Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Radical Chic

John Kerry seems to have made a fetish of odd hand gestures during the campaign. First is his Thai style, hands-clasped, beatific grin, may-the-moon-shine-upon-our-happy-gathering, style of howdy.

When the Thais do this, it's warm and charming. When this guy does it, it's just plain creepy.

The other cool move is the raised fist. He does this one a lot. Now, I remember growing up in the late sixties and seventies. This had real clear associations with radical causes.

A good friend of mine, Paul Ross, is a Ph. D. psychologist and wrote the following interesting piece on the meaning of these kinds of symbolic gestures and their role in connecting with fellow-travelers.

Symbols Are Important
Paul C. Ross

Communication between individuals and groups includes both the overt and covert means. Language and speech, the spoken and written word and even the selection of images are all part of the message we try to communicate to others. Body
language and gestures are a class of behavior that signal to others something about our intentions. Sometimes this signaling is below the threshold of conscious awareness and sometimes it is a deliberate attempt to provide a nuance to the message. So why is this important in the present political climate?

During the Democrat Party convention, the party candidate ended his speech with a military salute, one recognized by the millions who served in our nation’s services. The gesture, the salute, is a straight hand bent at the elbow with the thumb held in and the index finger touching the forehead. The hand is at about 45 degrees to the vertical plane of the head. He did not salute with the palm facing outward, a British salute, nor did he raise his arm straight out with the hand extended and the palm facing down, a Nazi salute. So, why then in subsequent speeches while stumping around the country, is Kerry is seen raising his hand with a clenched fist? What salute is this and what covert message is imbedded in that salute?

The Clenched Fist Salute is the salute of communists, radicals and Black nationalists. It has a long history and is a subtle means of communication and identification between those who do it and those who recognize it. It’s a way of saying, without saying, I am with you!

So what is Kerry really saying with this salute? Is he trying to form a bond between himself, a rich white guy and the radicals representing the underclass? Is he saying that he is a radical in disguise? Is he communicating with the internationalist and the European left with this gesture? Or is he a guy who just has no ideology and position and adopts the central ideology of whoever he is with at the moment?

While his words are subject to detailed analysis and the apparent flip/flops are evident, so far, little has been said about his latent communication and the implications of that in the context of his flipping and flopping. The people of this nation need to know before election, just who is John Kerry and what is it, that he stands for.

His salutes to different groups, at the very least, suggest a mixed message of identity and pandering. And if not pandering, then what is he really all about?

Kerry's thinking is firmly rooted in his anti-war, liberal experiences from the early seventies. He hasn't changed. His Presidency would reflect the defeatism, anti-Americanism and dangerous internationalism-at-all-costs that ties our fate to interests that desire a weakened United States and a curb on the spread of Western ideas.


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