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July 9, 2005

Uncle Sam George


Newyorkerunclesam350

Two questions:  First, does The New Yorker imitate life or does life imitate The New Yorker?  Second, how much does the personality of a leader come to represent (or supersede) the image of the country he leads?

TNY produced a cover — dated July 4th and titled "Party of One" — showing Uncle Sam celebrating his birthday alone at a party table set for for leaders of the world.  The obvious reference was not just to America’s Independence Day, but also the "stand-alone" policies of George Bush as highlighted by his conflict with issues on the agenda at the (then impending) G-8 summit. 

At the same time, the birthday image turned out to be more literal than one would have supposed.  I wasn’t aware of it (and I’m not sure whether the illustrator was either) but Dubya’s birthday happens to fall on July 6th.  Stopping in Denmark on his way to the summit, the Queen presented Bush a patriotic-looking cake to mark that occasion.

Bushbirthdaydenmark-1

Seeing these two images within days of each other, I was interested in how concretely the world connects Bush’s polarizing agenda with the American people, and how synonymous George has actually become to Uncle Sam.  Obviously, this identification occurs, to greater or lesser degree, with all U.S. presidents.  However, given Bush’s rampant adventurism and radicalism and political isolationism and contempt for dialogue and put-downs of Europe, along with all the talk of mandates and capital to spend, I wonder how much we’ve literally turned into the United States of George

(Certainly, al Qaeda isn’t suffering any distinction.)

Of course, the New Yorker cover does a fine job illustrating what Bush is doing to an identity that belongs not to him but to us.  (I say: more power not just to body language and empty chairs, but also to subtle elements such as red phallic balloons; blue pig-like balloons; wayward eyebrows; and hats pitched slightly forward implying cowboy brims.)  (And no, the "lone star" and the southern-style bow tie and goatee are just traditional to Uncle Sam.)

The way these two images seem to merge (with reds never more red, and blues never more blue) only emphasizes how much a single birthday boy has taken America hostage, and has come to personify a set of values that I cannot recognize. 

(image 1: "Party of One" by Barry Blitt. July 4, 2005. Cover.  The New Yorker Magazine. image 2: Claus Fisker/AFP/SCANPIX. Fredensborg, Denmark.  July 6, 2005 in YahooNews.)

  • Dennis Quaranta

    Was Bush isolated and alone as a child? He never learned how to play nice with other children. Always the bully! He has mean nicknames for this staff people, he has to be the center of attention, and he always, always has to get his way.
    Adults can arrange play dates for their unpopular children but can’t force other children to participate. This is apparently what has happened at the birthday party. There’s only the slightest recognition that the other guests have their own colors to fly. With George it’s all me me ME. Some people call that assertiveness, but done to extremes it doesn’t enhance self-esteem.
    In another sense, the scene reminds me of the 1960’s saying, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” Invited guests like France and Germany declined outright. Italy is leaving this year. There never was any popular support in England for the war.
    We’re isolated and alone. Is some self-doubt starting to creep in? Uncle Sam is unhappy at his own party.

  • Stephanie

    The Danish birthday cake looks like a giant… danish. I’m not quite sure what you see in that cake that is patriotic looking…? (Or did you mean Danish-patriotic?)
    Interesting that the candles are attached to the tray instead of the cake. Is that a European custom or just a convienient way to accommodate so many candles — apparently the actual number of George’s age?
    Bush’s body language is eager anticipation: knees slightly bent, shoulders pitching forward and lips beginning to pucker ready blow out the candles. Despite the number of candles, his posture shows his inner child being brought out. That’s not intended as an insult, I think most of us would react similarly in the same situation, probably as a result of childhood conditioning.

  • bkny

    i like the woman positioning her hand to shield her from bush’s blowing out the candles — kind of anticipating some spillover.
    agree about the body language — he’s got the posture of a 5 year old.

