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March 5, 2009

Michelle At Arlington

Michelle Older vets.jpg

Perhaps the photo op of the week involved Michelle Obama at the Women in Military Service Memorial Center at Arlington.

The Obama’s are brilliant at blending messages and agendas to symbolically arm and disarm at the same time. With the President pursuing a multi-pronged agenda, the top photo — of Michelle posing with two one-hundred-year-old war veterans — seems to embrace a cross-section of issues, including: support for the troops, veterans affairs, health care and women’s rights. Of course, with Bush having largely avoiding the reality of war fatalities, the fact Mrs. Obama ventured to Arlington, especially early on, is significant in itself.

Michelle servicewomen.jpg

The second photo, echoing BHO’s visit to Camp Lejeune last Friday, captures everything missing the other day on the faces of the soldiers, the military apparently a little a skeptical about the new C.I.C. In spite of the paparazzi reaction from the second row back, the look of unqualified admiration from the two young women soldiers, one black and one white, evokes a strong sense of patriotism and support for the Administration, even if mostly attributable to the magnetism of the First Lady.

.Michelle Arlington.jpg

The last image, a striking visual showing Mrs. Obama examining a memorial wall of women veterans, I leave to you to interpret.

(image 1: Yuri Gripas/AFP – Getty. image 2 & 3: Alex Brandon/A.P. Arlington National Cemetery’s Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center. Washington. March 3, 2009)

  • anonpoli

    In the last photo, what is striking is that her face is serious, her body language resolute, and she is not looking away. You could place this picture next to the pictures now allowed of the coffins, that we no longer look away and hide reality.
    Each name matters. We can see her taking them in, reading, absorbing, she is the “below” neatly and honestly book-ending “Above &”. All the photos are black and white. The dead soldiers are past issues of color. And how neatly her gray jacket embodies that message.

  • joeradish

    All three pictures give new meaning to the “all black and white,” cliche. Michele Obama seems to see us. She is not aloof like the Bush wives, and she is not polarizing like Secretary of State (hee hee)Clinton, who, by the way, in her new role has quickly become a unifier.
    First Lady Obama is a good medicine for the nation, and she seems to have enough ease to handle her role.

  • david

    I got to see Michelle in Santa Fe with five military wives and local military officials. Her presence, emotional maturity and connection, and her ability to blend in astute policy discussion was uplifting and wonderful. For over two hours, she was right there with those wives. This was only one of many such meetings she convened across the country during the campaign – we are fortunate to have such a beautiful an engaged first lady.

  • Progresssive Mom

    In photo #1, the veteran has extended her forearm and elbow to the First Lady, possibly to help her balance her stance (it appears Mrs. Obama is neither using a chair nor bending down to be on par with the two women, but rather is squatting to their level … an outstanding example of what disability advocates call “people first”).
    Can anything be more symbolic, more uplifting, or more of an affirmation of what it means to be an American than to see a 100 year old female veteran extend a helping hand to the young First Lady?

  • John

    I just noticed that Michelle’s smile looks like Reese Witherspoon’s.


    Looking at the last picture, note that her head is trailing the line of her body. She is actually reading what is on the wall in front of her. Then the way here arms are crossed, try it yourself and see what emotions it gives rise to. If both hands were covered, it could either be resentment or fear. But the right hand up (and shoulders up) is more relaxed and even contemplative. I think, despite the flashes going off, despite the people around her, this woman is thinking about the loss and sacrifice each name represents.

  • Serr8d

    Did you see the photo taken with M’chelle in beads?

  • Wayne Dickson

    Yeah, the closed form of the crossed arms struck me (possibly because we were talking recently about closed vs. open form in my introductory Humanities course). It must always be taken in context, of course. She does indeed seem actually to be reading what’s in front of her. The posture thus seems to me, not a rejection or sign of dismissal, but rather an expression of an empathy that hurts.

  • paul wilczynski

    Sorry for this seeming nit-picking here. I’m an avid reader of your analyses, and find a lot of truth in your observations of the “subliminable” (sic).
    I must, however, strike a (minor?) negative note here and call your attention to the use of what I call the “hillbilly plural”–the use of an apostrophe in adding the plural “s” onto the singular form of a proper surname: in this case, “Obama’s”, which I’m sure when it’s detached, now reads to you as the possessive!
    Apostrophes are used to show contraction or possession, but never to pluralize.

  • Kitt

    Paul – I SO totally understand the nitpicking. I am not what I would consider a grammar constable, but apparently my skills at recognizing possessive vs plural is a rare commodity, as is differentiating between certain homophones (there/their, bear/bare, your/you’re are (are/our) the few that come to mind instantly). Although our/are doesn’t really fit the category, some folks use them interchangeably.
    As for Michelle Obama. This woman is someone I want to be friends with because of what I’ve observed about her. She’s no freakin’ pushover. She is contemplative coupled with all her other characteristics. Personally – of the two, I think she’s the THINKER in that family, as in heavy-duty. I do not think Barack Obama is a lightweight thinker, but I do think lighter than his wife.
    See – she would do exactly what I would do if in her place. I’d be myself as much as I could be in public without giving away too much intimacy, and I sure as hell would be connected to what’s and who is around me. She’s there for a reason, she knows it, and she reading the exhibit because that’s what one does when they want to connect and honor people for who they are and what they’ve accomplished.

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