Archive for Hillary Clinton

Election 2016 in Picture Books; or, What Will We Tell the Children?

Children's picture books about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

This election. You’re tired of it. I’m tired of it. And… it’s finally over. Today. Or, at least we hope it will be resolved today. Given that Mr. Trump has vowed only to accept a Trump victory, it may not be resolved today. Either way, the 2016 U.S. Election is one for the history books — and for children’s books. We have yet to read the children’s book about this presidential contest, but four picture books on the candidates offer a first draft of history for younger readers.

A few months ago, I was talking to a German reporter about picture books on presidential candidates — he was genuinely surprised that there were already children’s books about Clinton and Trump. After all, neither had yet attained the office! But it didn’t surprise me. During the 2008 presidential election, there were twelve juvenile titles about then Senator Barack Obama — two of them picture books. During that same election, there were five books for young readers about Senator John McCain — one of those, a picture book (My Dad, John McCain, by his daughter Meghan).

Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight (2015)This year, we already have three picture books about Hillary Clinton  — one of which, Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates’ Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight (2015) has been updated since its initial appearance in 2008. The other two are new for this election: Michelle Markel and LeUyen Pham’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls are Born to Lead (2016) and Jonah Winter and Raul Colon’s Hillary (2016).  On the Republican side, there’s just one: Michael Ian Black and Marc Rosenthal’s A Child’s First Book of Trump (2016), which might also be called an adult satire masquerading as a children’s book.

Michael Ian Black and Marc Rosenthal, A Child's First Book of Trump (2016)Or it might not. Representing the American Trump (as Black calls him) requires a journey into areas where most children’s books fear to tread.  Lucky for Black and Rosenthal, they created the book before the emergence of the tape in which Trump bragged about committing sexual assault, before he was openly flirting with using nuclear weapons (and encouraging their proliferation), before he challenged the patriotism of a Gold Star family, before he went on a late-night Twitter rant against a former Miss Universe, before he (twice) suggested that his supporters assassinate Hillary Clinton, and before he said he would only accept the election results if he won.  Writing a Trump picture book now — even a picture book for adults — would be much more challenging.

Even though it misses some of Mr. Trump’s more recent offenses, A Child’s First Book of Trump does not shy away from his tiny hands, his anxiety about “the size of [his] manhood,” his need to attach his name to products of dubious merit, his fixation on always “winning,” or his obsession with TV coverage. “Now, where does it live?” Black asks of the Trump. “On flat-screen TVs! / It rushes toward every camera it sees. / It thrives in the most contentious conditions / And excretes the most appalling emissions.”

Michael Ian Black and Marc Rosenthal, A Child's First Book of Trump (2016)

The ersatz Seussian verse is no accident. Black represents Trump as a con-artist straight out of Seuss. In A Child’s First Book of Trump, Trump’s personality is part unreformed Grinch and part Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the salesman who profits from the Sneetches’ prejudice (in Seuss’s The Sneetches). Visually, Rosenthal depicts the Trump as an oversized yam with a comb-over.  He’s a compelling character for a children’s book: an ego that is both inflated and fragile; a volatile, impulsive personality; a pathological need for attention. He is the shining example of how not to behave. He is not even a “he.” He is an “it,” a non-gendered, primal, howling ball of need.

Jonah Winter & Raul Colon, Hillary (2016)Where Black and Rosenthal can draw upon the ready-made caricature of the man himself, the creators of the Hillary Clinton books face the challenge of both presenting a complex, multi-dimensional adult, and finding a clear narrative through-line. For the latter, all three underscore Clinton’s life and work as a feminist achievement, illustrating her Wellesley commencement speech, as well as her work as a lawyer, First Lady, U.S. senator, 2008 presidential candidate, and U.S. Secretary of State.

Michelle Markel and LeUyen Pham, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead (2016)The feminist narrative is compelling: it gives her struggle a sharp focus, and invites readers to root for her as she surmounts (or does not surmount) tough odds. When the story of the 2016 campaign gets added to revised editions of these books or told in new books, a feminist emphasis will contrast decisively with her opponent’s prolific misogyny. Indeed, in these children’s books of the future, Mr. Trump’s sexist thuggery will make him a convenient foil for Secretary Clinton.

