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Obama isn’t finished transforming us yet

by Greg Krehbiel on 13 February 2018

Have you seen the new portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama? Whether you like them or not (I don’t much care for them), they are certainly a break with tradition.

I don’t know all the mechanics of this. For example, I don’t know if the president gets to approve them before they’re unveiled. But from what I hear, he picked the artist and gave certain direction about what he was after. And he seems to have chosen “different.”

Is that a good idea? As the first (half) black president, Obama has a particular duty to the country, to the culture, and to history. It seems to me he can either send a message that everything has changed, and that black people aren’t comfortable with the traditional trappings of American culture, or he can send a message that electing a black man was, and is, no big deal. America goes on like normal. Quit obsessing over skin color. I’m just another president, doggone it, and I happen to be black.

If that latter idea was his attitude, I would think he would want a more traditional portrait.

I imagine that some voters might be thinking something along these lines.

“I thought we were getting rid of all these divisions and we were going to have a ‘post-racial’ America. But this guy seems to think he needs to keep changing everything he touches — like America is so deeply alien and hostile to him that even presidential portraits have to be ‘transformed.'”

Another way to look at it is to imagine what a history of the presidents will look like in 20 years. White man, white man, white man, white man, white man, with slow, subtle changes in style and taste as you go through history, and then … Holy crap! That one’s different!

Is that the right way to play this?

ISTM we’re struggling with two competing ideas about race in America. One side (my side) wants race to become less and less of an issue. The other side wants to promote identity politics, with black music, black art, black speech patterns and so on.

Obama seems to be more on that side than I’d like. Not that these portraits prove it, by any stretch, but they seem like yet another example of it.

2018-02-13  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 21

  1. Robin R.
    13 February 2018 @ 10:47 am

    Much ado about nothing.

  2. William
    13 February 2018 @ 1:15 pm

    Huh? Based on their comments, Mr. and Mrs. Obama met with multiple artists, picked the ones they liked, gave “some” guidance and then left it up to the artist to complete the portrait. Seems like a reasonable and fairly begnign process? So, why is this an issue? Why is this even about race at all?

    Also, as I understand, these portraits are ones that will hang in a museum. Yet, other, more traditional, ones will be placed in the White House.

  3. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    13 February 2018 @ 1:16 pm

    Just a weird coincidence that they both got portraits that are very untraditional, right?

  4. William
    13 February 2018 @ 1:20 pm

    No, it’s not a coincidence at all, it was their choice…as their precedessors had choice. Yet, my questions stand…why is this an issue and what does race have to do with it?

  5. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    13 February 2018 @ 1:25 pm

    Why is it an issue? Why don’t you ask the media and social media, both of which have been all over it?

    It’s an issue because he’s the former president of the United States, and the unveiling of the portrait is a normal news thing. It’s also an issue because both of the portraits are weird.

    The reason race has something to do with it is Obama is the first non-white president, so everything he does has the potential to have a racial undercurrent to it.

  6. William
    13 February 2018 @ 1:50 pm

    So, they’ve exercised their rightful choice, as their predecessors, and that alone is an issue? The fact that they are non-white, makes “any” decisions they make a racial issue? Really?

    That said, some people don’t like the portraits and other do. That’s no different than the past. Yet, according to you, when it’s these individuals, it’s an issue.

    Lastly, the media rationale is a bit tired. We know the media is going to report (sometimes obsess) over anything ANY president or former president does. It’s their business and is to be expected…no great shakes there.

  7. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    13 February 2018 @ 2:10 pm

    When somebody breaks with tradition, you ask why. When Barack and Michelle break with tradition, you ask why, and you wonder if race has something to do with it. That’s what eight years of Obama taught us.

  8. Robin R.
    13 February 2018 @ 2:45 pm

    Degenerate art!

  9. William
    13 February 2018 @ 3:45 pm

    QUOTE: When Barack and Michelle break with tradition, you ask why, and you wonder if race has something to do with it.

    Apparently, it makes “you” wonder about race. Does it make you wonder (race or otherwise) when our current president breaks with tradition? Within just one year, he’s clearly given us a lot to consider.

  10. Ken Crawford
    13 February 2018 @ 5:56 pm

    I’m with the much ado about nothing crowd. I think it’s more of an example of the echo chamber of social media and how we’re all “triggered” over stupid silly little things of our “enemies”.

  11. William
    13 February 2018 @ 10:23 pm

    @Ken, good point. That’s why I questioned why this was an issue. A legitimate decision was made concerning art. Some people didn’t like it and others did (as is typical, especially with art). That’s about it…nothing else to see here.

  12. smitemouth
    13 February 2018 @ 11:04 pm

    Personally, I don’t like the portrait. I prefer something more traditional. Same reason I don’t like the way kids do their senior pictures now.

    But, maybe Obama likes art. Lots of portrait paintings are little more than like photographs. In some ways, I’d rather see a nice black and white photo portait by Annie Leibowitz.

    But, if it involves Obama, generally, haters gonna hate.

  13. Robin R.
    13 February 2018 @ 11:23 pm

    Damned uppety……you-know-what!

  14. William
    13 February 2018 @ 11:40 pm

    Seems now there’s a new conspiracy, “spermgate”, relative to Mr. Obama’s portrait…courtesy of Sean Hannity. You can’t make this stuff up.

    https://www.snopes.com/obama-official-portrait-sperm-cells/

  15. Derek
    14 February 2018 @ 11:15 am

    I think it’s funny that the artist gave Obama six fingers!

  16. Robin R.
    14 February 2018 @ 11:50 am

    Obviously the Antichrist!

  17. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    15 February 2018 @ 8:48 am

    This was posted by a friend on Facebook under the headline “the embarrassment of Obama continues.”

    Obama's silly portrait

  18. Robin R.
    15 February 2018 @ 10:36 am

    Time to break the monotony, baby.

  19. smitemouth
    15 February 2018 @ 12:26 pm

    Yeah, let’s class the place up with maybe Trump with Stormy… or maybe some Melania girl on girl action.

    If you put 24k gold leaf on the frame, then it will be classy.

  20. Greg Krehbiel GregK
    15 February 2018 @ 12:27 pm

    You can be certain there will be some versions on social media with Trump on a golden toilet.

  21. William
    15 February 2018 @ 1:23 pm

    If breaking tradition is an considered an embrasment, Trump has already provided ample fodder for that. Just think, we have 3-7 more years to look forward to.

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