Monday, July 14, 2008

July 14 - Blood, Art, Morality and War - Just the Legacy a President Might Want

Except Maybe For The Art

"No President wants war."

July 14th is a very rare date: of course it's Bastille Day, but it's also the date the Crusaders occupied Jerusalem in such a savage manner that more than one chronicler said the knights' horses were knee-deep in blood. On July 14, 1798, The Sedition Act was passed, making it illegal to write or speak disparagingly about America. July 14th was also the birth date of James McNeil Whistler (1834) and Gustav Klimt (1862) and the death date of Alphonse Mucha (1939). It is also the birth date of Rev. Franklin Graham (1952), son of Rev. Billy Graham. And the death date of Adlai Stevenson (1965).

Don't ask me how it came to mind (I couldn't tell you), but George Bush's legacy - the real one - came to mind in researching July 14th. Oh, conspiracy theories abound involving Bush with 9/11 and the war in Iraq. The reason one tends to consider them is that Bush's presidency has been so secretive about so many things. I'm sure that he and his staff have invoked executive privilege more times than any other administration. At the very least, his non-admission of mistakes has made him suspect to most Americans. America is a very forgiving country when it comes to its leader's mistakes, so when errors in judgment are made and the President doesn't admit them, people tend to ask "Why didn't you tell us?"

Bush's legacy, as I see it, involves an intense desire for war, to the exclusion of national concerns coupled with an unwillingness to listen to advisers and the public. It involves trying to appease the Religious Right who helped put him into office - twice. It involves lack of strategy as well as lack of diplomacy. It involves furthering an agenda few people supported. It involves the "don't worry" philosophy of his father attached to "I'll take care of things." It involves so many things: when his father lost the Presidency the phrase was "it's the economy, stupid." With George W. it might as well be "It's everything, stupid."

There are so many unanswered questions: how much did he really know about 9/11? Did he target Iraq for oil or vengeance? Has he purposely alienated other countries? Has he been just paying lip service to the Religious Right? Is he as obstinate as staffers have portrayed him to be? How deeply is he involved with big business?

And what will he be doing once he's out of office?

The last piece of art comes from a 6th grader via a caring fan. Here was the accompanying text:

“I made the flag like this because I think America is like waves of blood. That’s because America has so many killings, like war and all of the gang killings”
--Student artist’s own words.

This art was exhibited on a bulletin board of a gifted and talented magnet shool in the US. I won't name the school for fear that it might alert federal agents to investigate and intimidate the teacher or the school for being "anti-american".

PS: July 14 is also the day (1798) that the Sedition Act was passed. It was hard to enforce - they didn't have cell phones then.


This picture was also captioned: The Face of Compassionate Conservatism: Dead Bodies in our Streets.

In a way, the title is fitting: George Bush's apathy for the infrastructure of the nation caused many deaths. Bush was too focused on Iraq at the time to pay any attention to what the nation needed.

Sarah Bernhardt and Alphonse Mucha

La Dame aux Camelias
Originally uploaded by aeillill

What a Pair of Artists!

Few people know that it was Sarah Bernhardt who helped advance Mucha and his "decorative" Art Nouveau. She commissioned him to do a poster for Gismonde and once she saw it, she immediately
signed him to a five-year contract to design her posters, costumes and even her sets. Once this information got out, Mucha was "the toast of Paris". He remained in demand for two decades. He designed furniture and jewelry as well. He recognized, however, that his work would be outmoded after a time and concentrated on his supreme artistic love: painting "The Slav Epic." It consists of about 12 vast canvases. He continued to do public art in Prague, (e.g. a stained glass window for St. Vitus Cathedral), but his heart was never far from "The Epic". It is shown completely in his little home town, Ivancice, Moravia.

Picture of Mucha, dwarfed by his "Slav Epic"