On the Metro train listening to T.I.’s new hit album Paper Trail, a lyric from the song Live Your Life (feat Rhianna and her forehead) kept resounding in my head – “So live your life, instead of chasing the paper. . . .” Boiled down for the hip-hop anemic, it means to enjoy the moment of the experience instead of relentlessly pursuing the all mighty dollar. I can’t believe that I am saying this and I may need to wash my mouth out with soap, but Washingtonians need to heed T.I.’s advice . . . well at least insofar as it relates to the over commercialization of the 2009 Presidential Inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. I can do without the lame roller skating dance-offs from ATLand being arrested for allegedly trying to buy machine guns. Wait, I forgot that this is D.C. and the rest of the country has decided that we can’t regulate guns in our own city. Well . . . still no roller skating dance-offs though.
It seems like everyone is “chasing the paper” this inauguration. The city I’ve known for 30 years has transformed into a shady P.T. Barnum type flea market, where my cousin Jamaal can sell me t-shirts with the image of Obama wearing those whack Kanye-esque sunglasses at $5 dollars a piece.
Whether coming up the escalators at Metro Center or heading to happy hour on at Tabaq on U Street, I know somewhere along the way I’ll be accosted by someone trying to sell me Obama swag. Even at Macy’s, after ringing up my purchases, the old man at the register gestured me towards him and whispered: “My wife’s got Obama shirts, 5 for $10. Let me write down her information for you.” Heck, even my sister, who had been out of the country for most of the past four years, flew back from Africa and put her apartment up on Craigslist at $1,000 a night. If the Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, really wanted to (allegedly) sell Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, he should have just set up a stand near the White House. He could have moved that Obama product in less than a week.
I can’t even escape it in the sanctity of my own home. Whether it is the barrage of daily emails from political circles asking me to purchase $400 tickets for their inaugural balls, flipping open my recent Black Enterprise to see how the owner of Barakawear has been named a top entrepreneur from last year, or the onslaught of Facebook friends indirectly vying for a spot on the hide-a-bed in my living room, it seems like everyone has become a paperchaser selling experiences to the greatest show on earth – the anointing of Michelle . . . I mean Barack Obama as President.
By in large, the D.C. area skews toward overachieving, over-educated, over-analytical and self-important Americans. But quite frankly, ever since Obama won, many of us have lost our damn minds. We’re determined to take full monetary advantage of the moment by any means necessary. And what’s more, we hide our greed in the guise of pride that America is electing its first black president. Anyone who challenges us must be racist or must not appreciate the gravity of this historic moment. However you decide to excuse your pimping out of Obama on this great day, the fact remains that with every Obama commemorative coin, umbrella, or poncho, the experience is cheapened.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Obama fan. I traveled accross the country to several toss-up states and campaigned on his behalf. I drank the Kool-Aid and it was delicious and nutritious. But enough is enough.
I just hope that when my children read about this inauguration in their history books, there’s a picture of a huge sign that reads: “Barackawear: Three shirts for $20.00.” That way we can make sure that we are keeping it real . . . real exploitative.
The views expressed in this article/editorial are that of the author and may not reflect the views of the Featured Writers, Contributing Writers, editorial staff, management, Poptimal.com, or Poptimal LLC.
To read an alternative view of the Inauguration, read What Does the Inaugration Mean to D.C.? by Zuberi Williams, Editor-in-Chief of Poptimal.com, published by the Washington Post.
To hear more pop culture opinions from Ference, dowload episodes of the the Jone Dome (aslo available on iTunes).