Those who know Spider Jerusalem already know this, and those who don’t know him could care less. And, let’s face it: Too many of you don’t know him.
Fifteen, twenty years ago there was a new comic book out under one of DC’s fringe labels — Vertigo or something. “Transmetropolitan”. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson. I stole their art. (This is by way of being proper credit. Besides, I don’t get paid for this; they can sue me. Whether they do or not, though — read it. Read it now. Go out and buy it and read it.)
It was some serious brain-twisting, a mess, a work of paranoid comic genius that showed a horrifyingly plausible future, except horror is really the wrong word. Revulsion, terror, existential dread, then finally a sort of gut-churning acceptance; yes, this is how we turn out. It’s not too different from today, really, once you get past some of the nasty things the creators threw in to shock you. Cannibalism, alien sex, drugs that do you, sorta thing.
The big story arc is a little bit about the presidential race between some seriously disgusting candidates. One is affectionately known as “The Beast”, and the other is… well, possibly worse. And the main character is a stereotypical mad prophet type, a journalist who’s so Gonzo he’s out the other side, a foul and pale excuse for a human being with no redeeming virtues except his relentless pursuit of the truth.
And he hates it here.
Let me tell you something. I hate it here too.
Oh, not the country. That’s incidental, an arbitrary set of borders and coastlines and laws and customs. And the idea behind it is pretty sweet, a place where people can live and have sex and worship any way they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. Which is fine so far as it goes, until you stop and consider that this paradise of democracy imprisons one in a hundred of its citizens at any given point in time, stripping the right to vote and the ability to work a decent job from far too many of those on the fringe, those who cannot or will not accept the system.
But what we lose sight of is that it’s not the system alone. It’s trite to say the system couldn’t exist without the people that support it, but that’s not enough. The uncomfortable truth is, the system is made up of those people, the ones who do their jobs and get ahead and pay their taxes and have kids and join the PTA, the people who are locked into their salary and cost-of-living increases and merit raises and performance bonuses, which they need to get in order to pay off their student loans and mortgages and auto loans and credit cards. The more successful — the ones who don’t get trapped in an endless cycle of debt — sometimes even run for office. But don’t make the mistake of believing the politicians are in charge; they’re stuck even worse than the rest of us. You think they’re screwing us over, but in reality all they do is check polls to see how the people feel about this or that talking point and they follow the majority.
We beg them to screw us over, and they do exactly what we tell them to do and are ecstatic so long as we vote them back into office.
You know why we imprison so many of our own people? It’s because running on a law-and-order platform guarantees votes, while running reform in law and crime and prisons just reminds the voters that the system sucks, and who wants to be reminded of that? We want hope, dammit. We vote for the people that say they can fix things by doing it the way we tell them to, little realizing that this is the same way that failed a dozen times before, the same way that we followed to get where we are right now.
You’re upset The Beast got elected? Let me tell you something: Yeah, it sucks, but we put him there. And, even if he’s certifiable, a megalomaniac, a Narcissist, all that means is we’ve got a great big handle on him: Public opinion. We elected someone who’s so touchy he can’t take an insult on Twitter, and suddenly we’re worried he won’t listen to us?
What should really terrify the ever-living hell out of us is that what he’s going to do is, he’s going to listen to us.
The Wall? Polled so high it’s in the damn stratosphere. Refugees and Muslims? Half the country would piss itself if it even saw a turban (outside a New York cab, that is — and from the smell of the cabs even that wouldn’t stop ’em). Throw out half the government? Anyone can tell you they’re all corrupt, wasting our money. Best thing we can do is–
But you’ve heard all this before. You learned it from that guy in the bar. You heard it on talk radio, saw it on television, had the argument handed down to you from your half-potted uncle every Thanksgiving or Christmas. And you’re getting it on the internet, that marvelous tool that gives every person an equal voice; where thirty years ago, in order for people to listen to you, you needed a degree from Oxford, today all you need is a catchy phrase, a shiny meme, and a nice New Truth so far from the real truth it couldn’t be seen on a cloudy day.
This is the day of the ignoramus, the turning of the great slow hulking ignorant dumbass worm. The great unthinking electorate stirred in its alcohol-drenched coma and gave us this. And now we have to live with it.
Some of you, hearing this may piss you off because you think I’m calling you an idiot. You’re missing it: I’m calling you the last best hope for the future.
Some of you are already pissed off because the country’s going to hell and you already knew that before I started writing. Suck it up and stifle that feeling. Save it for later.
Because what we need right now, more than ever and as much as always is, we need you to think. If you’re angry, don’t go out and riot; that ski mask won’t save you from prosecution, and besides, all you’re doing is giving them an excuse to crack down, which is the exact opposite of what you want. What you want is to change the future, and you can’t do that from prison.
And if you’re sure The Beast — excuse me, this isn’t a comic book; President Trump — is doing the right thing for the country, it’s still on you to think. Use that brain of yours. Keep watching; keep close tabs. You believe in freedom and personal liberty, right? You believe in keeping your guns and your ability to spout off in public? Well, then — it’s up to you to make sure nobody loses those rights.
That’s right, kids; the NRA and the ACLU are on the same side for once. Stop fighting each other and start using your brains. If you don’t, someone else will.
Looking for a subversive leader, some messiah figure, a mad prophet journalist to step out and tell you what to do, what to think? Sorry, folks; it ain’t going to happen. Because I’m not Spider Jerusalem; he isn’t real. He’s superhuman; he’s fiction; I’m just some guy.
Bottom line? It’s up to you.
(Yeah; I know: We’re fucked.)