Archive for 2008 Election

Inauguration Fever: Proud to Be an American (Again)

Posted in Liz Hager, Politics, Pop Culture Miscellany with tags , , on January 21, 2009 by Liz Hager

“. . . On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. . . “




photo ©2009 Liz Hager

As shots appear on the Jumbotrons, the enormity of the visual impact made by 1.8 million of us on the Mall was clear. The symbol of hope seen ’round the world.  On the ground, the crowd sizzles with pent-up energy.  Eight am rolls into 9 am and 10 am; the Mall filled. The rainbow coalition is reporting for duty.  The weather oscillates between biting cold (wind chill in action) and almost tolerable. People shuffled and marched to stay warm, aided by Sunday’s concert re-play on the Jumbotrons. 

With the arrival of dignitaries on the podium stage, we forget all about our frigid bodies. Anyway, the sun has come out, a portend of things to come. Random and large cheers rupture, ripple, reverberate. John Lewis, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Puff Daddy come and sit.  Cheney rolls in on his wheelchair—what righteous symbolism!  With the announcement of the man soon to be “Formally Known As,”  the crowd sends forth loud boos, chants of “Good Riddance,” “Go Back to Texas”and choruses of “Na, Na, Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Goodbye.”  The party is underway!

And then The Moment arrives. Our Man waits for the Chief Justice to get the words straight; alas he is unable, so our Man, poised as ever, repeats the wrong sequence.   “Congratulations, Mr. President.” The crowd goes wild.  Ding, dong the witch is dead!



. . . The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. . .”



©2009 Liz Hager


“Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”



©2009 Liz Hager


“All this we can do. All this we will do.”





Inauguration Fever: Martin Luther King/National Day of Service

Posted in Liz Hager, Politics, Pop Culture Miscellany with tags , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by Liz Hager


Moving in a Straight Line ©2009 Liz Hager

We brave Massachusetts Avenue and the traffic jams at Union Station (hoards of people arriving today), then head SE down Pennsylvania Avenue and cross the Anacostia River. It’s a part of town none of us have ever been in. From the elevated overpass, we can see a small part of Anacostia Park below us. Anacostia is a very large park, which hugs the river for miles upriver. The park looks bleary in the hazy low-slung sunshine of the afternoon. The Pennsylvania Avenue overpass bisects the park, creating a no man’s land underneath it.  A collection of shabby buildings huddles together at one end of the park  and a sorry playground sits forlornly on the downriver side. With some trees standing along the river, this part of the park seems to be holding on to a last shred of dignity.  The river, industrial structures lining its shores here and there, chunks of ice bobbing along, definitely gives this area an aura of bleakness. It’s the dead of winter on the Eastern Seaboard.

We turn into the park and head towards the parking lot. 

Anacostia borders one of the poorest districts in Washington, DC.  The Anacostia River was once referred to as “DC’s forgotten river,” because of its state of severe pollution, caused by the dumping of raw sewage and industrial waste. Since 2004 a coalition of the willing—including No Child Left Inside, the National Park Service, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and a number of Senators and Congresspeople—have banded together to spearhead clean up efforts. It seems that the Park too has its share of the audacity of hope.

A lot of us have come for speeches and a tree planting on this National Day of Service.  Senators Steny Hoyer and Ben Cardin are here. (Hoyer gives a truly impressive speech linking Martin Luther King’s legacy to all of us.) The formidable Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC’s representative without a vote) is here. Even former Mayor Marion Barry is here, his drug-related problems apparently behind him.  There has been a rumor that Obama might show up. That would be truly exciting, but we’re content to support No Child Left Inside and the Park Service, even if he doesn’t come. And, as big fans of Friends of the Urban Forest back in San Francisco, the idea of participating in a tree planting feels like a way to be a good national neighbor on this National Day of Service. 

A local gospel choir kicks off the event; their undulating sea of rhythm is infectious. Speeches follow—most are

Inauguration Fever: The Pre-Game Show

Posted in Liz Hager, Politics, Pop Culture Miscellany with tags , , , , on January 19, 2009 by Liz Hager


With this post Venetian Red begins coverage of the Inauguration. 



Shot Rings Out  (photo ©Liz Hager)

It’s Sunday mid-afternoon in our nation’s capital. The temperature is warming. 

