My juniors just started reading The Scarlet Letter, that tale of the poor Puritan Hester Prynne, who has an affair, gets pregnant, and is subsequently shamed by society ever after. In chapter 2, she must mount a scaffold and spend part of the day being stared at and scorned by the entire town, in an act of public shaming meant to punish her sin.
After reading that part with them, I asked my class, “Can you imagine what that must have felt like for Hester? To be forced to stand on a stage while a thousand people stare and judge you for your human mistakes?”
They all looked a bit amused as the answer to my clumsy rhetorical question finally became clear to me.
You see, I teach at a school for the performing arts.
Last week I was browsing in a thrift shop for used books. I spotted this old edition of Tess of the D’urbervilles, which is marked with a sticker for the low, low price of 75¢. Of course, that discount is actually a fifteen cent increase over the original cover price, which is clearly visible next to the sticker. Yes, folks, apparently this old book is worth more used than it was when it was new. That’s the economy for you.
The media and government’s response to things like the San Bernardino shooting reminds me of this scene from the “Treehouse of Horror IV” episode of The Simpsons:
News anchor Kent Brockman: Another local peasant has been found dead, drained of his blood with two teeth marks on his throat. This black cape [clearly marked “Dracula”] was found on the scene. Police are baffled.
Police Chief Wiggum: We think we’re dealing with a supernatural being, most likely a mummy. As a precaution, I’ve ordered the Egyptian wing of the Springfield museum destroyed.
In our case, I suppose it plays out like this:
Mainstream media: Another mass shooting has occurred, in a well-planned and coordinated attack. Pro-ISIS propaganda was found posted online by the suspects, and their house was full of pipe bombs. The motive is unclear.
President Obama: We think we’re dealing with racist conservatives, most likely Christians. As a precaution, I’m going to demonize them and push for even more gun control.
I realize I just compared President Obama to police chief Wiggum. My apologies to police chief Wiggum.
So, you’re a reporter and at some point I’ve become a figure of public note. Anything’s possible.
For whatever reason, society has become aware of me, and it’s your job to provide the details that will disgrace me, because that’s how the media works.
But that requires endless hours of tedious online research, digging into every little thing I’ve ever done. And this blog alone has over 1500 entries! What’s the busy would-be muckraker with a calendar full of Internet porn to do?
Well, look no further! As a service to the journalists, pundits, and (who knows?) rival campaign staffers of the future, here, in one handy-dandy collection, is a treasure trove of quotes that you can use to embarrass me in front of the tabloid headline-addicted world.
Sure, you’ll have to take them out of context and selectively edit them, but you’re part of the press! That’s what you do.
“I hate all the
problems society gives to
“I enjoy sleeping with
my family at home at night while all the other families and
sleep in their homes.”
“I support killing
any attempt to censor the views of
my political opponents.”
“Star Wars Episode I was
a really good movie.”
That last one alone should get any target demographic to rally against me!
It’s tough out there for a progressive Mormon these days. Reacting with horrified indignation on the Internet to current events has nearly become a full-time job! It’s almost enough to make one re-examine one’s passionately believed liberal assumptions. Almost.
But before you do something drastic like that, here’s how to deal with the exhaustion of always needing to rant online. After all, there are only so many synonyms for “sad” that you can dredge up in the service of your public moral vanity.
Just use this easy, user-friendly template for your next angry tirade against the LDS Church. It’ll even work for those trendy new rants that poorly veil their murmuring under the guise of being diplomatically disappointed.
Here it is:
I am (outraged / shocked / depressed) by the recent event in the LDS Church that everyone’s talking about. It (sickens / offends / discourages) my sensitive and compassionate conscience. Once again our leaders have shown themselves to be (out of touch / tone deaf / afraid of change / consistently faithful to their calling).
When will the Church finally (evolve / wake up / get with the times / become as good as I am)? And when will they finally start thinking about all the (minorities / non-Mormons / children / sensitive and compassionate progressives)? When?!
Don’t they know that this is the last straw and that oodles and scads of people are now (leaving the Church / not joining the Church / speaking out against the Church / scribbling stale criticisms online for cheap social capital)?
