September 27, 2007

Forgive the cutesy title… it’s the middle of the afternoon and I’m not feeling very clever at the moment.

The other night, Matthew and I had gone out to a bar in Philly to play Quizzo.  For those who don’t know, it’s a pub trivia game… and everyone shows up and cheats via their cellphone.  As the game got started, the MC read off the team names – Buddha Stalin for Matthew and myself… a few lame names like, "The Awesome Dudes" or something equally banal… and then there was one that, once it was read, elicited a chorus of guffaws from everyone in the bar: "Don’t Tase Me Bro." 

I haven’t been following the news as closely these days.  I’m in a bit of a grumpy, defeatist mode right now… where I don’t really care what’s going on in the world… as long as lots of people are dying.  I don’t really give a fuck about anyone right now… not because I’m sullen or nasty or anything like that… but because I really don’t see the point.  I care about my small nucleus of people… but the rest of you can eat shit and die as far as I’m concerned… and the whole "Don’t Tase Me Bro" incident only adds to that.

I hadn’t heard about it when it happened… my first inkling came from that bar.  I googled the phrase that night… and spelled tase wrong – with a z rather than an s, because who the fuck knows how to spell tase – and found nothing.  While farting around on the internet this afternoon, I came across the eponymous video. 

For those who, like me, had their heads up their asses when this shit went down… here’s what happened.  Kerry was speaking at the University of Florida, and some 21 year old journalism student made a scene when it was his turn to ask a question.  He stayed on past his two minutes (apparently, I didn’t count) and was pretty salty the whole time.  Of course, neither of these things are illegal.  He stood at the microphone holding some yellow book, which he referenced while explaining that due to the "disenfranchisement of black voters" and reports of miscounts on electric voting machines (probably made by Diebold, those evil, monstrous fucks)… that Kerry should have contested the election and actually fought for his presidency.

Okay… I’ve got a lot of takes on this. 

Point A: What the fuck does the disenfranchisement of black voters have to do with anything?  Maybe the word disenfranchisement has a meaning that I’m not aware of in this context… but what it sounds like to me is, "blacks don’t see the point in voting."  If that’s too flippant an interpretation of the phrase, than please, enlighten me… but if my reading is correct… then why the fuck is this a point worth making in this case?  Blacks are disenfranchised… join the fucking club.  I’m totally disenfranchised.  I’m one of the smallest minorities in this country – intelligent people.  I’m a vaguely moral, freethinking atheist who loves gays, hates war, is for massive environmental reform and is 100% against socialized medicine.  I look at this country with sadness and dismay.  I’m not even sure I’m rooting for us in the "War on Terror," not because I agree with the other side (if there really was one, and forgetting that the whole concept of a war on terror is completely absurd), but because I’m so perplexed by our own.  I’ve grown to really hate this country.  I’m disenfranchised.  I still voted.  If the disenfranchisement of black voters means that blacks are so disappointed with the system that they didn’t vote, then thank you very much, but fuck you.  That’s not my problem.  If black voters voted despite their disenfranchisement, and those votes weren’t counted… or were marginalized somehow… then you’ve got me listening.  I’d be the first to march and throw a brick.  But if we’re talking about people just not getting off their asses and voting, then I don’t see why that’s an issue in that context.

Not to say that it isn’t an important issue by itself.  It is.  I think black Americans are marginalized in this country to an extent… not as much as everyone seems to think (in my opinion anyway)… and so their complete exhaustion with the American system is of course a cause for concern.  But how can John Kerry actually make a case for his presidency on the basis that the people who might have voted for him didn’t… because they didn’t vote.  Lame argument.  Worthless argument.  It’s an interesting topic… but one for a different conversation.  So I’m down on the kid for that one point.