In the current editions, the feminist emphasis sometimes risks oversimplifying. While I understand Krull’s desire to wrest a moral from each moment of Clinton’s life, the homily on every two-page spread feels condescending, as if the book doesn’t trust readers to make sense of the narrative. After a teen-age Hillary writes to NASA to volunteer to be an astronaut, the agency turns her down: “But it was 1961, and some paths were still closed to women, such as the job of astronaut.” On the same page and in a cursive script, the book adds “Take a deep breath, look ahead, and keep trying to fly.”  If these inspirational moments admirably address a lack of heroes for girls, they also insist upon the book’s authority, denying readers the pleasure of drawing their own lessons from its story.

Kathleen Krull and Amy June Bates, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight (2015)

Aided by the expressive faces and body language in Pham’s artwork, Markel’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead offers the sharpest focus on her subject’s battle against institutional sexism. Nearly every two-page spread confronts the double standard that Hillary has faced throughout her life. While campaigning with Bill, the narrative observes, “She wasn’t frightened of the cameras and reporters. But she couldn’t believe how people criticized her — in ways they’d never criticize a man.” By delivering this critique via free indirect discourse (third person closely aligned with first-person perspective, Hillary in this case), Markel softens the didacticism, while still highlighting the considerable gender bias — which, as Samantha Bee and others have pointed out, has been a dominant theme of the 2016 campaign.

Winter and Colón’s Hillary manages the feminist message subtly, via compelling anecdotes that speak for themselves. Visiting Egypt as Secretary of State, Clinton stands poised behind a podium, heedless of the men who point and shout at her. Winter’s narrative reports: “In Egypt, where women do not have as many rights as men, she gave a speech that called for equality between men and women. She was challenged by men in the audience: how dare she come to Egypt and tell them what to do? Hillary did not back down.” The sharpness of Winter’s text and warmth of Colon’s artwork (a mix of watercolors, colored pencils and lithograph crayons), taken together, conveys just the right mix of toughness and compassion.

Jonah Winter & Raul Colon, Hillary (2016)

The books about Hillary steer clear of Bill’s infidelities. On the one hand, this seems fair: his philandering is not her fault, and so need not be part of her story. On the other, it seems a lost opportunity: her ability to stick with a wayward spouse would offer some insight into their relationship. The sole book about Donald also omits his three marriages, many affairs, and avocational groping. Here, the omission is a flaw: Trump’s view that women are objects tells us much about his character, and should be included. It could serve as a cautionary tale for young readers, telling boys how not to behave, and all children about the type of boy they should avoid.

When picture-book creators of the future (or these authors, in revised editions) tell the story of this election, they’ll face the challenge of including language and behavior typically excluded from works for young readers, where pussy-grabbing typically refers to picking up a cat and not to sexual assault.  It’s quite possible that children’s books about the 2016 election will land on the American Library Association’s Banned Book List.

However, if that proves to be the case, then so be it. Lying to children does not help them understand the world in which they live. The truth is that, in 2016, the Republican Party nominated a thin-skinned, unhinged, narcissistic, sociopathic, misogynist, racist, conspiracy-theorist-spouting con artist. Most members of his party were the contemporary equivalent of good Nazis: they professed disagreement with some of his statements, but otherwise endorsed their candidate. Should Mr. Trump win, children’s books about this election will be shelved next to children’s books about the rise of Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Stalin, and other authoritarian rulers.  The books will be cautionary tales about how fascism can ransack democracies.

If Secretary Clinton wins, the U.S. will have at least won an electoral victory over an aspiring tyrant, even though he, his followers, and the party that nominated him will not have disappeared.  Discovering how to lead Trumpites and Trump-supporting Republicans back to democracy will be one of the major challenges of a Hillary Clinton administration.

As I write these words in the earliest hours of November 8th, we do not yet know the election’s outcome — though polling suggests that Secretary Clinton will prevail, thanks in large part to high voter turnout among Hispanics, African Americans, and other minoritized groups.  Indeed, in the grandest of ironies, all those whom the U.S. has historically treated badly — if they vote in sufficient numbers — will save America from itself.

And that’s a story worth telling.


