need to shamelessly suck up to new media, election-themed twitter tweets scrolled the bottom of screen, which, while divided in their allegiance, were unified in their breathlessness. (Ironically, by #ing ‘CP24’ twitterers were sucking up to the old media which so wants to be like twitter in order to be on TV. Some tweets even ended with “Can’t believe Ford won! Say goodbye to Transit City! Hi Lindsay!” making it clear that twitterers are the new people standing outside City TV or ‘Good Morning America’ waving ‘Hi Mom!’ signs.)

There was a certain naiveté about the pro-Ford tweets, a grandiosity mixed with dangerously vague generalizations. Much about how Torontoians had “voted for change”, had “demanded respect” and “taken back their city”. Ford had tapped into a real sentiment and received a mandate (at the end of the day, even if you added all the Pantalone votes onto Smitherman’s, ‘Furious George’ would’ve only barely won), but what exactly this revolution is about, other than “lower taxes” and “stopping the gravy train”, is pretty unclear.

Generalities work in an election campaign, but not so much in governing. And when you combine them with an enthusiastic voter base, many of whom never voted before, and a hostile, often-dysfunctional council, you’re looking at the potential to disappoint a lot of people, and fast.

Which is what Obama learned in the two years since his unifying calls for “hope” and “change” swept him to power but left Democrats divided on what to do.

Like Republicans watching Obama’s victory speech in Chicago that historic night, I watched the Ford celebration unable to ignore the excitement of his passionate supporters but with the sinking feeling of not knowing what comes next.

My predictions: with all eyes on him now, Mayor-elect Ford will not be as focused as Candidate Ford and will have a stumbling transition, quickly angering activist groups (womens’, queer and immigrant ones, my guess) and unions, and will see a major strike within a year. If Ford is held accountable for it (as Miller was for the garbage strike) or rather seen as the tough-talking defender of voters’ tax money will depend on the media, the public mood and how Torontoians respond viscerally to the new mayor.

All is not lost. Although some new right-wingers were elected, the basic diversity of city council stayed the same, and Ford will have to work with centrist and leftwing councillors (and, hopefully, moderate his positions) in order to get anything done. All the columnists agree that he won’t actually be able to get rid of streetcars, which (perhaps oddly) became one of my biggest fears. If he doesn’t “keep his promises”, as viewed by his core supporters, he has a tough re-election in four years.

Four years…God…

And lastly, sometimes you need an ‘enemy’ to galvanize people, to shake them out of their complacent slumbers and fight for what they believe in. Feminists, LBGTQ-activists, immigrant advocates, environmentalists and even cyclists (especially cyclists!) should start mobilizing now, today, and get ready to cause a fuss as soon as Ford missteps or misspeaks. Our goal should be to create a progressive flipside of the American ‘Tea Party Movement’ (the Herbal Tea Party, anyone?), who, although much less influential than Fox News would have us believe, succeed in having their displeasure at ‘Obama-nation’ heard.

Congratulations, Rob Ford. As my parents, veterans of the dramatic ups and downs of politics, said last night, “It’s all downhill from victory night.”

Yes S/he Can!


For those of you who missed this during the election, here is drag queen legend RuPaul as both Barack and Michelle Obama. What I love most of all is that he looks more like the First Lady than the President!

“What’s to celebrate?”

The above question was asked by Kindra Arnesen, the wife of a shrimper from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. “My way of life’s over.”

For the first time in 86 days, oil has stopped flowing into the Gulf of Mexico after BP succeeded in capping the blown-out well yesterday afternoon. Officials are cautiously optimistic that this might be the beginning of the end of the worst environmental disaster in American history. But they point out that the cap is only a test to determine whether the well below the seabed is intact.

“It is a positive sign,” President Barack Obama, whose poll numbers have dropped along with BP stock, told reporters. “We’re still in the testing phase.” BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells told CNN that the company was “obviously very encouraged” before adding that they are focused on collecting data and determining their next step. “I don’t want to create a false sense of excitement.”

There’s little worry of that, as news of the cap has been met with hesitant relief at best and hostile incredulity at worst.

“It’s a beautiful thing that it’s shut off,” Shamarr Allen told the Associated Press. “But there’s still a lot of years of cleaning.”  Stephon France, in the same report, claimed “It’s a [expletive] lie! I don’t believe they stopped that leak. BP’s trying to make their self look good.”

