Have you ever been followed on the street by a crazy person shouting things at you? In a big city with crowded sidewalks?
It happened to my son – fortunately – when he was thirteen. He didn’t look thirteen, but he also didn’t look old enough to drive. Say fifteen or so. This was the fortunate part. Our family went for a walk downtown. A normal looking man (until you looked at his eyes) middle aged, in a suit, took a look at Robert and started following us shouting “You ran over my little girl, you bastard. How dare you walk around free? Are you going to run over more people?” etc, etc, ad nauseum.
It was obvious he was yelling at Robert, because if we shifted formation, he would change to be within about two feet of Robert and looking at him.
It was also obvious to anyone watching he was crazy. At least I hope so, since my kid didn’t even look old enough to drive.
BUT our entire family was cringing and Robert looked like he wanted to hide. ALL eight blocks back to where we’d parked. Then he stood there and shook his fist at us while we took off.
That wasn’t precisely a new experience for me. It says something about the texture of life in the Portugal I grew up in (that caveat is needed, as I know nothing or next to about Portugal now) that a romantic song promised to protect the girl “when a madman follows you on the street shouting things.” This happened fairly routinely when I was going to college and taking a train to downtown Porto and then a bus to my campus. Madmen would follow calling me a whore, (because someone in a black skirt suit and a black medieval cloak is self evidently selling her wares?) or saying I stole something, or sometimes just shouting the equivalent of “millennium hand in shrimp.”
It’s so common that passersby would grin at my embarrassed face. BUT there’s the point. No matter how common, no matter how unjustified, you always feel like SOMEHOW you did SOMETHING to bring this episode on.
I was reminded of this yesterday – yes, on Facebook. You know… — when I posted a somewhat tasteless, but not overly so meme on the Titanic. I might not have posted it, not being interested in either of the topics, but my son made it and it was cutish. It was the titanic, sinking and it said “The Ice Bucket Challenge/On expert mode.” Okay, I have nothing against the ice-bucket challenge, but it’s been all over and the Titanic sank because of striking ice, so, you know, it was kind of sort of chuckle worthy. And it took you unawares while drinking tea (me) spray worthy, because of the juxtaposition of ideas.
My first comment was from someone who has written a book about the Titanic “Just.not.funny.” Well, okay. I know what it’s like to be close to your subject. I’ve been known to put a cutting remark when an Oxfordian posts something about not having enough evidence of Shakespeare’s life. But that’s usually on serious memes. I think I pass on raining on someone’s parade in politics or history at least once a day.
Why? Because it’s a facebook meme. People are having fun. Do you really want to stand at the edge of the crowd screaming “Not funny.”
But fine, he was close to it, knew the details of the tragedy, etc, so I put in “Well, maybe you’re too close to it, but it’s been used as a joke in Ghost Busters, so this is not even the real titanic, it’s the “meme Titanic”” – and also the drawing showed the ship, not the people.
What I expected was the he’d absent himself from the rest of the thread.
Oh, boy, was I wrong. Next, he posted pictures of the remains in the Titanic, and what looked like someone’s leg bone. We tried to explain to him that, er, no, we weren’t making fun of the death of people, it was just the weird idea of a ship deciding to take the challenge.
AND THEN he decided that he would make “funny memes” of Nazi cold water immersion torture and post them, because, you know, no one told him not to.
Now you guys have known me long enough, so when I said, “No one told you not to dance in traffic, either, does that mean you feel compelled to” you know exactly how far I’d been pushed. I don’t think I’ve lost my cool to that point here, except with overt trolls.
BUT he kept coming back, and defending his outrage, and saying we were making fun of the horrible death of hundreds (which I hope it’s understood in the meme was not part of it) and on and on, until he called Kate Paulk (!) two swear words. And then I blocked him and banned him.
I went to bed still confused about this. You see, it’s the first time I blocked anyone on Facebook.