Other posts about the 2016 U.S. Election:

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Trump Is the Voldemort of Presidential Candidates (Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote)

Trump is Voldemort

Just before the first debate, I wrote a little essay for the Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote project.  Here’s a small excerpt:

Donald Trump is the Voldemort of presidential candidates. Now, wait just a minute (you might object): Trump has an elaborate coif, but Voldemort is bald! And Voldemort is well-spoken, while Trump uses the vocabulary of a fourth-grader! Both true. But Trumpy and Voldy otherwise have so much in common.

Both built their political careers on scapegoating minorities. In his bid to make wizarding great again, Voldemort wants to expel Muggles and those of Muggle ancestry — even though he himself is the son of a witch and a Muggle. Trump — the son of a Scots mother and an American Klansman father — also likes to blame immigrants. Mexicans, he says, are “rapists” and “criminals.” Islam “hates us,” Trump alleges, and Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S.

My essay also makes a case for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.  I contrast her sane policies with his dangerous ones, and note another key difference:

        I support Hillary Clinton because she is compassionate, and has been throughout her career.  Donald Trump cares only for Donald Trump. There are countless stories of Clinton coming to the aid of others, whether making sure 9/11 first responders got the help they needed, fighting for children’s health care, or sustaining a correspondence with ordinary citizens like Aleatha Williams — who, as a child, wrote to the then First Lady. Clinton kept in touch, attended Williams’ middle-school luncheon and high school graduation. It’s impossible to imagine Donald Trump — a man who attacked a grieving Gold Star family — doing anything of the kind. He has no heart. No compassion. No humanity.

The whole essay is over at Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, where you’ll also find great pieces by many other (much better) writers.  Check it out!  Make sure you’re registered to vote!  And VOTE!


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Ambiguous credit: I’m not sure who made the meme I’ve used at the top of the post, but it wasn’t me.

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Election 2016: The Mixtapes

Both 2016 election mixes: Trump (at left) & Clinton (at right)

With the 2016 presidential election slightly less than 6 weeks away, it’s time to get up and dance. Or run around flailing and hollering. Likely, a bit of both. To aid you in this necessary activity, I have assembled two mixes — one for each of the two major presidential candidates.  Actually, I’ve assembled three. For those offended by profanity, I have a “clean” version of the Hillary Clinton mix (omitting YG’s “FDT”).

Each mix strives to represent key ideas of the candidates’ campaigns. I’ve compiled songs that reflect the key concerns of the fascistic, narcissistic fraud who is running as a white supremacist. And I’ve assembled songs that reflect the key ideas of the experienced, even-tempered, feminist neoliberal.  So, I present to you, dear listeners,…

Enjoy!


The Angry Mob: TrumpPence Uber Alles

The Angry Mob: TrumpPence Uber Alles

1. I’m always surprised to read that evangelical voters support Trump, since he personifies at least six of the Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, hubris, and sloth — the last of which was most visible in his lack of preparation for the first presidential debate). In the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968), Mick Jagger’s smooth-talking con-artist Satan nicely encapsulates The Donald’s approach to life.

2. Zevon’s “Mr. Bad Example” (1991)* articulates the precise business philosophy of Donald Trump. He’ll swindle you, and then move on to the next scam.

3. The Psychedelic Furs deliver an apt description of the candidate’s rhetorical approach: he’s full of hot air. “President Gas” (from 1982, and about President Reagan) is even more applicable to the kind of president Trump would be, and to the followers he attracts: “You’ll say yeah to anything, / if you believe all this, but / Don’t cry, don’t do anything. / No lies, back in the government. / No tears, party time is here again. / President gas is up for president.”

4. In “Kiss Me, Son of God” (1988), They Might Be Giants sing, “I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage called the blood of the exploited working class. But they’ve overcome their shyness, now they’re calling me ‘Your Highness.’” Were TMBG thinking of The Donald when they wrote this?

5. “Who are the ones we kept in charge? / Killers, thieves, and lawyers.” Tom Waits’ “God’s Away on Business” (2002) describes the amoral heart of the Trump campaign.

6. Whenever I look at a Trump rally, the lyrics from the Kaiser Chiefs’ “The Angry Mob” (2007) enter my head: “We are the angry mob. / We read the papers every day. / We like who we like, / we hate who we hate. / But we’re also easily swayed.”

