“Mother should I run for President?
Mother should I trust this government?
Mother will they put me in the firing line?
Ooooooh, Is it just a waste of my time?”
– Mother by Pink Floyd
On November 4th of 2007 on the night Barak Hussein Obama was elected as the US President i was finishing up the edit on this video. X-Vandals had done a cover of the song Mother from Pink Floyd’s high concept album The Wall and while President Obama was being elected i was uploading the X-Vandal’s Mother video up to YouTube. X-Vandals is MC Not4Prophet and DJ Johnny Juice. Not4Prophet is the lead vocalist of Hardcore Salsa, Reggae, Be-Bop, Hip-Hop, Punk band RICANSTRUCTION and half of the spoken noise duo known as Renegades Of Punk, DJ Johnny Juice is one of the DJ’s and producers of the iconic Public Enemy. Together they create what i call Prog-Hop (Progressive Hip-Hop). Cerebral Hip-Hop you can shake your ass to… These many years later this cover of Mother by X-Vandals and the accompanying video i did for it, seems to have taken on an even greater importance.
America has always been a land of contradictions due to the mythology it’s propagated about being the bastion of democracy and equality in the world, while at the same time dealing in the reality of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and imperialism. It’s not that other nations don’t also struggle with those very same issues, it’s just that America likes to puff up it’s chest and pound on it in verbose boasting about how free and exceptional it is to the rest of the world. Americanism has never been one that’s wanted equality, American elites have never been too keen on honoring agreements with first nations peoples in the Americas, or freeing slaves, or giving women the right to vote, or giving workers an 8 hour day or a living wage, or giving LBGTQ people equal rights. In many ways the mythology of America’s equality that’s been sold, has been bought wholesale by those who need it most and when they find those promises to be empty vessels, they struggle to force America to make good on it’s promises by pouring themselves into the void. This is where the contradiction comes, the promises made by American mythology can only be fulfilled if you’re willing to fight for that mythology to exist as a reality. The ideals that America likes to put forth as inherently and quintessentially ones that could only exist within America are ideals that are not bestowed from above by some American divinity, as advertised, but are fought and sometimes won from below, but not without some great cost, and at a speed that can be best described as glacial in comparison to the rhetoric that is spouted.
People come to America wanting to believe in those ideals like Barak Obama’s father did or are born here believing in those ideals as Barack Obama himself does. The incredible arc of Barak Obama’s very life is the embodiment of the American contradiction. The X-Vandals Mother video is an essay that tries to bring these seemingly disparate ideas together. Obama’s rise to the Presidency is in many ways analogous to the bottom forcing it’s will upon the mythology of America. In 2008 Obama’s fight for the presidency was a challenge to the mythology of America, a challenge that was set on a world stage. For the first time in history, people around the world were paying attention to the US presidential election because it challenged America’s mythology of equality and democracy. It’s also the reason the whole world had a reason to be happy when Obama won. It wasn’t his politics that made Obama so popular but the fact that he had forced the promise of the American myth to finally yield to fulfilling itself into some kind of reality.
The problem is that American mythology has a pathology of yielding to reality but only with the idea of perpetuating itself. Barak Obama is the President but the racism that made his run for presidency such a dramatic undertaking still simmers to an occasional boil as it has in the recent Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin followed the next day by the completely unrelated burning of a Mosque in Joplin, Missouri. The old saying applies here – ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Many called the election of America’s first Black President the end of racism, but racism didn’t end. The election of Barak Obama and the persistence of racism has now become a part of American mythology and so the American myth bends to reality only in ways that strength the myth. The myth of America remains intact even with a Black president.
The Mother video is an essay on the embodiment of the American myth clashing with the American reality within the life of Barak Obama. The video makes a distinction between Mother, Mama and She. Mother is a role occupied of course by Barak Obama’s mother, it’s a personal plea of a son to his mother. The connection we have to the story the video tells is through Obama and so his plea for answers from his mother become our pleas for answers.
“Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?
Mother do you think they’ll like this song?
Mother do you think they’ll break my balls?
Ooooooh, Mother should I build a wall?”
‘Mama’ in the song and the video is a stand-in for America. The images are political cries from below to force into being the reality of freedom and equality onto the mythology of America. ‘Mama’ is America’s response to those demands being made. This is an interesting piece because Not4Prophet adjusted the original lyrics of Mother to highlight the contradiction of the American myth in a concise and condensed way. ‘Mama’ conjures up the best ideas of motherhood but it’s countered to the point of negation with the threats that can only come from the absolute power to shape our world as ‘Mama’ sees fit…
“Hush now baby, baby, baby, baby, it don’t mean a thing.
Mama gonna keep all you nightmares in a sling.
Mama gonna teach all of her fears in to your skin.
Mama gonna keep her baby hangin’ from a string.
Mama gonna sleep you underneath her broken wing.
Mama gonna let you sing or chew a teething ring.
Mama gonna have a soldier slangin’ for the bling.
Mama gonna turn you from a baby to a king, king, king.“
The last question the video and the song proposes is one for all of us watching. The images are of Obama asking his mother about America. In this last part of the song America is She. America is the woman Obama loves and the questions he asks of his mother are searching for her approval and her advice on what he loves. The questions being asked are also forcing us as observers to ask ourselves what those answers should be…
“Mother do you think She’s good enough for me?
Mother do you think She’s dangerous to me?
Mother will She tear your little boy apart?
Mother will She break my heart?
Mother did it have to be so high.“
The price exacted by all this is high, very high and i feel for Obama in this instance. The hopes and desires of the whole world are projected onto him, in the same way that the hopes and desires of the world are projected onto America. This is by design, in both of these instances. America wants and needs to have the hopes and desires of the world projected onto it, so that it can manipulate it for it’s own selfish gain. Obama being President of the United States would also have to absorb the hopes and desires of the whole world since he has decided to be a part of the American myth. In a small way I feel for Obama because it’s one thing to have the hopes and desires of millions projected onto a deeply flawed and complex mythological system like the one America has created for itself and another thing to have that projected onto you as a single human being.
I’m not an Obama supporter simply because i don’t think that the Presidency matters in this government. i don’t think any political office matters very much. i don’t think this government is designed to work to the benefit of the least among us. This country got off on the wrong foot when it allowed slavery as it demanded freedom. Even when it got it’s freedom it defined Black people to be 3/5’s of a human being and it only allowed white male land owners the right to vote. For all the talk about the US Constitution being some brilliant document, it’s weighed down by it’s own contradictions. For all the talk of the slave owning founding fathers calling for freedom and liberty, it’s no wonder that the claims of America are like some snake oil salesman who is run out of town by an angry mob (dressed as it’s citizenry) who extract refunds in the forms of freedoms that should have been guaranteed at the point of sale. In this swirling vortex of contradictions comes Obama weighed down by the mythology of America that he needs to accept in order to try and deliver on the promise of America while at the same time not moving so fast as to exact a price that is higher than he’s willing or able to pay. It’s an impossible feat, the price is made too high by the American myth makers, high enough to tear a man apart…
To get X-Vandals first album The War Of Art click here…
Note: Mother isn’t on this album. It will be released on the next X-Vandals album…