How do I know the Church is wrong on this issue? I’ll tell you: (insert string of logical fallacies here; begging the question, straw man, reductio ad absurdum, ad hominem, and false analogy work especially well). The Church’s stance on this one issue is obviously (a radical conspiracy by old white men / inspired by some conservative politician my friends and I don’t like / based on decades if not centuries of doctrinal precedent).
Now that the Church has thrust us into a dark age we will have just have to hunker down and patiently (wait for change / pray for our leaders’ enlightenment / waste time showing off online /
seek faith while quietly serving others).
Hopefully I’ll never have to write anything negative about the Church again. (NOTE: when posting this in future years, remember to use updated references to whichever Church leader / social conservative / Republican politician is being called stupid by the media at that time. You don’t want your rants to start sounding predictable!)
The exclamation “holy s—!” has always puzzled and amused me. Maybe it’s the odd juxtaposition that makes it work. After all, of all the things in the world that might ever be considered sacred, the very least likely would be excrement!
THE ADVENTURES OF EMJEN
Episode 38: EmJen vs. the Priestcrafter!
[Voice over] We join our courageous hero in her secret lair, the FORTRESS OF ATTITUDE, as she watches a slimy villain, DEVIL D. RANT, on a screen.
DEVIL: I encourage everyone to elevate their thoughts by studying the scriptures.
EMJEN: Oh no! My superhero senses are going off! I feel like evil’s afoot!
[EmJen’s sidekick, BLOG R. NACLE, rushes to her side]
BLOGGY: What’s going on?
EMJEN: The vile propaganda spewed by that heinous monster on the screen has set off my evil detector!
BLOGGY: Really? I thought the message was nice. I was actually inspired to do better by it. I thought–
[EmJen slaps Bloggy upside the head]
EMJEN: Foolish creature! Only an enlightened higher being like myself would see through those warm words of wisdom and automatically think to go looking for the awful truth beneath it!
BLOGGY: Really? That’s your instinct? You hear a motivational talk and your reaction is to go digging for dirt? That sounds like a reckless witch hunt to me.
[EmJen punches Bloggy in the face]
EMJEN: Hey, who’s in charge here, you or ME? Now, to the lab!
It was a Tuesday, the same day of the week that brought us 9/11 and Tuesdays with Morrie.
My car registration was due that day, but I hadn’t smogged it yet, because the check engine light was on. This happens every year—nothing’s really wrong, it’s just a glitch. I unhooked the battery and drove it around for two weeks to reset the computer.
First thing that morning, I took my car to the nearest shop for the smog check.
The guys there said that the light came on during the test and it failed. They wanted $80 to test it and see what was wrong. Not to fix it, just to see what it might be, and see if it even could be fixed.
I took my car home, because they were clearly ripping me off, and because my wife had to get the baby to the mall for her 1-year-old pictures.
Five minutes after she leaves home, she calls me. Her van got a flat tire.
I pile the kids into my car—which has broken air conditioning—and go out to the parking lot where she’s with the van.
From a conversation between my Mrs. and I a couple of nights ago.
Her: “So you keep your late fines at the library just under the total allowed so you can keep checking out books?”
Me: “You knew I was dangerous when you married me.”
I admit, these juvenile gags gave me a giggle, and I kept track of them in my notes. In chronological order:
#9. Guys get teased about someone sleeping with their mother.
Shakespeare is full of practical life advice. Like this: let’s say you’ve been secretly sleeping with some powerful female executive, which would really cause a scandal if revealed, because you’re black.
But then she gets pregnant and the baby comes out black, so the cat’s pretty much out of the bag on that one. Then, her two spoiled brat sons start whining to you that your little scandal has ruined mom’s career. What’s a guy to do?
Don’t worry, Shakespeare’s got you covered:
Demetrius. Villain, what hast thou done?
Aaron. That which thou canst not undo.
Chiron. Thou hast undone our mother.
Aaron. Villain, I have done thy mother.
–Titus Andronicus, Act IV, Scene 2, emphasis added
That’s right: tease the jerks about it. When Chiron says, “Thou hast undone out mother,” he means that Aaron has spoiled their mother’s reputation. Perhaps Titus Andronicus is set in Mississippi. But Aaron replies with one of those clever plays on words that Shakespeare is so famous for. Aaron’s response also uses the word “done,” but here it means…something more literal.
My 1-year-old daughter is running for president in 2052.