7. In “The Future” (1992), Leonard Cohen evokes the fascist nightmare embodied by the soulless fraud who craves approval and wants to commit war crimes: “It’s lonely here — there’s no one left to torture! / Give me absolute control / Over every living soul. / And lie beside me, baby — that’s an order!”

8. Apocalyptic dystopian dance music from Talking Heads’ live album Stop Making Sense (1984).

9. Aerosmith, describing a world on the brink, also advises against “judg[ing] a wise man by the color of his skin.”

10. Make America Hate Again! The Delgados’ “All You Need Is Hate” (2002) seems to be the guiding principle of the Trump campaign.

11. Randy Newman intended “Political Science” (1972) as satire; Trump hears it as wise foreign policy. “We give them money, but are they grateful? / No. They’re spiteful and they’re hateful. / They don’t respect us. So, let’s surprise them. / We’ll drop the big one, and pulverize them.”

12, 13, 14, 15, 16. These songs reflect the fact that the world will only become more unstable under a President Trump. Indeed, I’m not sure we’d survive his presidency.

17. Trump’s America is not the America I want to live in. And so, the David Bowie-Pat Metheny collaboration “This Is Not America” (1985) joins this mix.

18. I dedicate Pulp’s “The Fear” (1998) to a fear-mongering campaign presided over by an unhinged charlatan: “This is the sound of someone losing the plot. / Making out that they’re OK when they’re not.”

——

* Spotify has given you the live version; I chose the studio version. Both are good!

Stronger Together: America, the Exceptional

Stronger Together: America, the Exceptional

1. The Mavericks recently recorded a version of this postwar Popular Front anthem, a pop hit for Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics (by Abel Meeropol, who also wrote the lyrics for “Strange Fruit”) deliver a message as necessary today as it was then: “All races and religions — that’s America to me” is the antithesis of Trump’s campaign, and the center of Clinton’s campaign.  I’ve included the Ravens’ 1949 a cappella version. As a bonus track, here’s the Mavericks’ version, too.

2. Woody Guthrie’s response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” is the perfect rejoinder to the classist (yet classless) Trumps: “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me. / There was a sign was painted, said private property. / But on the back side, it didn’t say nothing. / This land was made for you and me.”  This is the excellent version by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (2004), but check out Guthrie’s original, too.

3, 4, 5. Clinton’s campaign has sounded the notes of American exceptionalism that both parties summon when rallying voters to their side. These claims cannot of course be verified, but they’re patriotic.

6, 7. Clinton has an actual plan to invest in American jobs, rebuild infrastructure, and tax the wealthy to pay for it.

8, 9, 10. At the Democratic convention and in her ads, the Clinton campaign has been stressing the feminist nature of her candidacy.

11. Ike and Tina Turner’s “Workin’ Together” (1971) echoes the “Stronger Together” slogan of the Clinton campaign. Also, Clinton knows how to work with others.

12. Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” (1970) is a funky anthem of mutual respect for difference.

13. The Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself” (1971) is great advice. Also, Clinton’s approach to others is to treat them with respect. Trump likes only those who flatter him; all others are disposable.

14. Billy Bragg and Wilco’s “All You Fascists” (2000) is another Woody Guthrie song (music by Bragg), included because Trump is a fascist thug who admires fascist thugs.

15. The NSFW song on the mix, and the reason I’ve assembled an alternate “clean” mix, as well. YG’s “FDT, Part 2” is also great, but I’m limiting myself to one song by each artist.  Here are the videos for both parts —


16. The original recording (1974) of Nick Lowe’s song, later made famous by Elvis Costello.

17. The Rascals’ “People Gotta Be Free” (1969) because Clinton has a far better grasp of this idea than The Donald does.

18 & 19. People do have the power. Get out and vote!

20. Soweto Gospel Choir’s beautiful cover (2007) of U2’s tribute to Dr. King.

21. I like the slow pace and touch of melancholy I hear in Ray Charles’ voice. The song is patriotic, but there’s something in the performance that acknowledges the complexity of loving a country that oppresses you.


Stronger Together: America, the Exceptional [clean version]

Stronger Together: America, the Exceptional [clean version]

Since some listeners may not want to expose children to profanity or simply may dislike cursing themselves, I’ve omitted YG’s “FDT” — which leaves room for two different songs.

3. Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” (1959), grouped with the patriotic, American-exceptionalism songs.

