The woman has customized this shirt by cutting off the sleeves and turning a crew neck into a v-neck. The "V" she has created plunged low...down to cleavage level. A Bush smiles at me blankly from either side the V's lowest point.
Most gym members are far too engrossed in their curls, crunches, and calorie burning to notice this subversive in their midst, but more than a few folks do stare at her shirt...including yours truly. Here's some of what I am thinking as I do:
*The shirt's message is counterproductive to genuine change because it indirectly suggests that we'd all be better off with a Democrat in the White House if for no other reason than a Democrat would more acceptable to us in the educated class. The system works just fine, thank you, it's just that the wrong person's in charge.
*Neither Bush the Elder or Bush the Lesser is anywhere near "dumb" in the sense the shirt's message suggests. Let me first clarify that, of course, every single one of us is incredibly "dumb" because we perpetuate behavior that we each know will eventually destroy us and much of life on the planet. But the use of the word "dumb" on this woman's t-shirt implies that members of the Bush family are simply not intelligent enough to handle the duties of the presidency and thus the atrocities committed during their watch can be merely chalked up to low IQ. Again, let's not get worked up enough to change anything more than which party has placed a figurehead at the top.
*Dissent (sic) is merely a commodity and has been for a long, long time. Radicalism is a t-shirt, a bumper sticker, a hairstyle, a ribbon pinned on a lapel, or maybe even the occasional march or protest. Activism for most of us is a spectacle with little or no foundation or duration. In 2006 America, we prove our rebel status by wearing a message t-shirt while walking on the goddamned Stairmaster...our eyes transfixed on the little television attached to the exercise machine. Surely, the members of America's elite class are quaking in their overpriced boots.
That woman's t-shirt has likely garnered her many knowing smiles and nods as she stands in line at Starbuck's and started a few friendly arguments in the parking lot at IKEA. That's democracy and freedom for you. We can wear our opinions on a shirt without fear of being tossed in a gulag (well, as long as the shirt doesn't promote something un-American like anarchy). We can disagree with fellow citizens over which rich white male should live in the White House for the next four years...but still remain united in our love for our country. We can speak out against any war started by the party we don't like but we always support "our" troops. That's just how things are in the land of the free and that's precisely why "they" hate us so much.
If only "they" had the freedom to wear a message t-shirt with a plunging neckline, the world would be a much safer place.
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.