American Shithole #0 — Introductions
by Eric Wilson
I am penning this introductory screed on a weekday afternoon with CNN squawking at me in the background. The White House press secretary, Sarah Elizabeth Huckabee Sanders — looking like a confused and punch-drunk prizefighter — has taken one too many left hooks from the press.
I have grown accustomed to this angry, misshapen science experiment from The Island of Doctor Moreau — today draped in blinding fluorescent magenta — as she answers a daily barrage of questions from incredulous journalists. This is day seven (eight?) of Shithole-Gate, and what Sanders and her team have come up with is that sometimes Donny uses tough language.
Thanks Mrs. S.
Shortly after, I watched Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, straight up commit a felony, by lying in her testimony to Congress (including Senator Dick Durbin, who was with her in the Oval Office), culminating with a fiery Senator Cory Booker taking the fibber to task. We don’t see that every day. We didn’t used to, anyway.
Also, lying to the American people to protect this president, who has repeatedly demonstrated that if the roles were reversed, he would joyfully throw just about anyone under the bus, will not end well for her. Jesus, it’s like that fucking scene out of The Omen.
Some porn star named Dusty Windows or something, was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about what I imagine to be the world’s worst sex that she has ever been paid to perform. This sex was with the president, by the way. News that would lead during anything other than the apocalypse.
Later still, Senator Orrin Hatch (congressional lamppost and patient zero for the aforementioned coming zombie apocalypse), took off his imaginary pair of glasses.
Let me repeat that. A sitting U.S. Senator took off his fucking pair of imaginary glasses.
Then, White House medico and disturbingly enthusiastic space alien, Dr. Ronny Jackson (whose nickname in medical school I imagine to be “McDolty”) answered questions cheerfully for far too long about the president’s health — again, to an incredulous press corps that could barely keep straight faces.
This is only a handful of the stories developing in one afternoon, now any afternoon in America. Every fucking day we are inundated with this madness. For the past year, I wake up like far too many Americans: my bones hurt, the colors are drab, and without fail I’m mortified to load my news feed.
Anywhere other than Bizarre-O-World (or whatever alternate universe, fucked-up, 12 Monkeys-meets-Hee Haw nightmare timeline we’re stuck in) these kind of events would dominate the news cycle for months.
The shelf-life for a news story these days, even a bombshell, is 48 hours, 72 tops. Less if another, larger story breaks. And now one always does, jamming up my feed, keeping the assembly line of atrocity rolling along so fast, I often struggle to do anything but watch it all go by. At this rate, in a year I will be writing about something two days old, that has already been completely forgotten.
That’s where we’re at.
Here’s where I’m coming from:
The now long-defunct Rykodisc Bill Hicks Message Board, where I cut my teeth writing short, comedic posts back in the mid-90s, seems born of a different internet. One where opinions were discussed, even argued without calamity. We enjoyed a regular news cycle, where major political events were infrequent at best. The community felt insular and remote. It was an island of misfit toys that had little in common other than their love for Bill, where no one was paying much attention and everyone was having fun.
Cut to the internet today, where every sparrow-fart tweet from Kommandant Bonespur jackknifes across the now orange-tinged information superhighway, like some sort of intelligence-dampening 18-wheeler spilling out propaganda like so many soiled Depends.
Welcome to the adult diaper days of American democracy, where Idiocracy is starting to look more like wishful thinking.
We are experiencing the dog days of late-stage capitalism and potentially the end of the Rule of Law. Today, if allegations of misconduct are leveled, the casket for your career (if you even have one) or for your life’s value, is a one-size-fits-all affair where sexual transgression is binary, and due process is the real crime. A pat on the butt and child-fucking are indistinguishable and identifying their differences only outs you as an enemy of the movement.
Republicans have ushered in the billionaire cash-grab part deux — the second fleecing of the masses in as many decades. The filthy rich literally stole everything from every struggling American they could. Twice.
I cope the same way I always have. I make fun.
One of my first stories at the Hicks board back in 1996, was about farting myself awake on an Amtrak train. As you might imagine, it was a high-brow narrative describing in great detail the hours of entertainment that event provided for young Jeremy — an idiot-child sitting behind me — who proceeded to mercilessly ridicule me the entire trip, much to the delight of the other passengers. It was one of those pieces that wrote itself.
Today, that same story would likely be scanned for offensive material, regarded with scorn for including a negative portrayal of a very young, possibly borderline mentally retarded child, then summarily dismissed as juvenile, puerile word-garbage. Does it offend? Shame it. Does it not offend? Ignore it. America has an almost clinical distrust of comedy developing and it fucking pisses me off.
For the past 20 years, I have written stories; about my own misadventures, mostly. These predominantly self-deprecating, embarrassing tales that made my friends laugh (which is surely one of the best fucking feelings you could ever have) also became the template for my writing style.
This kind of humor — the personal, self-reflecting kind — is perhaps the only safe comedy left. You would think a smart person would stick with that, if that’s what they already do, especially in today’s political and social climate.
But not this dumb-fuck.
Instead, I have foolishly (bravely?) offered to write a column where I will tackle all manner of nightmarish behavior and dark deeds contributing to our American Shithole.
Don Hall has welcomed me into the Literate Ape fold, and I look forward to connecting with my Chicago roots. My thanks to Don. Many of my happiest moments are Windy City moments, so an opportunity to rekindle my love affair with a city that was once so good to me, is much appreciated. (Also, if you haven’t seen Don laughing as if Patton Oswalt were the cure for aging and bad backs, then you should check out Patton’s most recent Netflix special, Annihilation. Don’s the one in the front row, center, reacting like a comedian’s wet fucking dream.)
I fully understand I am signing up for something that will likely offer as a return, many self-righteous kicks to my junk, public shaming, little remuneration and probably additional junk punches for a closer. For example, I am sure I will rue the day I write about Al Franken, but you know, fuck it, I’m definitely going to write about Franken.
Of course, at the breakneck speed this country is barreling toward an inescapable (permanent shithole) event horizon, perhaps that article will be met with an “Al who?”
I also intend to find some humor winding its way through this cacophonous din of greed, stupidity, cruelty, misconduct, abuse and suffering. Not in a dismissive manner, nor needlessly derisive, or overly critical. I hope I have provided, but you know, pilot episodes are a bitch.
In an effort to facilitate, I have doubled my THC, CBD and TMZ intake, as well as my TLC personal happy time regimen.
A bit more about the author
My language can be offensive, but my ideals are rooted in Scandinavian-grade socialism, and that means I’m nice, goddamn it. My core tenet is to always begin from a place of empathy. I fail miserably at this, because too many people are dicks. I am an off-the-scale leftist by American standards, a moderate liberal by Canadian, and a fairly typical middle-aged Chicagoan — if we are judging the city by my friends who still happen live there. I like dogs, funny people, the Clash and sobbing uncontrollably to Pixar films.
American Shithole promises to at least occasionally make you laugh like a middle-aged doofus sitting front row at a Patton Oswalt show. OK, not that hard. American Shithole also promises to stop with the third-person bullshit real fucking quick, just give American Shithole a fucking second. Finally, American Shithole promises to reserve the most vicious critique for the creator of American Shithole — that wanker.