Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The VOX POPULI of Ridicule

Is it really the case that I have not written about my preference for ridicule over outrage since March (when word was first coming out about Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay)? Have I been taking things too seriously, or has their been a serious paucity of reports on ridicule in the mass media? Certainly, today's story is a local one; and it will be interesting to see if it gets picked up on a national scale (or, through the good graces of either the BBC or Al Jazeera, a global one). It concerns a recent movement here in San Francisco, reported by Marisa Lagos in today's Chronicle:

They're the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco, but don't let the serious name fool you. The group's intentions are in the gutter: They want to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant come January, when the next president is sworn in.

During the inauguration, the group also wants supporters to participate in a "synchronized flush"- a way to send a gift to the renamed plant, which supporters say, would be a "fitting monument to this president's work."

It sounds like a harmless joke, or maybe a college civics lesson gone awry. But the handful of friends who dreamed this up over beers one night say they have already collected 8,500 signatures in support of the plan - 1,300 more than the minimum needed to put the question to city voters in November. When they submit the signatures in July, election workers will have to verify that at least 7,168 are from registered city voters for the measure to qualify for the ballot.

Now, as Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tony Winnicker pointed out, this plant has won awards for the effective job it does of keeping our local water clean (thus reinforcing our Mayor's decision to ban bottled water from official meetings in favor of tap water). It is a little bit like the old joke about a guy who walks into a Texas bar and shouts at the top of his lungs that Lyndon Johnson is a horse's ass. While everyone in the bar is beating him up, the bartender explains that no one in that town can tolerate that kind of an insult to horses. Still, if we are to regard those signatures as vox populi, then we also need to acknowledge the wit of one specific vox. That comes from the specialist experience of plumber Bright Winn, who observed:

[Bush] has always done well for the affluent of America, and anyone that does well for the affluent should be named for the effluent.

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