This is the company, after all, which spent $50 million (US) on an image-saving ad campaign to convince Americans “it won’t happen again”.

Much of the coverage of the debacle has contrasted the statements of politicians and BP executives (whose reassurances, Campbell Robertson and Henry Fountain wrote in The New York Times, were “mocked” by the never-ending footage of the unstoppable oil plume) with those of the residents of Louisiana whose lives have been forever altered.

“It’s kind of like putting a Band-Aid on a dead man in my opinion,” Jeff Ussury told The New York Times. “I started out kind of believing them, but I don’t believe in them at all anymore.”

“There’s still places you can scratch out a day’s work,” Mr. Gercia, a third-generation fisherman, told The Globe and Mail’s David Ebner. “You can survive another day. You’re not putting anything away, you’re just paying bills.”

The juxtaposition of personal stories with the studied statements of officials helps reporters cast themselves as cutting to the chase of the story, of not falling for the official line, even when they must repeat it. But it also serves to remind us of the human dimension of the disaster for people like deckhand Manuel Meyer, who tempers his relief with the knowledge that the clean-up has just begun: “It’s gonna continue for several years… and it ain’t gonna do nothing but get worse before it gets better.”

Even if the cap holds, the damage that has been done to the environment, the lives of people of the Gulf Coast and the already tarnished trust of the public in their government’s ability to hold irresponsible corporations accountable, will take generations to cleanse.

Other People: Jacob Kaufman


Jacob was my first friend in high school. He began talking to me one day, an odd occurence to anyone who remembers grade 9, and we haven’t stopped talking since. Our occasional arguments honed my debating skills and crystallized what I believe, but I’m mostly thankful for Jacob’s loyalty and interested nature. He has just finished law school, where he was named valedictorian, and there’s no limit to what he’ll achieve.

MM: What interested you in going into law? Are you going to use it for good or evil?

JK: Well, I graduated with a degree in history and it turned out the big history companies weren’t hiring. Given my skill set I had to choose between a Master’s program, teacher’s college or law school. I’ve always been interested in reading and arguing, so I decided on law. I intend to use my degree for good, though I realize not everyone may concur with my definition of “good”. I strongly believe that lawyers have an ethical obligation to represent their clients to the fullest. Some people see the role of lawyers as social crusaders who will identify what is wrong with society and then advocate through the legal system to fix it.

I see myself more as a butler. Like butlers, lawyers wear dark suits, have a duty of discretion and help rich people with their problems. There is a place for crusading in the legal world, but there’s also a place for working for businesses. Businesses create the jobs that keep our economy strong and I’m proud to be helping do my small part to keep the wheels turning. I’ll be starting work at my law firm in a few weeks and we get to rotate through several different practice areas, so it’ll be interesting to see what I end up liking.

MM: What would you like to be doing in ten years?

JK: I would like to be a partner at the firm I will be working for. It’s a full of great people and interesting work. It’s a little awkward saying that because it’s kind of presumptuous: I don’t even know if I’ll be hired back to be a lawyer there. Still, you work hard and hope for the best. Ultimately, I want to love what I’m doing. You work fairly long hours as a lawyer and if you don’t like what you’re doing, you’re going to be miserable for most of your life. I’d also like to have a garden and own several bottles of nice scotch.

MM: Describe who your parents are and what it was like growing up in the Benson-Kaufman household.

JK: I have two mothers: Miriam Kaufman and Roberta Benson. Miriam is a purple-haired pediatrician; Roberta is a former lawyer who left the field to raise me and my sister. My house was full of books and laughter. The ‘rents tried to limit our tv and candy consumption by restricting us to TVO and PBS and candy to once a week (Saturday! We could get a chocolate bar!). As we got older the rules eased, but to this day I don’t consume a lot of tv or candy.

I suppose people would want to know how it was different having lesbian moms instead of a “normal” family. Well to me, that was normal. I didn’t really get culture shock that most people had a mom and a dad. The thing about my family that did give me culture shock is that my moms are both smart and kind people and so I assumed all adults were smart and kind. It was disappointing to learn otherwise.

I am sometimes asked which is my “real” mom. Well, they both are. Though Miriam is my biological mother, in 1995 my parents and three other lesbian couples launched a Charter challenge so both could be my legal mother . That would probably have been a better answer to the “why do you want to be a lawyer” question than “I want to be a butler.”

