Art of the Union

Hello, my name is Mitchell. I am an artist and writer creating politically charged content. My goal is to use art and humor to introduce people to politics and history.

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  • January 19, 2014 8:51 pm
    Celebrate! I have a new website, and needless to say that whole process has been cutting into the time that I have to create work for here. But, it’s done!  Now, back to the politics. As well as weekly posts, I’m working on creating video content as well.
Until then check out the new site: http://www.macnaughtonillos.com View high resolution

    Celebrate! I have a new website, and needless to say that whole process has been cutting into the time that I have to create work for here. But, it’s done!  Now, back to the politics. As well as weekly posts, I’m working on creating video content as well.

    Until then check out the new site: http://www.macnaughtonillos.com

  • January 7, 2014 8:00 pm

    image

    As the Maryland General Assembly begins debate over the fate of pit bulls, let’s step back and note the ways that ham-fisted breed discrimination laws negatively effect society. Instead of labeling certain dogs with a Scarlett letter, we should be scrutinizing the crimes that happen to pit bulls and the paltry consequences that encourage individuals to commit these actions.

    For instance, in Maryland, abandonment of an animal is classified as a $100 misdemeanor, animal cruelty is 90 days in the slammer, and aggravated animal cruelty (which includes dogfighting) would mean a charge of no more than 3 years in jail or a $5,000 fine. Yet when a Maryland public school employee was charged with bestiality, she was met with a charge of up to 10 years in prison. Why the disparity? The logical thing would seem to be enacting harsher penalties for the type of mistreatment that breaks these animals instead of resorting to smearing the reputation of an entire breed and their owners.

    And what about the victims of breed discrimination? The trumpet is played the loudest for those who fear falling prey to a pit bull in the wild, but we rarely ever hear of the toll that bans can take aside from “dog owners would lose a member of the family.” But let’s get specific. Take for example Daniella Guglieimi of Prince George County, Maryland, who had been forced to give up her pit bull despite the fact that it acted as her service dog due a county wide ban on the breed. Guglieimi relied on the dog due to issues from being paralyzed and sustained injuries until a judge ruled the dog be returned to her due to the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

    Or look at the broader repercussions breed discrimination laws can have on a state. Such ineffective legislation can dampen the prosperity of a region by dissuading possible residents from moving there and send residents packing as they seek a new home that won’t ask them to send their pet up the river. All of this piled on the cost that taxpayers have to shoulder in order to debate and implement laws that end up not living up to the price.

    The key to repealing breed discrimination laws is to admit that they don’t work. Holland had the courage to stand up and admit their error. In 2008, then Dutch Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg repealed a 1993 pit bull ban after it was found that the law had led to no decrease in dog bites. Similarly in 2009, Italy had decided that it’s ban on 17 dogs (down from 92 breeds) was a little too hair-trigger and scrapped it in favor of focusing on irresponsible owners.

    All dogs are animals and possess the ability to snap, as unfortunately the former mayor of Bullhead City, Arizona found out last month when she was attacked and her husband mauled to death while breaking up a fight between their boxer and cocker spaniel. The important thing when such a tragedy happens is to not snap into blind action that will villainize dogs and their owners, but rather to calmly decipher the actual issue and craft solutions that have real benefits down the road - of which breed discrimination does not.

  • December 31, 2013 7:58 pm
    As I look back on 2013, I’m looking back on a very hectic year for myself. The highlights included (yet another) cross country move and the publishing of my first written piece.
My blog has been pretty silent this month. Aside from the mandatory year-end busy work, I have been in somewhat of a rest mode to prepare myself the new year. After 3 years of doing this blog, I can honestly say that writing has become just as much of a passion as art, and in 2014 I plan on going all out on Art of the Union.
So embrace the new year with me and hopefully you will be pleased with what’s to come. View high resolution

    As I look back on 2013, I’m looking back on a very hectic year for myself. The highlights included (yet another) cross country move and the publishing of my first written piece.

    My blog has been pretty silent this month. Aside from the mandatory year-end busy work, I have been in somewhat of a rest mode to prepare myself the new year. After 3 years of doing this blog, I can honestly say that writing has become just as much of a passion as art, and in 2014 I plan on going all out on Art of the Union.

    So embrace the new year with me and hopefully you will be pleased with what’s to come.

  • December 21, 2013 8:02 pm
    Happy Holidays from me to you. May your festivities be a joyous and bipartisan occasion, and you ring in the new year without a filibuster to be found. View high resolution

    Happy Holidays from me to you. May your festivities be a joyous and bipartisan occasion, and you ring in the new year without a filibuster to be found.