  • bg

    I thought this NYorker cover was one of the best ever!! Incredible justaposition with the YaHoo birthday cake photo, and isn’t it just the PERFECT coinkydink that July 4, July 6 and G8 all pop up at the same time!!
    I like the title, Party of One. I associated it more with the war. . .today the announcement that Italy is now leaving, or has given their timetable. And table of one, well, no one is sitting down with him or is that US? Looking at Unka’ SSSam, I felt that sting of no one is coming to OUR party when looking at the NYorker.
    I think that weenie balloon in the upper left corner looks a bit deflated, not up and perky. It is self-consciously placed there.
    Those little shapes by the plates, party favors? Or shot glasses?

  • http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops ms kubelik

    Agree w/the comment, bq, re the deflated balloon :)
    Perhaps not conincidentally, the hunched over “Uncle Sam” shares the posture with Bushco in the second photo — both are diminishing themselves by their posture — demonstrating uneasiness of some sort?
    It seems that instead of taking charge of the situation and joking about how many candles there are and the need for two breaths, in the second photo Bushco looks like he’s actually worried about whether or not he can do it with one –
    an adult man concerned about whether or not he can blow out all the candles with his first breath.
    Feh.

  • Quentin

    The image could hardly be sharper. I wonder if Bush has seen this. Surely some of his gang have. Since the November election Dear Leader has unfortunately come more and more to stand for the U.S.: the people chose him. ‘I never really liked birthday parties anyway’, Uncle Sam might say.

  • Antony

    Did anyone notice that in the New Yorker illustration Bush has no arms?

  • MonsieurGonzo

    actually The Fourth of July = Independence Day is a uniquely American event; as is Thanksgiving Day. there are of course other coinkydink festivals and holidays around the world that fall on or about “our holiday” dates, but by and large only the ex-pat community is doing the victory over the Brits thing and feast with the Indians thing.
    but of course the raison d’etre of TNY’s editorial cartoon cover is to show ISOLATION by shunning implicit.
    as Quentin points out, correctly ~ since the election=validation of George W. Bush, people abroad now see US differently: you chose him!
    no more excuses; the American People have spoken. oh, many of us may not like this; But most of us still deny that, hey ~ there is this dark side of the American character, (of which we are a part, folks) and it’s not very pretty.
    when you go overseas for awhile, and turn around and look at your Country from Over There, that dark side becomes more apparent. upon further reflection, you also begin to appreciate all those things that ARE great about American people, things too easily taken for granted.
    it’s not easy to {gulp} admit to ourselves that one heluva lot of people in The States are as unpleasant / unsympathetic as our elected leader.
    Dubya may lead / represent them but The President did not create our neo-con warmongers, fundamentalist Theocrats, and crony capitalists: they, my darlings, are also US.

  • http://arvinhill.blogspot.com Arvin Hill

    I was interested in how concretely the world connects Bush’s polarizing agenda with the American people, and how synonymous George has actually become to Uncle Sam.
    And why shouldn’t they?
    Perhaps – if we had an opposition party instead of a bunch of unprincipled, chickenshit rubber-stampers – the world would be willing to make the distinction between the American NeoCons and the rest of us.
    As it is, the barely visible Left continues its navel-gazing, hand-wringing ways and should forfeit the expectation of sympathy and understanding beyond our borders.