20. Josh White’s “Freedom Road” (1944). Returning to the Popular Front era, White (who recorded his version of “The House I Live In” before Sinatra recorded his) sings for integration, featuring the lyrics of Langston Hughes.


Were you inclined to burn CDs, each of the above mixes fits on a single CD. I also restricted myself to one artist per mix. As a result of these choices, many suitable tracks had to be omitted.  Here are a few.

… for Trump

  • “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)” by The The (1989)
  • “America Is Waiting” by Brian Eno & David Byrne (1981)
  • “Going Fetal” by Eels (2005)
  • “There’s A War Going On For Your Mind” by Flobots (2007)
  • “Ignoreland” by R.E.M. (1992)
  • “Everything Goes to Hell” by Tom Waits (2002)
  • “Mad World” by Tears for Fears (1983)
  • “The Day the Devil” by Laurie Anderson (1989)
  • “Your Mind Is on Vacation” by Mose Allison (1962)
  • “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. (1987)
  • “Run on for a Long Time” by The Blind Boys of Alabama (2001)
  • “Your Racist Friend” by They Might Be Giants (1990)

… for Clinton

  • “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan (2010)
  • “The Star Spangled Banner (Live)” by Jimi Hendrix (1969)
  • “The Schuyler Sisters” by Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Leslie Odom, Jr., Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton (2015)
  • “Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton (2012)
  • “Turn Me Around” by Mavis Staples (2007)
  • “Love Train” by The O’Jays (1972)
  • “Freedom” by The Isley Brothers (1970)
  • “Coming to America” by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2008) or Neil Diamond’s original (1980)
  • “Respect” by Aretha Franklin (1967)
  • “U.N.I.T.Y.” by Queen Latifah (1993)
  • “We’ll Never Turn Back” by Mavis Staples (2007)

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The Treachery of Images

Perhaps you have also seen these memes drifting through your social media feed. There’s a photo of Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush sharing a hug.

Hillary Clinton & George W. Bush at Nancy Reagan's funeral

This was taken at Nancy Reagan’s funeral earlier this month, but one meme-maker offers the photo as evidence that her politics and policies are identical to those of George W. Bush.

There’s another photo of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, taken at Mr. Trump’s third wedding, in 2005.

The Clintons at Trump's 2005 wedding.

This, too, is supposed to indicate a political alignment between the two presidential candidates.  Indeed, both photos are being shared by supporters of Bernie Sanders, in an effort to persuade you to vote for the Vermont senator.

There are many excellent reasons to vote for Mr. Sanders: a rebuke to Secretary Clinton’s neo-liberalism, or in opposition to Mr. Trump’s neo-fascism, to name but two possibilities.  However, the frequent sharing of these photos suggests that at least some of Senator Sanders’ supporters lack the ability to reason.  Secretary Clinton has spent nearly 40 years in public life. You can find photos of her next to lots of different people, some of whom you may admire, and others of whom you may revile. She shares a human moment with President Bush at a funeral, and accepts a wedding invitation from Mr. Trump (then a major donor to Democratic candidates). Is it not possible to be civil to those with whom you disagree? Indeed, why not read the photos of evidence of civility rather than ideological affiliation?  These photos prove that she is a public figure and a politician. That’s all.

Here is a photo of First Lady Clinton and Mickey Mouse, circa 1993.

Hillary Clinton & Mickey Mouse, c. 1993

Here is a photo of Secretary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, in 2010.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) outside Moscow in Novo-Ogarevo on March 19, 2010. Photo credit: ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images.

Here is a photo of Mrs. Clinton, Tipper Gore, and a stalk of broccoli, in 1992.

Hillary Clinton, Tipper Gore, & broccoli, 1992

What do these photos prove?  Are they evidence of a nefarious Russian-Disney-broccoli alliance?  Obviously not.  So, yes, debate the merits of Sanders, Clinton, Trump, Cruz, Kasich, and whomever else you like.  There are real policy differences, and a healthy debate is vital for democracy. But deploy convincing arguments, not facile memes.  Please.

Credits: Title of this blog post comes from the painting by René Magritte.  Photos via, respectively, Pro-Labor Alliance on Facebook, CNN, Amber J. Phillips’ website, Newsweek, and Pinterest.

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