  • December 7, 2013 4:33 pm
    I don’t have any writing to go with this. Sometime down the line I would like to have an art show based on my favorite historical time period - the Cold War. Naturally, I kicked off the series with my idol John F. Kennedy in Berlin. View high resolution

    I don’t have any writing to go with this. Sometime down the line I would like to have an art show based on my favorite historical time period - the Cold War. Naturally, I kicked off the series with my idol John F. Kennedy in Berlin.

  • November 22, 2013 11:12 pm
    On today’s date in 1963 at 1 pm, the United States would lose it’s last free president, the last politician with a dream for the future. With President Kennedy’s death, our country’s path towards an era of peace and optimism was diverted off course and lead into a time of war and corruption.

This month, there have been plenty of people who have willfully chosen to mangle Kennedy’s time in office to portray any picture they pleased of him - whether it be one of a war hawk, an ineffective leader, or any other chosen narrative that they have in their head. But Kennedy was none of those, rather, he acted as a temporary stopgap to all of the standard Cold War chicanery up until his election and which proceeded after his death.

The standard lines against Kennedy are that his inexperience led him to fumble the Bay of Pigs invasion, but that’s usually about as deep as it goes. Of course history is never that simple. Kennedy was fighting a daily battle with the powers at be when it came to Cuba. The scheme was originally concocted by the Eisenhower administration (who seemed to have a warm spot in their heart for planted revolutions), and gifted to Kennedy upon his arrival. Kennedy had to fight tooth and nail against the war torn hotheads in the CIA and and his Joint Chiefs of Staff who ideally wanted to shift Cuba from a banana republic to a glass landscape by dropping nukes, all while they poured sugar into Kennedy’s ear about how the invading force was assured a victory. But Kennedy’s hands were tied, he was hamstrung by the fact that if he did not enact the invasion, he would be painted as the President who wouldn’t follow Eisenhower’s plan to liberate Cuba.

You see, opposite the popular opinion that Kennedy was a “Cold Warrior,” in reality he was an avid peace seeker. The fear he had of over-extending military might in Cuba also guided his hand with the rest of his foreign policy. Take for example Vietnam (another Eisenhower gift). Kennedy is often painted as being the most anti-Communist President in history and intended to continue escalation in Vietnam when, to the contrary, he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 which ordered the beginning of U.S. forces withdrawal from South Vietnam. The same can be seen in Laos, where Kennedy went against the advice of the Eisenhower Administration to pursue military involvement and instead opted to negotiate for neutrality with Russia. Even when it came to the baddest boy of the red threat – The USSR - Kennedy was pursuing back door peace negotiations with Khrushchev behind the backs of the warhawks in Washington.

Some would label me as a Kennedy apologist or a romantic for inferring these ideas. And if that’s so, then so be it. Kennedy saw what we were told was the enemy for what they really were: humans. 

As President Kennedy said at American University, “We all breathe the same air.” The country witnessed what happened after Kennedy’s death, when greed and narcissism were allowed to replace a hopeful outlook. The Vietnam War, military actions in Cambodia, and a Cold War that would last over 30 more years to engulf the world in a constant fear of annihilation. As such senseless mindsets took hold again, the Kennedy world of peace and prosperity was pounded into one of turmoil and war. To honor Kennedy, we traded in philanthropy for pure force. But at our most cynical and darkest hours we can look to Kennedy for comfort that it is possible, even if for a stitch in time, to elect a leader with a promise of a better tomorrow. View high resolution

    On today’s date in 1963 at 1 pm, the United States would lose it’s last free president, the last politician with a dream for the future. With President Kennedy’s death, our country’s path towards an era of peace and optimism was diverted off course and lead into a time of war and corruption.

    This month, there have been plenty of people who have willfully chosen to mangle Kennedy’s time in office to portray any picture they pleased of him - whether it be one of a war hawk, an ineffective leader, or any other chosen narrative that they have in their head. But Kennedy was none of those, rather, he acted as a temporary stopgap to all of the standard Cold War chicanery up until his election and which proceeded after his death.

    The standard lines against Kennedy are that his inexperience led him to fumble the Bay of Pigs invasion, but that’s usually about as deep as it goes. Of course history is never that simple. Kennedy was fighting a daily battle with the powers at be when it came to Cuba. The scheme was originally concocted by the Eisenhower administration (who seemed to have a warm spot in their heart for planted revolutions), and gifted to Kennedy upon his arrival. Kennedy had to fight tooth and nail against the war torn hotheads in the CIA and and his Joint Chiefs of Staff who ideally wanted to shift Cuba from a banana republic to a glass landscape by dropping nukes, all while they poured sugar into Kennedy’s ear about how the invading force was assured a victory. But Kennedy’s hands were tied, he was hamstrung by the fact that if he did not enact the invasion, he would be painted as the President who wouldn’t follow Eisenhower’s plan to liberate Cuba.