  • Quentin

    The Bag’s question struck me as disingenuous:
    how much does the personality of a leader come to represent (or supersede) the image of the country he leads? Of course the Bag’s not talking about any old leader, he’s referring to the eminent boss of the U.S.A.
    Hardly anyone in the U.S. seems to understand the depth of antipathy towards Bush and, by extension, the U.S.A. around the world since his victory last November. It began about four years ago when he publicly ridiculed the Kyoto Protocol. That came over like a slap in the face, as if he spit in world’s face, the greatest ‘fuck you’ anyone could imagine. I have no understanding of these matters, maybe the Kyoto Protocol has flaws, which are inevitable in any human undertaking, but the arrogance of his statement startled the world. Something then snapped, irreparably, and it will be very hard, nearly impossible, to negate the damage. It seems that international relations have been permanently changed, at least with respect to Europe. The absolute horror of the Iraq war has also openend the world’s eyes to the U.S. agenda. There is no sense in looking for organized U.S. opposition to the war becuase it does not exist. The Democrats are as implicated as can be: Kerry, Clinton, etc. Spare me the tears. No one takes to the streets. No one protests. Everyone pontificates and philosphizes but predictably to no avail, no one wants to be inconvenienced.
    An example of the insanity: Ms. Mushroom Cloud signs the condolence book at the British embassy in Washington, I assume in the name of the U.S. people: ‘They did not die in vain. Sec. of State U.S.A., Condy Rice’. That’s what she said for us. Can you imagine such crap. What did they die for then? What an absolute banal cliche. Read the speech of the mayor of London, Ken Livingston, and learn how real, feeling people react. They must have died for the Caliphate, freedom, the free market, what? It’s an affront to the survivors of the victims of the London bombings, the maimed and the mutiliated, the deceased who are still lying in the underground tunnel, the men and women who are trying to piece together the evidence under excruciating circumstances while respecting the dead. I can’t see whether Bush and his gang, including Fox and Murdoch, are ignorant, stupid or just plain evil. I leave that to you to decide. As my brother recently said: ‘The country used to be nice.’ As I read in a comment somewhere a few days ago: ‘You people used to be fun, you’re not anymore.’ The U.S. and its people are not exceptional, and, as Digby rightfully stated yesterday (the day before?), the most exceptional thing about them is that they might think they are exceptional. Birthday party? Soon maybe everyone will realize this is not business as usual. The Republic ended in 2000: Gore Vidal, who literally grew up in the corridors of national power.

  • Realpolitik

    New Yorker: Uncle Sam is hiding his genitals with his hands. He’s ashamed. He’s impotent; castrated. He’s masturbated too much. He lacks jism like he lacks soldiers.
    Photo: The cake covers Bush’s genital area. The only thing erect are the flaming candles, which will be blown out by incoherent hot air from Great Leader. Bush looks like a child just caught masturbating…

  • http://www.ireallyhatehimyouknow.blogspot.com John Lombard

    The cake has too many candles for Bush to puff out — he’s daunted, he doesn’t know how to go about it or what’s expected of him. Like with Iraq — he’s “bitten off more than he can chew”.

  • George Myers

    This reminds me of a summer-time event in Wolfeboro, NH (where the Dole’s have a place, and former Vice President Dan Quayle has been seen) years ago when George Bush Sr. was Vice President. President Ronald Reagan was going under the knife for his colon problem, which left Sr. Bush as President for awhile. He stopped on the second deck of the side-wheel ship of the “Mount Washington” to ask everyone dockside to join him in a moment of prayer, before they whisked him away in a limo for the flight to D.C., I assume. Bush “W” has the same look on his face as Bush “HW”.
    Wolfeboro, NH is known as “America’s Oldest Summer Resort” loyalist Governor John Wentworth had a summer place there, near where many today still vacation around Lake Winnepeasauki (“smile of the Great Spirit”) and I was visiting on Tuftonboro Neck, where one of the first supreme court justices of Canada (the king’s choice, not Peter Livius’, who before the American Revolution, wanted to be a non-nepotist judge in New Hampshire, and may have been the writer “Americus” in the British press over the charges he brought against Governor John Wentworth there). Peter Livius once owned Tuftonboro Neck (married to a contested land-claim family and a house and mill on Mirror Lake.
    Interesting, a book about the controversy there (Wolfe was a famous British general who died invading then French Canada) and the results (Governor John Wentworth, unlike all other royal governors became a governor of Nova Scotia after the American Revolution) is Paul W. Wilderson’s “Governor John Wentworth & The American Revolution The English Connection” c)1994 University Press of New England: Hanover and London.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    oh, Quentin! i do so love it when you get yer dander in a flander!! spank me again, please!!!
    …seem to remember YOU guys re-electing Mr. Poodle not too long ago?? And now he gets the Guiliani treatment: he’s a 7/7 “hero” simply for doing his job. Right. It’s all Bush’s fault. He made me do it, mommy!
    you’re angry now, we know.
    at least we were lied to ~ more than half of our good, simple people were good and simply fooled; taken unfair advantage of after our psyche in NYC was blown to hell. what’s the Brits’ excuse? “looks like a jolly good adventure, neo-colonial invasion redux, what?”
    just because YOUR lying war-mongering, Christian nutcase leader has good manners doesn’t make him, and the majority of British citizens who voted (yet again) for him, any better or worse a man than OUR lying, war-mongering, Christian nutcase leader, n’est-ce pas ?
    that image of lonely (impotent:) Uncle Sam could just as easily be lonely old Union Jack (or lay Miz. Chirac, for that matter)
    c’mon man, chunnel on over and we’ll give you a respite and a decent meal: Simone says she knows a good Finnish restaurant over in the Marais.

