Opinion » Shredder

Foot in mouth disease


There’s an art form to expressing yourself well, to speaking honestly and provocatively without having to invoke your freedom of speech every half hour because you’ve said something so offensive nobody wants to listen to you anymore. I walk this fine line on a weekly basis, and thus far none of the hits put out on my life seem to have stuck, so I think I’m qualified to offer myself as a mentor to disgraced rodeo clown Mike Hayhurst. And sell-out ex-hippie mayor Jan Marx as well. More on her later.

So here goes, Mike: You need some lessons in how to be the type of jerk people can at least secretly respect. In the first place, you need to commit to what you’re saying. Now, in my case, that means committing to calling out elected officials and rodeo clowns for being complete morons and abusing their power—not to suggest that you, as a rodeo clown, have any power. I certainly didn’t intend to give that impression. In your case, that means that if you’re going to be making racist jokes, admit that you’re fine with making racist jokes and accept that you’re going to draw heat for it. Don’t publicly make the kind of statement that you did, issue the most half-assed apology I’ve ever heard, and then slink away pretending you’ve managed to retain something of your dignity or credibility. Issuing an apology in the first place indicates that you understood that what you said was offensive and just plain wrong. So either apologize like a champ—which you failed to do—or stand by what you are: a racist rodeo clown. Or at least a clown who makes racist jokes. Is there a difference?

“But freedom of speech, founding fathers, blah, blah blah … .” I’m gonna stop you right there, because you’re coming across in my paraphrase as just another sad-faced, whiny, middle-aged white man who puts on facepaint to go to work. And hell, maybe that’s why you took a cheap shot at the first lady. It’s not always as easy as we like to pretend it is to make something of yourself in this country, and God knows there are additional roadblocks for any minority. Maybe you couldn’t stand the fact that a woman, and a black woman no less, had pulled herself up, becoming one of the most powerful and influential women in the world, while you never got past painting your face and getting kicked in the head by rampaging horses. I mean, aside from the racial stuff, the joke was about two influential women posing nude.

To anyone who thinks I’m harping on the whole face-paint/clown angle a little too intensely, I have this to say: If you want to be a clown, or anything professionally that involves facepaint, good for you. You’ve chosen a path that will inevitably result in a degree of mockery, and I admire that kind of devil-may-care courage. I really do. My only hope is that you discover in yourself a measure of grace and self-respect that ensures that your professional headshot doesn’t wind up in newspapers around the country making you a laughingstock painted as a redneck, red-faced racist.

And then there’s Jan Marx, who I seem to remember politically courting the Establishment hippies—those SLO residents who live communally in a big building where Jack Kerouac once slept and wrote—during her bid to become Madame Mayor. Who knew the once self-styled liberal would find herself making the following utterly stupid statement regarding the city’s desperate attempts to prevent homeless people from sleeping in their cars: “It is not aimed at the homeless people. It is aimed at people sleeping in cars overnight.” Which is kind of a … moment. At first, all I could think was, who the hell else, besides a homeless person, is sleeping in their car? And then I remembered an epic sleepover three of my friends and I had in my Volvo just the other night. The pillow fight was a little difficult in such a restricted space, but I think we made it work.

No, that didn’t happen. And the reason that didn’t happen is because people don’t sleep recreationally in their cars. It just doesn’t happen, especially not with freezing autumn and winter temperatures kicking in. Maybe it’s hard for the woman who once wined and dined the cool kids of the Establishment to admit she supports an ordinance that essentially criminalizes homelessness. And she should feel bad about that. I’m not going to award her brownie points for being aware enough to realize that dumping on the community’s poor and disenfranchised sounds really, really bad. It’s not racist radio clown bad. But it’s America’s Happiest Mayor who lives in one of America’s Happiest Houses going after people for living in their cars bad.

Word on the street—aka my barstool—is that Marx has since made new developer buddies, like WestPac and the Copeland Brothers. They’re less cool than Mario and Luigi, but significantly richer. Meaning maybe she’s not so reliant on her old base of supporters anymore. Which is probably for the best, because I don’t think the hippies who helped elect her in the first place are going to be all that thrilled by a politician whose efforts to tidy up the town involve forcibly sweeping the city’s homeless into the creek. I’m going to give Madame Mayor the same advice I gave the clown: If you’re going to harass and demoralize people, you might as well own it. Because if you can’t recognize that the people sleeping in their cars are the city’s homeless, then you’re as dim as a clown who’s had too many run-ins with a bull. And if you recognize that fact but won’t admit it, then you’re just another duplicitous politician.

Shredder’s case of foot in mouth is improving rapidly. Send fungal cream to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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