    You see, opposite the popular opinion that Kennedy was a “Cold Warrior,” in reality he was an avid peace seeker. The fear he had of over-extending military might in Cuba also guided his hand with the rest of his foreign policy. Take for example Vietnam (another Eisenhower gift). Kennedy is often painted as being the most anti-Communist President in history and intended to continue escalation in Vietnam when, to the contrary, he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 which ordered the beginning of U.S. forces withdrawal from South Vietnam. The same can be seen in Laos, where Kennedy went against the advice of the Eisenhower Administration to pursue military involvement and instead opted to negotiate for neutrality with Russia. Even when it came to the baddest boy of the red threat – The USSR - Kennedy was pursuing back door peace negotiations with Khrushchev behind the backs of the warhawks in Washington.

    Some would label me as a Kennedy apologist or a romantic for inferring these ideas. And if that’s so, then so be it. Kennedy saw what we were told was the enemy for what they really were: humans. 

    As President Kennedy said at American University, “We all breathe the same air.” The country witnessed what happened after Kennedy’s death, when greed and narcissism were allowed to replace a hopeful outlook. The Vietnam War, military actions in Cambodia, and a Cold War that would last over 30 more years to engulf the world in a constant fear of annihilation. As such senseless mindsets took hold again, the Kennedy world of peace and prosperity was pounded into one of turmoil and war. To honor Kennedy, we traded in philanthropy for pure force. But at our most cynical and darkest hours we can look to Kennedy for comfort that it is possible, even if for a stitch in time, to elect a leader with a promise of a better tomorrow.

  • November 19, 2013 7:40 pm

    It’s the presidential election of 1960, and the tune of “Everyone wants to back Jack” emanates from your Zenith radio as Sinatra’s brandy soaked voice belted out a Kennedy campaign jingle à la the hit song “High Hopes.” Or perhaps the old RCA box is on and across the screen rolls upbeat photos of Jack Kennedy’s smiling face and whimsical illustrations while a young chorus sings “Kennedy for me,” as seen above.

    During the contest between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the cultural gulf between the two candidates was possibly most evident in their advertising strategies. Kennedy – the young, handsome, worldly playboy – employed vibrant imagery through picture and sound that coincided along with his younger appeal. In the aforementioned commercial, terms like “Greatness,” “You,” and “Leadership” spring up between pictures of joyous crowds while the vocalists sing lines such as “A loyal man who will bring the job a fresh new point of view.”

    Conversely, Nixon – the poor California Quaker – went the route of verbal Nyquil. There Nixon sits on screen, expertly posed sitting on his desk looking relaxed yet somehow still uncomfortable. With the camera fixed directly on him with a rousing musical soundtrack of complete silence, Nixon urges the audience that he is the candidate who has the experience to keep an unbending peace and an iron spine when it comes to taking on Khrushchev. All of this is capped off with a vanilla voice that declares “Vote for Nixon and Lodge, November 8th.” It was serious, and straightforward. But that’s exactly who Nixon was, he was the man who stood stone-faced in front of Khrushchev and jammed his finger right in his Ruskie chest.

    Even with the jingles, the rift was apparent. Kennedy had attractive star power and Sinatra helped drive that point home with the aspirational "High Hopes." Through whirling horns and strings, Frank sings out to “vote for Kennedy and we’ll come out on top.” It’s young, fun, and impossibly is a campaign song that you could dance to. On the opposite end was Nixon’s "Buckle Down With Nixon," a song conservative even in name. The song comes off as stubborn through lines like “we can win the fight when we know we’re right, and we know we’re right” and throughout implores that the way to victory is by “buckling down.”

    A lot has been said about how the election of 1960 was a turning point for campaigns with the onset of new venues to provide information, but it is somewhat surprising that Nixon had such a hard time matching Kennedy considering that the outgoing Republican president Dwight Eisenhower (for whom Nixon served as vice president) was able to make campaign ads somewhat similar to the fun tone utilized by Kennedy. In an animated campaign commercial via 1952, a parade of Eisenhower supporters marches their support for Ike to Washington as the chorus sings “You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike.” It was whimsical and entertaining, perhaps a nice juxtaposition to Eisenhower’s old demeanor. It was a mistake that Nixon seemed to rectify in his later campaigns for president, in one ad almost follow the exact set up as Kennedy’s television spot.