  • Asta

    I am so tired of being told it’s raining when Bushco is peeing on us all.
    I need a really big umbrella.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aog/ Annoying Old Guy

    It began about four years ago when he [President Bush] publicly ridiculed the Kyoto Protocol. That came over like a slap in the face, as if he spit in world’s face

    Why didn’t it begin back in 1997, when the US Senate rejected the Kyoto Protocol by an overwhelming 95-0 vote? The problem, apparently, is the Bush told the truth, that the elected representatives of the American citizenry had so overwhelming rejected the treaty that it had no hope of adoption in the USA. Interesting that you are claiming the EUlite hate Bush for “speaking truth to power”.
    It’s also typical that the world views of the commentors here revolve around Bush, even when his putative deeds are rooted in the past well before he became President (such as regime change in Iraq, which became the official foreign policy of the USA in 1997, passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by then President Clinton).

  • http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops ms kubelik

    Regime change may have been the policy — but it was
    BUSH 43 who went to war based on faith that WMD were in Iraq . . . err, no . . .
    based on Saddam’s tyranny . . . err, no . . .
    based on Saddam’s connection to 9/11. . . err, no . . .
    based on the failure of UN sanctions . . .
    Shows how smart Clinton and BUSH 41 were — and what a failure Bush 43 continues to be. Check out my url.

  • Quentin

    Annoying Old Guy,
    I didn’t know the Senate had earlier rejected the Kyoto Protocol. Can you direct me to more information about that?
    Monsieur Gonzo, No ma’am.

  • http://blog.thought-mesh.net Annoying Old Guy

    Quentin;
    The text in the comment is a link to more information. Just click on it. Or you could google for it with the terms “senate kyoto vote 1997″. (I’ve provided the link for you so you don’t even have to type it in).
    ms. kubelik;
    Here is the joint resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq which was passed by both House of Congress and signed by President Bush. This is the most official list of reasons that exists. I would claim that any reason listed there cannot be claimed to be a post-invasion rationalization. One might also note that WMD is but one of a number of reasons. Finally, I would point to the Downing Street Memos as confirmation that WMDs were taken very seriously at the highest levels of the USA and UK governments before the invasion.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    ” Finally, I would point to the Downing Street Memos as confirmation that WMDs were taken very seriously at the highest levels of the USA and UK governments before the invasion. ” – Annoying Old Guy
    I think you are correct. WMDs WERE taken very seriously; as a way to sell the countries on the need for war. Sort of like advertising on kiddie programming that tells children they NEED the newest version of a breakfast cereal when Mom already has four boxes of the usual stuff in the cupboard.

  • Tired old dude

    annoying old guy, you’re too uninformed and biased for your posts to have any value. or for any discussion of them to have any. Go read some non partisan reporting and quit repeating the same tired old shit that everyone here can see through. You won the battle for public opinion with you ignorant public. elections aren’t due for another 3 years, so **** off already.

  • Tired old dude

    and there’s five other treaties he rejected within seven months.. including nuclear proliferation, biological weapons, etc etc.
    and even if the treaties were flawed (as he vaguely put it) has your self righteous conservative american ass ever heard of negotiation and dialogue?

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