As our afternoon activity, we’ve opted for the National Gallery, not the Reflecting Pool. (Need to store all of our crowd-coping reserves for Tuesday’s event.) After a wholly-satisfying perusal of the East and West buildings (more on this in later posts), curiosity about the outside world has gotten the better of us. We head along the short block from the Gallery to the Mall. 

The Capitol building is festooned with garlands of flags, its stage visible visible from the first two Mall “yards.” Phalanxes of port-o-potties stand at attention along the edges of the Mall, their virginity preserved by plastic clasps. The feed towers, news stages, and Jumbotrons are all up.  A few thousand people have gathered together in loose clumps in front of the immense screens. As we round the corner of a supporting vehicle, we look up to see Bono’s be-spectacled face beaming down at us.  It seems we won’t miss a concert experience after all. 

The crowd is a joyous one, shuffling around to the beat, many singing along. More of us sing along with Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen. When Byoncé appears on the screen, she transfixes us (that girl has a set of pipes!). By the end of her performance our crowd has erupted in cheers.

And then the Man himself appears on screen to give us a sobering and uplifting pep talk. More than a few eyes are brimming with tears. 

We feel a disembodying sensation to be outdoors with thousands of people (truly a rainbow coalition) WATCHING TELEVISION. Though the concert is a short, straight shot away at the Lincoln Memorial, our gathering has its own unique make up, emotions, rhythms. But one thing is for sure, we’re all in this together, and that’s an expansive feeling.

This afternoon we’ve had a small preview of what will come.

A New Day Dawns

Posted in Liz Hager, Politics with tags , on November 5, 2008 by Liz Hager


“Phoebe Boatwright, “Minions,” mixed media, each approximately 2″ high (photo ©2008 Liz Hager)

Last night, like most Americans, I joined family & friends to watch the election returns. In 21st-century fashion we tracked the breaking results on two computers and a television set. The stage was set with anticipation and fear, but there was still a lot of hope going around. 

I sat on the couch next to 14-year-old Phoebe. Phoebe is the daughter of our friends, but she is also one of my art buddies. Sometimes she comes over for working sessions on Photoshop or my sewing machine, or to finish off a project using my paints, pens, or Fimo clay.  I jokingly refer to these hours together as “Art Camp,” but I have come to think of them as more than creative sessions.  Phoebe is on the verge of adolescence, making the transition to adulthood with the typical teen mixture of absorption, bravado, flippancy, and pig-headedness. She has thousands of ideas, many of which, like her minions—little henchmen and women fashioned from wine corks, string and tape—are sophisticated and witty. It’s hard to have spent the quality of time I have with Phoebe and not feel a vested interest in her future.

A little after 8pm (PST) as the polls closed in California, CNN Projected Obama as the nation’s 44th President. The room filled with whooping and clapping, dazed silence and quiet tears. In the seconds after the announcement I joyously pulled Phoebe close and said “Do you realize how lucky you are to experience such an historic moment?”  

For the past 8 years, I have felt alternately angry and detached, wondering how my country could have been hijacked by the Purveyors of Fear and how it would be wrestled from their hands.  In the flash of that announcement, however, those useless emotions disappeared. I felt buoyant, deliriously happy. A new day had dawned. This moment was proof that anything was possible! Our country had been returned.  I knew, because once again I could see our American Dream shimmering radiantly. 

And in that moment Phoebe saw the future too. In response to my question, she assured me, “I’ll always remember where I was when this happened.”

Election Day 2008—What’s in a Name?

Posted in Politics with tags , on November 4, 2008 by Liz Hager


photo ©2008 Liz Hager

For weeks I’ve been wearing my Obama bling-bling as a talisman, hoping that it would do its charming best to alter the course of the cosmos. (Yes, I was expecting a lot from these 9 letters.)  I woke this morning full of excitement—”the audacity of hope” I guess—and dread. For being a Democrat over the past 8 years has meant living apprehensively—fearful that the polls are woefully inaccurate; scared that the Republicans will find yet other ways to disenfranchise voters; above all,  apprehensive that Democrats would blow it (yet again) on the 2 yard line.  Still, an audacious thought—What If ?— crept into my head.  What if Obama were to win today, what would I do with my kismetic bling-bling tomorrow? After all,  its message appropriate today, would be obsolete tomorrow. Or would it? 


photo ©2008 Liz Hager

An avid childhood Scrabble player, I began to think about the inherent possibilities of rearrangement. Was there a secret message in V-O-T-E-O-B-A-M-A ?  If so, at first not obvious. In desperation, after re-sorting all sorts of combinations in English and trying Spanish (after all Latinos will turn out in record numbers today as well), I hit upon Above a Mot. Lame, I know, to have to resort to French, but still a good first try. There had to be something better.  I resorted to the Scrabble dictionary. 

