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Is That A Monkey In Your Pocket?
by Amy Zidell
06.25.08 - Part II in a series analyzing, evaluating, and exploring the political and social implications of a 30 lb, 21 inch tall, gold-plated statue of Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, being sanctified and sent by a group in India to American presidential candidate Barack Obama.

This deep analytical well would never have been tapped domestically if not for The Times of India: reporting "The idol is being presented to Obama as he is reported to be a Lord Hanuman devotee and carries with him a locket of the monkey god along with other good luck charms." Religion was covered last week. That brings us to Monkeys, number 2 on my list of serious campaign issues touched on by the pressing question raised by this story, "Is that a monkey in your pocket? See list below.

To refresh, Hanuman, represented as a human being with the face of a monkey, is a very popular Hindu God. An Indian epic describes Hanuman triumphantly leading a monkey army against demon King Ravana.

As may become routine disclaimer practice: I intend no offense or disrespect to people of the Hindu faith. Other material makes additional disclaimers prudent. No racist characterizations are intended, nor should be interpreted. If you are a member of a European parliament who voted for an absurd measure and you feel ridiculed, you probably are correct in your feelings.

  1. Monkeys
    Angry complaints and cries of racism were raised earlier this year about mock Obama campaign t-shirts featuring a picture of the animated monkey character, Curious George, being sold at a Marietta, Georgia bar. See this Chicago Tribune. article for a detailed report including photos of shirt protesters.

    In full disclosure, the Curious George children's book series was one of my favorites growing up. Nowadays, Curious George titles include DVDs and software.
         

    Fond as I was of Curious George however, The Poky Little Puppy was my absolute favorite childhood story and likely is responsible for my continued enjoyment of pudding to this day. Before tapioca gets me completely off topic, back to the Monkey-versy.

    By virtue of search engines and online news Web Site meta tags, international reporting of the monkey god Hanuman idol gift restates Obama's common practice of having a monkey locket in his pocket thereby reviving this Curious George shirt usage again. It fans the fires whether the shirt was intended to be racist or simply a comment on Obama's pronounced ears.

    England's Prince Charles' pronounced ears have been lampooned for decades. A June article proves princely pronounced ear mockery stands out as much as ever. According to Bucks Free Press, a local London online paper, a pub called the Prince of Wales recently changed its previous traditional sign to a sign featuring an unflattering caricature of Prince Charles - big ears and all. Who knew that political figures made such good bar/pub signage iconography?

    Following the logic that there's a relation because of shared monkey imagery, it is possible that this monkey locket in his pocket proves either;
    1. gross insensitivity to the concerns the Curious George shirt is racist, or
    2. recognizes the Curious George shirt is no more than caricature.

    Prominent ears aside, this is not the first time the loveable and curious primate has featured in American political commentary. A posting on www.uncurious.com describes a political satire in the September, 1994 Mad Magazine, issue number 330, "Curious George Goes to Washington." It features, "Ronald Reagan as the man in the yellow hat and George Herbert Walker Bush as Curious George." The implication made is that Bush Sr. was not very curious. This Mad Magazine example raises the question of who is Obama's Man in the Yellow Hat. I'll add that to the list.

    Children's products co-opted for political exploits is further explored in a January 2000 New York Times article about plans for a Barbie for President 2000 doll. A suggestion for former Clinton White House aide, George Stephanapoulos, is a trilogy of D.C. insider themed Curious George titles.

    So, the political implication of animated monkeys is nothing new, but what of the political power of real-live primates? It's not clear why Obama, a self-defined Christian and patriotic American, needs a monkey locket in his pocket. One could say that he clings to his monkey, in much the same way he described small-town Americans clinging to their guns and religion. However, recent simian news suggests this monkey grab could be a political grab as well.

    Reuters reports that,

    • "Spain's parliament voiced its support on [June 25th, 2008] for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for nonhumans.

      Parliament's environmental committee approved resolutions urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project, devised by scientists and philosophers who say our closest genetic relatives deserve rights hitherto limited to humans.

      ' This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades, which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity, ' said Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Apes Project. Spain may be better known abroad for bull-fighting than animal rights but the new measures are the latest move turning once-conservative Spain into a liberal trailblazer."

    Makes me wonder, is this the sort of monkey business Obama would bring to Washington?
[ Previous Part I   | You're Reading Part II   |   Part III   | Part IV | |  Part V   |  Part VI   ]

Here are public domain depictions of Hindu God, Hanuman:
    Serious Campaign Issues/Question List
    Is that a monkey in your pocket?
  1. √ Religion
  2. Monkeys
  3. Special Interests
  4. Judgment
  5. Demographics
  6. Silliness
Back to top above.
[Epilogue]
In my research, I came across a song entitled Bi-Curious George. A song by the band, Misplaced Comedy Group. Part of the lyric goes, "just a funky monkey with an open mind." I may add this to the list also.

Product links from Web With A View a little affiliate commerce Site I worked on. By the way, a cordless and cell phone headset I've enjoyed for a long time (I'm on my 4th probably) is Plantronics(R) M175 Headset. It's not fancy bluetooth but does the basic hands free job comfortably.

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