    While Nixon’s campaign spots conjured the preserving of America’s greatness, Kennedy’s painted a picture of a new American future and a new frontier. They were all about getting rid of the stale and embracing the unknown armed with high hopes.The future based outlook to presiding could be seen throughout his term – whether it was through space exploration, the Peace Corps, reforming healthcare, or emphasizing the arts. Kennedy seems to be the last candidate to base his platform on the potential of the United States. Where Kennedy ran on the new, politicians now predominately run on preserving current greatness or re-instating a glamorized day of the past, afraid of what the future might bring.

  • November 1, 2013 9:36 pm
    "And to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
That is my favorite quote, delivered during the inauguration address of my favorite president and favorite American.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of John F. Kennedy. The man inspired many, including me. Throughout the month I will be posting writing and art inspired by Kennedy, analyzing various aspects of his Presidency. It won’t all be fawning praise, as his presidency was just as subject to it’s downfalls as any other. It will be an opportunity to shed some light on my hero, and I hope you will enjoy reading/viewing it as much as I enjoy creating it. View high resolution

    "And to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

    That is my favorite quote, delivered during the inauguration address of my favorite president and favorite American.

    This month marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of John F. Kennedy. The man inspired many, including me. Throughout the month I will be posting writing and art inspired by Kennedy, analyzing various aspects of his Presidency. It won’t all be fawning praise, as his presidency was just as subject to it’s downfalls as any other. It will be an opportunity to shed some light on my hero, and I hope you will enjoy reading/viewing it as much as I enjoy creating it.

  • October 23, 2013 8:17 pm

    The Redskins and a people's past that remains too present

    Here’s my first published Op-Ed! I’m pretty pumped to put it mildly. It’s a version of my piece about Native American history that happened simultaneously alongside the Redskin’s formation as a team and it’s up on the Baltimore Sun’s website.

  • October 21, 2013 8:00 pm

    image

    Is it possible to brand a race? Dan Snyder is willing to bet the estate on it. The owner of the Washington Redskins has adorned himself with his finest pair of marketing pants and declared that he will not change his football franchise’s name in the foreseeable future. For Snyder, the team’s name has transcended it’s racist connotations and has morphed into a flag of pride for those who follow it. In a letter to his fans, he waxes nostalgic about being born a Redskin. He fondly recalls his first game with his father and the chilling experience and atmosphere. But the question has to be asked for those who weren’t born “Redskins” but actual Native Americans - can an entire history be rewritten on a feel good whim at the behest of sports fandom? The trials of the Native is not a dust covered relic from ages ago, but rather just yesterday in our country’s timeline.

    At the tail-end of the 19th Century, Native Americans - spurned on by a religious awakening of Native’s that was permeating throughout the United States - sought to alleviate their plight through an exercise that would come to be known as the “Ghost Dance." The purveying thought was that the Native’s way of life had been decimated as a punishment from the Gods for abandoning their culture and traditions, and if the Sioux were to participate in the Ghost Dance, it would cleanse their spirit and return them to a time before the white man had turned their land and animals into kitsch collectibles.

    As was to be expected, the suits in Washington viewed this with spectacles that were forged from Manifest Destiny. No virtues were seen in a spiritual awakening for the Native’s, and was instead seen as a precursor to an Indian uprising. A boiling point was reached in the Winter of 1890, on a frigid morning in South Dakota. On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry intercept a group of of 300 Native’s outside of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The group was treated as a hostile force and transported to Wounded Knee Creek. In an effort to disarm the group, a struggle broke out between a deaf Native and a cavalryman, causing the deaf man’s gun to be fired. U.S. forces promptly mowed down the group of Native’s, killing upwards of 300 men, women, and children. Those who did not die by gunfire froze to death in the winter chill. This would mark the last major exchange between the Native’s and the U.S. military, and the 1890 census would officially declare the American Frontier closed. 43 years later in 1933, the Boston Braves would play their first game as the Redskins.

    That may seem like a long gap, but given how fleeting time is, it’s not. Children who lived during the Wounded Knee Massacre would now be parental age, young adults would now be senior citizens. Generations of people who came of age with the Native as their supposed enemy were now watching and hearing about a football team named “Redskins.” And, despite the fact that Wounded Knee marked the last “battle” of the American Indian Wars, small skirmishes would help keep alive the malice towards the race of the new football team’s namesake. That malice would not flicker out, either. As The Redskins flourished throughout the 20th century, Native Americans were suffering at the hand of racism and discrimination.

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