And then a strategy hit me squarely in the “boot.” The Obama War Chest! I could buy a vowel.   But which one? Today we may make US history. An Obama win wouldn’t exactly be a referendum on racism, but it would go a long way toward demonstrating (to us) that we (a majority of us anyway) are capable of color-blindness. Like a ouiji board, the letters began to reassemble themselves rapidly into the appropriate message: 


photo ©2008 Liz Hager

I’ll take an audacious “O” please.  


photo ©2008 Liz Hager


“There is Light”—Look Down!:IWP, SF #14

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Graffiti with tags , , , , on September 18, 2008 by Liz Hager

Photo ©2008 Liz Hager

Date: 09/18/08

Time: 2:09 pm

Location: Page between Scott and Divisidero

“Indispensable Wisdom on the Pavement”: The whole Palin thing put me into a frenzy of emailing, reading, listening, and thinking. By the beginning of this week, I was nearly desperate; it was beginning to look like the country really might be stupid enough to elect this nincompoop.  But the storm clouds broke yesterday, and attention shifted away from the Palin factor and onto more important economic issues. This message on the pavement was just the reminder I needed.

I Nominate Sarah Palin for “Bridge to Nowhere” Award

Posted in Fashion, Liz Hager, Politics with tags , , on September 13, 2008 by Liz Hager

photo courtesy Daily Kos, 9/3/2008

Nothing could be more emblematic of McCain’s disastrous—no, reckless & unconscionable—choice of Palin as Vice President than the “Nowhere Alaska” T-shirt she held up during a September 2006 press conference in proud support of the Gravina project, aka “Bridge to Nowhere.” 

It seems clear that the tactic of choosing Sarah Palin as the running mate was not about the advancement of women in the political sphere, but about furthering the Conservative agenda. As far as I can tell, this agenda concerns itself with dividing Americans against each other and against the rest of the world. (Parenthetically, though, the choice of this unqualified and uninformed woman may actually set back the cause of women in politics.)

Yes, the Alaska Governor’s stance against choice is reason enough not to vote for this ticket. But the real issue with a Palin candidacy is even more disturbing than reproductive rights and stem cell research. Despite the Bush Administration’s disrespect for the global community, the fact is that America cannot operate independently of it. Our future depends on our leaders understanding the nuances of international relations. The realities of oil production/consumption alone should confirm that for all of us.

Conservatives (and duped Republicans) hold Palin up as an acceptable standard for the second most important leader in our country. And yet, this is a candidate who doesn’t even know what the current administration’s policies are, never mind having an opinion about them; thinks that she has insight into Russia, because she can see it from Alaska (YIKES, echoes of Bush looking into Putin’s eyes and seeing the soul of a good man!); considers travel to Canada and Mexico as international experience; categorizes trade representatives from other countries as “foreign leaders”; and, as recently as Thursday, publicly connects Saddam Hussein and 9/11 attacks. 

Ignorance and lack of curiosity are the standards we should strive for in our Vice Presidents?  Didn’t the past 8 years already teach us that lesson? 

For excellence displayed in foreign relations, I’m nominating Sarah Palin for the first-ever “Bridge to Nowhere” award. But here’s the catch—I’ve rigged this election. Palin can only win the award if we vote against her in November.