The community has been very good to be, so I’m volunteering with Out On Bay Street, an organization that, inter alia, runs a conference that links queer and allied business, law and consulting students with businesses and law firms. We’re trying to branch out and provide networking and mentorship opportunities throughout the entire year. I’m the corporate secretary, which means I get business cards and everything!

MM: What book should everyone start reading tomorrow?

JK:  There’s a lot of candidates, but I think I’d assign How To Lie With Statistics. This cute and short 1950’s book is more retro than a Queen St. hipster, but it conveys an important message. The book analyzes all the Procrustean tricks used to contort the data to make it say what the contorter wants. As a society we’ve largely beat illiteracy, but we still have a problem with innumeracy. This book is a good first step to helping solve that problem. Certainly, it would be great in high school media literacy classes.

MM:  We argued sometimes in high school, but you are significantly less neo-con than you were then. Any opinions that you regret?

JK: While I could nitpick individual opinions that I was wrong on – the Iraq War springs to mind – I think I regret my overarching thought process of certainty. I knew the right answer to everything. I was intoxicated with books like Freedom To Chose by Milton Friedman or Parliament of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke. Well, as it turns out, life is complex. Hopefully, I’ve learned a little humility in not just seeing the world in black and white terms. Now, I still believe firmly in some moral absolutes and have strong opinions. But I always try to challenge my own opinions and learn more about those I disagree with. Understanding, after all, is not agreeing.

MM: Why did you become a vegetarian? What’s the most difficult thing about it?

JK: I have been a vegetarian for about 21 years and a full vegetarian (i.e. no fish) for 16 years. I know exactly why I became a full vegetarian: it was to win a childhood argument. I was somewhat of a self-righteous vegetarian back then and one of my friends decided to challenge me on it. “Oh yeah,” he said, “Well you eat fish and that’s the same.” “No it isn’t,“ I shot back. “How is it different?” “Fine! I won’t eat fish.” I haven’t eaten seafood since, which I guess also shows the lengths I’ll go to win an argument.

In terms of why I first became a vegetarian I guess it was a confluence of many factors. My parents are vegetarian, but there were also ethical and environmental considerations. Ghandi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While individual consumption choices can’t make a difference, I do try to follow this maxim. I don’t think that everyone needs to be a vegetarian, but I do think we’d all be better off if everyone ate less meat and animal products. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a matter of having “meatless” days, why not have, say, tofu sautéed in beef stock? Or mushroom and chicken pasta instead of just chicken?

Being a vegetarian is actually pretty easy, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Toronto. The main difficulty involves eating in restaurants. Most restaurants usually have a vegetarian selection, but many do not… or have the dreaded grilled vegetarian plate. I always hate asking for a meat dish without the meat because in a non-trivial number of cases someone in the kitchen slips up and sends it out with meat anyway.

MM: Why do you own so many Miss Manners books?

I am a big fan of Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners. For the uninitiated, Miss Manners is a etiquette advice columnist. She has a rapier wit and is very self-aware. Her advice ranges from one part sarcastic / one part snobby / one part genuinely useful. For example:

“Dear Miss Manners:

I have been invited to a baby shower for a friend’s second child. The first one is just turning 2 years old. I always thought baby showers were for your first child and you used the baby items again for your second child. To me it seems they are begging for gifts. My daughter claims this is the norm these days. What is your opinion?

That your daughter is right: Begging for gifts is normal these days. It is also vulgar, of course.”

This is from her online column, of course. In her books, those that seek her aid are addressed as “Gentle Reader”.

MM: Predictions for the a) Toronto Mayoral election, b) next Canadian federal election and c) American presidential election.

JK: My predictions are pretty milquetoast, I’m afraid:
a) Smitherman, but you never know. There is a lot of populist anger in the city right now and Ford might be able to ride that to victory.
b) Another Conservative minority government.
c) Obama/Biden narrowly beats Palin/Pawlenty.

MM: What was the most embarrassing thing that happened during your time at Queens?

JK: I’m not going to give any drinking stories, because – by definition – if you’re drunk enough to do something that be “the most embarrassing thing”, you’re drunk enough not to be embarrassed. I guess then, the most embarrassing thing happened in my dorm in the first few weeks of my first year. I had gotten into the shower and it was perfect. Too often, to shower is to exist in a state of unpleasant dichotomies: too hot or too cold; too forceful or too low pressure. On that day, however, everything was in a state of perfect harmony.

