Say what you will about the putrid stench of vomit and urine, there’s no better community theater than Friday night drunks around midnight to 1 a.m.—the quarreling hour.
“I hate your face! I don’t even know why I’m looking at it! You’re irrelevant. Did you know that? You’re just a stupid, stupid, and I don’t think anyone even cares what you have to say anymore, you stupid! I’m boycotting you. I don’t even read you anymore. I haven’t read you in a long time, and I’m boycotting you!”
All right, so maybe that particular rant wasn’t pulled from a bro about to black out in front of a cop and wake up in the drunk tank. It’s actually a rant taking place across the country, and by seemingly rational (in a few cases) people. Except that the rant itself—“screw you, I don’t read you anymore and you’re not relevant but how dare you, I’m boycotting you even though I didn’t read the article”—is anything but rational. If Rolling Stone were as irrelevant as it’s presently being labeled, then the kerfuffle being raised over its Aug. 1 cover (by the people who also labeled the literary institution irrelevant, of course) is a waste of everyone’s energy and time. If we’re going to expend energy debating the Rolling Stone cover, then we must first agree that it’s important enough to merit serious discussion. Or you can continue to take cues from your 2-year-old and stage a hissy. And if we’re going to be reasonable, I might as well point out that threatening to boycott a magazine that you claim not to read is not going to have the same effect as Genghis Khan threatening to pop a cap in your ass. You didn’t read out of indifference and apathy, and now you don’t read out of anger. So what’s the difference? And could we, as a culture, maybe collectively reconsider how and why we become outraged?
You should be outraged when Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber or some other underage bubblegum prince or princess is on the cover dishing about his or her latest relationship—outraged because you deserve more, intellectually. You should be outraged when your elected officials rain missiles down on civilians in foreign countries, when the destination for the 2014 winter Olympics criminalizes homosexuality and cuts down protected forests while building its athletic venues, when a bill that criminalizes rape by fraud in California can’t get passed despite the fact that everyone agrees it’s an essential law because an assemblyman and senator are too busy fighting for credit over the bill (more on this later).
Instead, you’re worried your daughters, and possibly sons, will want to date the Boston bomber and that your sons, and possibly daughters, will want to be him. All because he’s on the cover of a magazine. If that’s the case, raise your sons and daughters better. Raise them to actually read the story. Raise them to question and think, and not just mindlessly worship every pretty picture that crosses their path. In order to teach them the value of substance, you’re probably going to have to read the article yourself. In fact, you’re probably going to have to read a lot more than you probably do.
Teach your daughters and sons that there are methods of expressing disagreement and dissent that transcend bellowing their heads off every time they encounter something they don’t understand. Ask them why they’re howling over a photo that was also on the front page of The New York Times on May 5. Ask them the difference, and if they don’t know, then maybe they should actually think about it before they resume howling.
Teach your children that the people we label monsters are also people—the DNA proves this fact, and though I know a great many of you are in the habit of arguing against science, you can’t get around it. We can pretend these people who shoot up schools and movie theaters and rig pressure cookers to kill innocent civilians don’t exist after the fact, we can label them “monsters” and walk away from the situation. Or we can take the courageous, albeit painful path, and acknowledge that these monsters are people too and something triggered them to commit a heinous act. We can try to learn how and why, if not for the sake of satisfying the human impulse to know and understand, then to prevent future death and destruction.
So, does it hurt to see a photo of a kid who should be on summer break right now enjoying time with his family, and know that he killed people? Yes. It should hurt. But instead of screeching that he doesn’t look like our simplistic vision of a killer, like a villain out of a Batman movie, perhaps we could search for the deeper lesson. Killers don’t always look like killers. Sometimes they look like us, like kids. And that’s not Rolling Stone’s fault.
And if you need a legitimate reason to be angry, consider the fact that it’s not rape to trick someone into having sex with you by pretending to be their boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner despite the fact that Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian introduced Assembly Bill 65 to make this vile act illegal in January of this year. Unfortunately, Democratic Senator Noreen Evans introduced Senate Bill 59 (which essentially serves the same function); failed to show up for the introduction of her own bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, delaying both bills; agreed to adopt language from Katcho’s bill into her own, after criticizing the language in his bill; and is now insisting that her own bill get pushed through rather than his. So there’s at least one senator out there who is so determined to receive credit for criminalizing rape by fraud that she’s delayed the opportunity to criminalize rape by fraud by several months at least.
There. Boycott that.
Boycott Shredder at firstname.lastname@example.org.