The White Daisy: A Video About Religion, Race, Gender, and the Law.
When this video was shown for the first time it was in a college art gallery setting. Before it was shown I asked the gallery director to take a look at it and see if she thought it needed some kind of posted explanation which would also serve the purpose of a kind of warning for those not wishing to expose themselves to potentially controversial subjects like race and religion. She didn't think the video needed it and she appeared to be correct: there were no complaints during the month-long run of the exhibit and the continuous showing of the video. I guess others find it a lot more benign than I do. Or perhaps it just isn't very effective in representing what I thought it did. Maybe the humor nullified the underlying seriousness.

Whatever the case, as I write this we are in the middle of the 2008 presidential primary process and issues related to religion, race, gender and our laws seem to be fueling a lot of unsavory tactics, particularly among candidates in the very same political party. I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. So even though I once again find myself a little anxious about the video, current events make me feel like I ought to post it.

It's less than 10 minutes long and is made up of clips from late night cable television broadcasts. It came about as follows. I was flipping through the channels when I happened to stumble onto a cosmetic infomercial featuring a rather good looking woman with a rather odd way of speaking. Some have suggested too much botox. She opined that no matter what your color, your skin would glow because her product was made from white daisies in Europe. The next flip put me face to face with a preacher sermonizing, "healing", and fundraising in front of a predominately female, African American audience.

Then my remote took me to a televised argument before the Washington State Supreme Court: State of Washington v. Darnell Kenna Crawford. Mr. Crawford is a man of color whose lawyer didn't plea bargain or ask for mitigation because she didn't know the State considered his crime (shoplifting an MP3 player while in possession of a firearm ) a "third strike" offense, mandating that he be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Then to a Spanish language channel with more cosmetic ladies. Then to another preacher who talked about the King of Kings not liking the stench of our human flesh; we need to be anointed so the King can stand to be in the same room with us. And so on.

I turned off the TV and sat there rather stunned. Intuitively, I had this strong feeling that there was a common thread running through all of these programs. Self loathing? Praying with and preying on the vulnerable? Redemption? Opportunism? I wasn't exactly sure what it was but I knew I had to come back the next night, between 2 and 5 in the morning. I did, and for many more nights as well until I collected hours of clips on video tape. The result is "The White Daisy"Use the controller to start and stop the video.

I'm still not totally sure what's going on, and I surely can't label it with a single word. But I know it's not good. The notion of the attraction of abjection comes to mind. I do know for sure that there's something about the undercurrents of racism, religion, and gender politics in the 2008 presidential primaries that reminds me of flipping though cable channels at 4 in the morning.

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Check out The Pledge 4 Ways for a commentary on immigration.
Check out Mind and Spirit War for a piece on the Culture Wars.