When the idea for this sign came to me I thought of it entirely as a joke, as in “Wouldn’t this be an incredibly stupid sign to put up?” I was sitting in LA freeway traffic, laughing out loud at the awesomeness of its awfulness: the sheer flamboyance of its pointlessness and intentional stupidity of the puns. It was amazing how such seemingly innocuous wordplay managed to sneer with disrespect… I think it took about seven minutes for the most ridiculous thing I could possibly do to become something I absolutely had to.
Edgar Allan Poe’s theory of the Imp of the Perverse describes a kind of insanity where just casually contemplating the very worst thing you can possibly do slowly becomes an obsession: a compulsive madness that makes the worst course of action somehow irresistible by its very absurdity. In my case the decision came from realizing that the world had gone so mad that what I found irresistible was no longer absurd.
It was the day after the news broke about flight records essentially proving that Donald Trump’s been lying about his whereabouts during watersports weekend in Moscow. Even though it’s the one story he’s managed to stick to for the last year and a half, the news that he’d been lying, along with all its grotesque implications had no effect on me whatsoever. The only thing that could possibly shock me about Donald Trump would be news that he’d done something even remotely good. What saddened me though was my next thought, which came automatically: that none of it would mean a god damn thing. For reasons I’ll never even begin to understand, the nation that spent two and a half years and 80 million bucks on Bill Clinton’s blowjobs and exiled Howard Dean for yelling funny was going to allow Donald Trump’s sole alibi for the last year and a half for not being in a Moscow hotel room watching prostitutes piss on a bed be thoroughly debunked and just collectively shrug and quietly accept it.
Just as I, after reflecting on this, also quietly accepted it, feeling nothing more than the dull, familiar sensation of having absorbed another blow and the thought that if there was a Moscow Ritz-Carlton Presidential Suite up in heaven, the bed was probably saturated by the tears of our Founding Fathers.
Look, I get it: nobody likes having to think about Donald Trump watching prostitutes piss on a bed. I’ve personally always had a rich imagination, and the film director in my head has always come through with instantaneous footage of every sordid little scenario I’ve ever asked for. “Donnie in Moscow” is the only script where he just flat out tells me to fuck off.
But our polite but uncomfortable silence about this underscores my long held conviction that we on the left have allowed ridicule to be a weapon that’s used primarily against us for far too long, and that we may have secured the high road at the expense of losing the country. The true cost of our politeness reaches far across the aisle when you consider the extent to which our reluctance to call our opponents idiots back when they were merely idiots may be responsible for the complete caricatures of idiots that we see today. Furthermore, ridicule is the one thing to which the worst and most problematic elements of the GOP are most vulnerable, the fascists and authoritarians. With the fetishization of “respect” (as a social construct, as opposed to actually earned) being crucial to both the identity and motivation of the authoritarian mindset, subjecting the Republican Party to massive and relentless waves of humiliation will act like chemotherapy, specifically targeting the most cancerous elements of their ranks: namely the fascists, bigots and assholes.
Before these initiatives can go into effect, and healing waves of shame and humiliation can start to spread across the land, we’re going to have to address the other fact we’ve avoided for far too long, which is the woeful inefficiency of our current methods of outreach and utter voicelessness relative to our numbers. Our two primary vehicles for political expression, social media and marches, are entirely unsuited to the task of reaching out to the other side. The ghettoization of social media has long been well-documented and the insularity of marches is not only obvious but probably one of the least of its shortcomings. I know that a thousand of us marching together is supposed to be a thousand times stronger than a thousand of us marching alone. But I can’t help thinking that a thousand times stronger than that would be a thousand of us determining the best way to apply our individual minds and talents towards something more effective than marching.
Since its inception, the two most exceptional freedoms in our nation have been the almost infinite scope of protections granted by the first amendment, and the ability to use the commons for political speech. The combination of the two creates a potential for expression that falls just shy of being able to do anything anywhere. That such fertile ground lies fallow reflects poorly on all of us, but conservatives have the excuse of having AM radio and FOX, as well as an ideological preference for ideas to move from the top down. Given that we’re supposed the side with all the artists, free-thinkers, and an ideology more in favor of the voice of the individual and against being ruled by idiot kleptomaniac fascist lying bigoted dirtbag racist clowns, the fact the nation isn’t currently awash with physical manifestations of protest would appear to be more our fault.
While organizing, working, and banding together is the essence of political power, doing so exclusively squanders almost entirely our greatest resource, which is the fact that each and every one of us is entirely different: different minds, different gifts, different philosophies… and perhaps most importantly, different ideas about what is fun. Generally speaking, the most useful thing you can do in most situations is to first stop and take some time to figure out what the most useful thing you can do actually is. When possible, consider the things you most like to do, most would like to do and/or are best at, and then try to figure some way to apply them to the task at hand.
Whether it’s art, music, computer programming, academic research, comedy or theater, chances are the best thing you can do is take what you’re best at and turn it into some form of creative political expression. Remember there’s all sorts of ways to interact with society beyond just the physical, and try to document your efforts so you can share them, and just in case they bear some sort of remarkable fruit. One of my few regrets in this world was not tape recording my phone call to Rick Santorum’s office to find out if oral sex with my wife constituted the sort of sodomy he’d just made a bold political stand against. It wasn’t just hilarious, but also a good example of the sort of dirty work that lies ahead of us if we’re going to save this country from this ugly alliance of traitors, criminals, fear-mongers, and bigots from Russia, the Republicans and the religious right. The First Amendment gave us the power, and their hypocrisy gave us more than enough material, to have laughed these clowns offstage months ago – just as they would’ve done to us given so much as a fiftieth of the chance. Trump said constantly before the election he wouldn’t consider a Clinton victory as legitimate and I’m not exactly sure why he deserves any better treatment from us. They learned from Bush V. Gore was that laws and even votes can be negated just by bullying and they attack every policy and candidate with lies specifically aimed to foster some sort of entirely fabricated humiliation, and if they can pull it off this time then the humiliation should be both real and entirely deserved.