Cindy McCain & The Lime-Green Dress

Posted in Fashion, Liz Hager, Politics with tags , , , on September 7, 2008 by Liz Hager


(photos above ©AP; below © Charles Rex Abrogast/AP)

I guess the Republican handlers hadn’t learned from their last color mistake, because there was Cindy McCain on Night 2 of the convention sporting a seriously retro-styled dress in the dreaded lime-green hue. It’s hard to tell from the various photos available, but the TV coverage captured the dress from all angles. No doubt about it, this was a 60s dress. Not a modern update, though, just a copy. Not even an early-60s-Jackie-sharp woman-of-the-world dress. For those of us old enough to have lived through the era,  Cindy’s fashion statement—the lime-green dress, the bleached-blond, cotton-candy hair, big pearls, and little “diamond” broach—was a creepy echo of that special breed of mid-60s woman—the up-market suburban, stay-at-home, pool-lounging, “key partying,” trophy wife. 

As Cindy McCain gazed rapturously from the box-seats, I thought a very scary message indeed beamed out across America.  Cindy is accomplished in her own right. As candidate for “First Lady,” she could have made any number of statements about the important roles women will need to continue to play on the world stage.  Instead, her choice of fashion allied her to the underutilized, disengaged and bored women of some 40 years ago. It’s an outdated icon we can’t afford to reference in a world that desperately needs every mind engaged. But perhaps understandable for a party with a 72-year-old white man at its summit. When Cindy cradled little baby Trig in her arms during the evening, the Republican message was complete—a good wife is a Stepford wife. 

Political Fashion links

Dressed for Power

First Ladies and the Fabric of the Nation

Inaugural Fashion

Sarah Palin Carries a Big (Hockey) Stick

Posted in Liz Hager, People & Places, Politics with tags , , , on September 4, 2008 by Liz Hager

©2008 Jim Wilson/NY Times

I sent out an email yesterday in connection with my participation in Part 2 of the “Banned & Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship”, noting that censorship was still a relevant & topical issue in our democratic union.  The connection was prompted by a NY Times article that morning on Sarah Palin— “Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics as Usual,” — which included this tidbit:

“. . . Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. ‘They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,’ Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to ‘resist all efforts at censorship,’ Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article. . . “

I received scads more responses in connection to the Palin part of that email than to the announcement of the show. I am chastened—subdued—for the moment, anyway. I heard your message—politics more urgent than art. So, with that in mind, I start today with a few posts on an artist’s view of the Republican Convention.

Obama Bling-Bling

Posted in Jewelry, Liz Hager, Politics with tags , , , on June 19, 2008 by Liz Hager

My very own set of Obama bling-bling

Our friend Alison was sporting a set of these twinkly bands one night. I oo’ed and ah’ed; after all, what magpie can resist a shiny, sparkly thing? She proudly referred to her Obama bling, but I thought, since there were two, that “Obama bling-bling” was more appropriate terminology. While the bling-bling flashed away through the evening, I marveled at its many layers of meaning.  First there is the message itself, a simple proclamation of support. Of course this kind of message is bound to be a surprise to anyone who inspects this glittery pair more closely—one doesn’t expect necessarily a message of this sort in “diamonds.”  Perhaps they are a contemporary twist on the popular 60s-era ID bracelets?  (I admit I sported ONE of those for a brief period.) The bracelets are also a daily reminder of an important event on our nation’s calendar. Further,  by wearing them on your right wrist and engaging in a friendly handshake, you might be passing along karmic goodwill (or possibly consternation, if shaking with supporters of other candidates). Would all of us wearing Obama bling-bling automatically greet each other with fist bumps?

What about the “rocks” themselves? To my mind, a more elegant statement than the somewhat pedestrian campaign button.  In one sense, they play off the media’s obsession with Obama as an “elite” candidate. Does the fact that they are fake, meant to simulate real, indicate the wearer’s public acknowledgment of a similar belief about the candidate? On the other hand, rhinestones are affordable by the masses, so in this economy appropriate material for candidate jewelry I think.  They certainly are versatile—elegant enough to pass muster at a fancy (fundraising?) event and yet, these “downmarket” rhinestones are not too ostentatious to sport as everyday wear. 

Dinner finished and Alison left with the Obamawear.  My life was a bit empty until yesterday, when much to my surprise my very own set of Obama bling-bling arrived in the mail, courtesy of my husband. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing these for a good long time.  Come to think of it,  they might be the perfect accessory for a certain celebration in January…

For your own set of Obama bling-bling, contact Carol Vena-Mondt at (sorry no linkage, so you’ll have to cut & paste). Bracelets are $36. for the pair, which also includes tax and s&h. Carol is donating all net proceeds to the Obama Campaign. 

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