And so, I stayed in the shower for probably half an hour. Singing. Now, I don’t have a great voice but I was just so exuberated regarding the wonderfulness of the water. I sung my way through a not insignificant portion of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan before I, regretfully, put on my towel and opened the door. To see about half my floor standing around the entrance in a semi-circle. Don’t panic, I thought, there could be any number of reasons why they would be here.

And then the slow clap started.

Yes ‘Tee’ Can!

The 2008 American election was a big deal for my family. Like many people around the world, we were transfixed by the personalities, the drama, the historical precedents broken and the opportunity to start anew after eight years of Bush. As a family of political junkies, with two newspapers daily, CNN constantly on the TV and my filling my parents in on what the blogosphere was saying, we were particularly obsessed. During the long primary process, my family’s support was evenly divided; my Mom, a dedicated feminist, supported Hillary Clinton, while my Dad and I favoured Barack Obama. This led to some light-hearted rows in which both candidates’ main spin lines would be repeated ad nauseum and my Grandmother, thinking we were all nuts, would attempt to change the channel to country music.

I want to put my Obama tee-shirt into context. When I finally bought it the summer before the election, I was not doing so out of any jump-on-the-bandwagon trendiness. This would not be a repeat of my misguided Che Guevara tee-shirt circa 2002. I had thought long and hard about my support for the senator from Illinois and as a Canadian ineligible to vote or even to donate money south of the border (my Dad looked into it), I wanted to show my support the best way I knew how: through fashion.

I went to Queen Street and had a tee-shirt made with a pixilated portrait of Obama smiling handsomely. Only when it was finished did I discover that the design was in white and was just barely visible on the light blue tee-shirt I had picked out. The iconic face only became recognizable on close inspection (something like the Shroud of Turin), but I came to appreciate that this would be an Obama tee-shirt no one else had. I wore it proudly, always aware that someone might start a fight with me, but confident that I could defend my candidate and tee-shirt choice.

The last weekend of summer, my family and I were half out the door for our cottage when I read online that John McCain had announced his running mate. “Who the heck is Sarah Palin?” I thought as I grabbed my backpack and headed down to the car. A week later, I reluctantly watched the Republican National Convention to get the scoop on Alaska’s governor for my parents who were still on Lake Simcoe. I watched Palin’s confrontational and sarcastic speech gape-mouthed. “She’s making fun of community organizers!” I cried to my Dad via cell phone. “She’s just… awful!” Eventually, I had to change the channel.

The very next day was my first at the University of Toronto. I knew many of my fellow grad students would want to impress by dressing smart but casual, in button up shirts and corduroy jackets. When I woke up, the “traditional Alaskan wind song” (as Tina Fey would later call it) of Palin’s voice was still seared into my brain, and in protest I grabbed my Obama tee-shirt. “On this day of all days,” I thought, “I am proud to wear this!” The backlash from my new peers, either for political reasons or because my political sincerity was undeniably nerdy, never materialized. Instead, some of the first friends I made in the program approached me because of the shirt and indulged me as I ranted about Palin’s speech the night before.

On election night, there was only one choice of what to wear, but weary of jinxing the outcome, I covered it up in a hoodie. (“Watching CNN will be insufferable if they don’t elect him,” I said. “If they don’t elect him, CNN gets turned off…forever,” my Dad replied ominously.) When they announced Obama’s win, early in the night but years in the waiting, I couldn’t believe it was all over. As my family opened sparkling wine, I added to my tee-shirt a button that said “Yes We Did.”

A year and a half later, the tee-shirt hangs in my closet, a memento of that exciting time. President Obama’s first year in office had its ups and downs, and while my support for him has never wavered, I don’t know when I will wear the tee-shirt again. Showing support for a candidate during an election is one thing; wearing a tee-shirt with the person who now heads the American government signifies something completely different. A tee-shirt supporting the president seems thuddingly uncool, even when the president is cool himself. Perhaps I will wear it again when he runs for re-election and I feel he needs my support again against whichever climate-change denier gets the Republican nomination. And if I keep the shirt long enough, it may accrue hipster status, like memorabilia with Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan, although the diminishment of Obama into a camp relic would be depressing to any of us who got excited in 2008.

A friend recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. and told me of tee-shirts being sold in the airport which said, “Don’t blame me, I voted for McCain-Palin.” “Oh my god!” I exclaimed, “I would totally wear one of those.” Then I felt the need to add, “As a joke, of course.” What a difference a year makes.