Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Patriotic Kitsch-This little figurine got Jordon Cooper started on a minirant. Let's take Bene's advice and look at it before we critique Jordan. It's cute. It's got a tot in cammo and helmet with a rifle with the caption "Lord, Bless This Defender of Freedom and Keep Him Safe In Your Hands." In times of war, we have a surge in patriotic kitsch, of which this might be Exhibit A. Patriotic kitsch doesn't dwell on the downsides of the US, it looks at the US as the good guy. It produces flag decals and "God Bless Our Troops" bumper stickers and road side ad signs. It produces a handful of patriotic country songs for each era. It produces kitschy patriotic hardware. Some of us, myself included, have a soft spot for Precious Moments-type kitsch, for those figurines and stuffed animals that are awwwww-inspiring. Other people, who pride themselves on being counter-cultural, will have a reflexive distaste for kitsch. Kitsch is the folk art of the bourgeoisie, snuggly cute and clean and removed from all things dirty, pessimistic and nihilistic. If you’re rebelling against the culture at large, you're rebelling against kitsch. There is a valid Christian argument against some of the more egregiously kitschy stuff, especially some of the more cutsie angelic stuff. Life is full of evil and spiritual warfare, and the universe of kitsch is blissfully unaware of the world's problems. Kitsch tends to sugar-coat things too much. Kitsch can also give a watered-down commitment to goodness that doesn't want to get its hands dirty. Kitsch is preferable to nihilistic realism, but it can lead to a too sheltered world-view. If you're of a liberal counter-cultural bent, you're going to have a double allergy to patriotic kitsch. If you're not an American, patriotic kitsch has the liberal reaching for the antihistamines, and if America is asserting itself around the world as it is now, the liberals are reaching for the inhalers as they gasp for air. Jordon’s grabbing the inhaler in his post.
Don't know what bothers me more, the reinforcement of a "manifest destiny" worldview, the commodification of war and the idea that war is in God's name, or that is a child holding the rifle.
Manifest Destiny-a historic way of talking about American empire. Last time I check, that essentially stopped at the Spanish-American War. We may go to war, but we don't act as an empire. We may not be 100% right, but in the post-Cold War era, we've been acting in the best interest of the regions involved. If Iraq becomes an American colony rather than a functioning democracy, you can redo that phrase. The commodification of war -Got them dead to rights there. Bourgeois kitsch is all about commodifiacation. Child holding the rifle-I don't know much about the Hamilton people, but this seems to be in that Precious Moments motif of children in adult settings. That's part of that shtick.
Here is the description...
No matter where his mission takes him, he'll never be beyond the reach of God's protection. As the brave members of the U.S. military head out to defend our freedom, it's comforting to know that each one is sheltered in the loving hands of God.
The US military is out to protect even Jordon's (who's Canadian) freedom. Is God on our side? I think so, but I think He's looking out after His people, regardless of which side they're on. Even if our soldiers were out on a mission to grab oil for Bush's Texas buddies, God would still be looking after His people. If this picture had a light-skinned child "doctor" helping a child Arab "patient" with some pithy saying about spreading our blessings, I don't think it would have gotten to Jordon quite as much. He's honorably against the war, he's a bit cranky about the heat he's getting and let it rip on a cute figurine.

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