Point B:  The voting machine thing.  I’m with the kid on this one.  I thought it said a lot about this country, and its people, when nobody really reacted to the fact that many of the voting machines that were implemented in the 04 election were built and supplied by Diebold, a company whose founder and big-dick-in-charge is a campaign doner to republicans.  I don’t know if he flubbed it or not.  I’ll never know.  Some documentary on HBO suggested pretty strongly that the system was totally fucked… and I’m cynical enough to believe that… but my problem isn’t that he did or didn’t help Bush steal the election – I’m of the mind that Bush one this one fair and square.  I think the American people are just that stupid, that they voted for him again.  My problem with the voting thing is that there was no system in place to remove Diebold from the running when the federal gvt was looking for a company to supply voting machines.  There can be no connection.  None.  At all.  That would be like letting build tour buses for Mitt Romney.  See how long it’ll take for that Mormon douchebag to go sailing off a cliff because of shitty breaks.  The temptation is just too great.  You don’t shit where you eat.

So anyway… the kid makes this big scene, and it’s uncomfortable and it’s loud and it’s rude… and we all know that this guy was probably motivated more by the fact that he’d be looked and possibly blown for standing up to Kerry (which really isn’t a feat since FDR was steadier on his feet than Kerry ever was) like he did.  He’s a 21 year old fireball who wanted to make a scene… and I want to be old and lame and say something like, "He really should have conducted himself better… more like a gentleman."  But you know what… I don’t think that.  I’m bothered by the fact that the kid asked stupid questions to a stupid person… but still, the behavior itself, asking… no… demanding an explanation from a "leader" is decidedly American, and essential… and something that none of us have done in a very very very long time.  I actually got a rush when a cop went to usher him away from the microphone, and the kid turned to him and said, "No, I’ll finish asking my damn question, THANK YOU…" 

What use is the pageantry when it gets us nowhere?  Why must I conduct myself respectfully when speaking to those who do not respect me?  Isn’t the presupposition that these people deserve respect an element of control?  Aren’t I such a fucking Libertarian? 

The kid demanded an answer, and Kerry, believe it or not, agreed to answer.  He never got the chance, however.  Six cops descended on the kid and forced his arms behind his back.  They were arresting him.  The kid fought back… and I’m glad he did, because fuck the po-lice.  They dragged him to the back of the auditorium, with him screaming the whole time, "What did I do?  Why are you arresting me?  I just want him to answer my question!" 

They forced him to the ground… threatened him… and then tased him.  Just before they did it, you can hear the kid call out, his voice bending under the weight of college-dudeness, "Don’t tase me bro!  Don’t tase me."

And then they tase him.  And he screams.  A lot.

Now… separating this from the bigger picture… I get why it’s funny.  It’s mildly ironic – the beefy cop electrocuting the laid-back college doofus.  It’s funny because of the situation, and the fact that he called him bro… and the fact that someone got fucking tased.  Yes, I can laugh at stuff.

But we’re missing the bigger picture here. 

Say what you want about how the kid conducted himself – personally, I thought he was fine, if just a little too forceful for polite society, but still… our country’s falling apart, the world is going to end in 50 years… fuck propriety – say what you want about how the kid conducted himself… he was still arrested and tased by six cops while expressing his freedom of speech.  He was demanding an answer from his leader.  That’s the whole goddamn point of this country. 

We’ve been so cowed and bullied in the last seven years… and some of us so mollified by such puerile nonsense as patriotism or American symbolism… I think this kid is a goddamn hero.  And I think it’s terrifying that the only real response I’ve seen to it is that is making T-shirts with "Don’t Tase Me Bro" on them.  He’ll probably be a guest on Letterman.  Leno will have the crazy, "Don’t Tase Me Bro" dancers.  Quizzo teams will joke and laugh about it… and no one will stop to really consider that Kerry never answered his question.  And that Bush never answers ours.

And that our leaders don’t listen.  And yet we continue to let them lead.

So fuck the police.  Fuck the presidency.  Fuck this country.  And fuck every last one of you who can’t stop laughing long enough to realize that this shit isn’t funny anymore.  It’s scary.


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