The Buttons of Perception

The Rolling Stones Between the Buttons was part of the three album inheritance that started my music collection, along with The Man Machine by Kraftwerk and Past Masters Volume 2 by the Beatles, a preposterous collection of hit singles that they didn’t even bother to place on albums.  From the beginning I favored the Beatles over the Stones (and Kraftwerk), but Between the Buttons has some immortal classics like “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Ruby Tuesday”,  as well as an early favorite of mine “Yesterday’s Papers”.  Revisiting that song’s chorus “Who wants yesterday’s papers/Who wants yesterday’s girl” makes me wonder how someone becomes ‘yesterday’s girl’.  Is it just a woman who loses her looks?  I can picture the girl from “Satisfaction” calling Jagger, except he’s no longer interested.

I bring all this up because of my latest kick, which is collecting historical political buttons.  If that makes me sound like a retired teabagger, so be it- it’s a surprisingly inexpensive hobby.   It all started an antique store in Detroit, where I came across a little green pin that simply stated “Nixon Eats Lettuce”.  For a while I thought it was some postmodern non sequitur,  but an old activist explained that it was an effort from the United Farmworkers campaign to show that even the president ate the lettuce they worked for, though someone else claimed it was a reference to Nixon’s Jimmy Hoffa ties.  Whatever- I lost that button at a rowdy Midnight Spin concert but was its loss only inspired me to get more buttons.

That “Nixon Eats Lettuce” button was like the John the Baptist of buttons for me- a little crazy, and foretelling a greater button yet to come.   That got me thinking that John the Baptist does not get enough props from atheists or Christians.  I mean, he got the whole show started with his maniacal ravings and baptizing Jesus.   His followers should have the same sense of pride as people who were die-hard Pixies fans before Nirvana hit it big.

Here is the leading contender so far for the messiah of political button acquisitions:

Having this physical connection to the past is just awesome.  Even for those who avidly read history, the past can seem so ethereal, which isn’t helped by the grainy photographs and videos that accompany bygone eras.  This pin is real- you can hold it in your hand, attach it to your chest, and know that 90 years ago, a man wore this pin because thats how opposed he was to women having the vote. Pretty wild if you ask me.  Ninety years is not that long a time- were my paternal grandfather alive he could have worn this pin, though he probably wouldn’t have, as an Indian who had no meaningful voting rights at all under the British crown.

This was probably the runner up from my latest batch:


Sometimes Google just spoils the fun.  Cursory research led me to “The Florida Fox” Jack Clouser, who during his ten years on the FBI most-wanted list would mock the agency through his letters, and once taunted Hoover for “sleeping with a night light”.  Still weird that someone made the button.

There are things known and there things unknown, and between them are the buttons…

About Janos Marton

Janos Marton is a lawyer, advocate and writer.
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