And he’s been my friend for a while, and what’s more, he wrote a book I enjoyed on the Titanic. So I thought “he can’t be that crazy. What did I do wrong? It can’t be just the meme. Consider that there are titanic tea infusers for sale, and titanic inflatable lawn toys, and…” I mean, the Titanic, 102 years after its sinking is, yes, a horrible disaster. (We went through the Titanic exhibit at the museum, and while not as powerful as the one on Pompeii (no, trust me) it was heart-rending) but from the disaster enough gallows humor has emerged to make it a meme for “sinking ship” – not the real Titanic but sort of a cultural cartoon. Or even a meme for “engineering failure.” I mean, if you’re talking about someone designing a spaceship with obvious flaws, saying “remember the titanic” doesn’t mean “remember everyone who died. It means “remember the massive engineering failure.”
But anyway I went to bed torturing myself over his rather public implosion – a friend said it sounds like a manic episode – and wondering if I should have defused it earlier.
And this morning I realized that half of my flist seems to have blocked him BEFORE that incident, so I feel a little better.
But at the same time the incident and its aftermath, like the incident with people following us on the street showed me the power of crazy and how the left has deployed it in elections.
Look, if you’re A LITTLE crazy, people wonder what is wrong with you. Say the person on my thread had kept insisting that it wasn’t funny, in a mournful tone. I’d have gone “Dude, what’s wrong with you?”
But once he started posting Nazi memes, I was going “Dude, what have I done wrong?”
Now compare it to the things Romney was accused of in the election: not paying taxes for 10 years; causing someone’s wife to get cancer…
He was probably ready for “when have you stopped beating your wife?” but he wasn’t prepared for “When did you stop eating babies?” Craziness on that level leaves you bereft and open-jawed and wondering what YOU could have done wrong to bring it on.
In the same way tea partiers were prepared (probably) to be accused of wanting to starve the poor – but who is prepared to be accused of being racist, when half of your gatherings have more people of color than white ones? (The one in town had a whole tribe who took a bus from a reservation, in full regalia.) Or a white supremacist? Or Nazis?
And it goes on and on at all levels. It’s like the left reaches into the bucket of crazy and flings the crazier non-sequiturs they can find at people’s heads. This is for instance why I have been accused of being fascist (because I want to take over the world and leave you ruthlessly alone!) or a white (!) Supremacist. It’s a bucket of crazy, and how do you defend yourself from that, and what have you done to bring it on?
And when our side tries similar crazy things (not even as crazy) – say the birth question or whether Mr. Obama might just perhaps be hiding a gay side (notthatthereisanythingwrongwiththat, but it would be a blatant lie to pretend otherwise) — our own side starts mumbling “Don’t say that. That’s just wrong.”
The other side, otoh, the party of people whose representative is afraid Guam will tip over, has no qualms. But we do.
Look, take it from someone who’s been followed by crazies on the street. Sometimes turning around and saying in the most dramatic tone you can conjure “It was you Mr. Wiggins. It was you who stole the turtle. Millenium hand in shrimp. I’ll have three brown ones.” In fact, I’ve found it’s the only thing that DOES work. It gets this weird look to come to their eyes, and then they slink off.
But that is not something our candidates can do, of course. However, WE can. And we need to stop slamming down on people who do.
Beyond that, our candidates – and ourselves – need to be prepared for those questions and ready to laugh and point and make duck noises, instead of cringing and looking embarrassed at their insanity. “When did I stop eating babies? What kind of crazy asks that question? Or do you mean eggs? I had eggs just this morning. Do you, Mr. Wiggins, also devour the unborn?”
Because the low information voters see the cringe, and being liv’s think “No smoke without fire.”
Toss the crazy ball right at them. Use GIFs if needed. Stop feeling guilty because they’re crazy. Their problem is not your problem. And you shouldn’t feel sorry for them. They are, at this point, doing it deliberately.
Laugh, point, and be ready to make fun, just like medieval people did when confronted with madmen.
Sometimes, it’s the only sane answer.