Irony is a bitch. Or maybe, after all, it’s the male equivalent.
In mid August I took my two youngest children 17 and 13 to Disney World for two days and then on to my cousin’s house in Boca Raton. Many of my friends who don’t own televisions were appalled I would take my children to a mouse driven icon of materialism. I think these people must fly. A lot. Because, clearly, if they had driven they would have identified a more potent danger than the allure of gift shops, sanitized streets and exhausted families.
We packed the car and drove from Yellow Springs, Ohio to Orlando in 18 hours. I had to drive because plane tickets were out of the question: $1800 for the three of us to fly and that was more than my budget for the entire week away. I drove because I am a single mom with diminishing income every child’s eighteenth birthday. I drove because, after the launch of the two older children, I can’t sell the four bedroom albatross I no longer need but used to require. I drove because my kids are good at road trips and I always stop for bathroom breaks. Plus they get snacks I don’t usually buy.
So we drove south. Into the South. I, a northerner all my life, living in California then Vermont, was only once in Arkansas, with my (then) husband to adopt our son. I stayed two weeks, just little John and me and Star Trek Next Generation. I remember people there were all so nice, and the frozen yogurt, tasty. But I flew that time.
Being in a car, you get to see gas stations, small towns and billboards. And there are many, many billboards along Interstate 75 South. Among them: Get the Progressives Out of Office, Vote. Take Back Our Country, and Get Liberals Out of the White House.
These were not yard signs. These were giant billboards, bigger than my kitchen, lining Interstate 75. Though privately outraged and fantasizing about gasoline cans and matches, I understood some rich person with a bizarrely atrophied sense of social responsibility had invested in his or her right to free speech. Fine.
But it didn’t end there. Tennessee, Georgia and even northern Florida turned out to be shamelessly checkered with billboards so wrung with irony my brain numbed. There was the pregnant woman, head bent down in shame and in the foreground, a muscular old white man with a flowing snowy beard and hair pointing at her. Below this echoed: "I knew You Before I Made You in the Womb"—God. As if this were a direct quote.
Then we passed a second one of a cute burbling baby with a bow on her head: My heartbeat began at 18 days. The kicker was that sandwiched between the two, not thirty feet apart was a billboard proclaiming Strippers: Need We Say More? Or how about Asia Pen, an establishment offering 100% Asian girls?
Cora, my 17 year old, who is Korean, sat in the car, mute, furious. I suggested she write the good Governor of Georgia a letter and ask if it would be dandy if billboards offered 100% African Girls, or 100% Jewish Girls, or 100% Swedish Girls, just like some of the restaurant billboards offered 100% Angus burgers. Instead, she took a picture. My son, thankfully, slept through most of Georgia.
It was all a bizarre sex sandwich—the tease of strip joints wedged between no choice outcomes. And this, not in privacy of a bedroom laptop or on in back of Hustler. No. All on a strip of asphalt, an Interstate, mind you, our taxes support. We counted 46 billboards in Georgia alone, neatly halved between bawdy calls for strip joints and rallying cries for anti-choice.
Hell, yes, you need to say more.
God zapped our famous Ohio touchdown Jesus a year ago. Those billboards better be next.