Have you ever seen this bumper sticker around Joplin? It says something like, “HAVE FUN- IT PISSES OFF THE LIBERALS.” I consider myself a connoisseur of inane bumper stickers, and this is one of my favorites. It’s a textbook case of projection if I’ve ever seen one.
Few things irritate authoritarian rightwing fruit-loops like other people having fun without their permission. It means you are not Working Hard™, you are not Making Sacrifices™, you are not Disciplined™ or Moral ™. It doesn’t matter what else you do; whether the fun action in question aids in learning, helps others, involves hard work and discipline or simply does no harm to anyone else. Fun is a four letter word.
Examples abound to anyone who ever pays attention to anything. A good local example would be the fate of the Study Abroad courses at MSSU. We’ve had at least two letters in support of cutting these classes, and the letters had two core arguments:
- Them there over-educated professors is whiny crybaby faggots.
- These classes are “mere vacations”, therefore we shouldn’t fund them.
I could understand how they could think the latter. In a conservative’s mind, there are only two legitimate reasons to leave America on a trip: to go on vacation, or to kill brown people. They just cannot conceive of any other category. As a veteran of not one, but two international courses, I think I can speak with authority: these are not vacations, these are classes and hard work besides. You learn more during a month studying abroad than you do during an entire year of courses on campus.
I took the same Biology 101 course twice. (Hey, I like biology, sue me.) The first was the on-campus one, where one alternated between a sterile classroom and a sterile lab. The second was part of the Costa Rica biology/kinesiology course, where one alternated between a classroom, living with the ticos, and hiking through a freaking rainforest (or volcano or seashore). I can’t even remember the name of the professor of the first course, let alone the lab work. Not so with the latter. It’s hard to forget assignments from these classes, and the assignments pale in comparison to what you learn from simply living with the native culture for a month.*
Who cares about that, though? You are enjoying yourself, so it must be a frivolous waste of taxpayer money. Give us three Hail Marys while we cut those classes immediately. Divert that tax money to something less engaging and threatening, like football. “Go back to bed, America,” as Bill Hicks would say.
There’s this joke that says that Puritanism is the fear that someone, somewhere might be having fun. People usually apply this to sex, but it really applies to everything. The moral sanctity of misery is ingrained in the conservative mythos to the point that most of the things they see as “fun” are either bland or involve spreading more misery.
Who freaks out about the newest dance craze? Conservatives. A new medium, like video games or text messaging? Conservatives. A popular children’s book? Conservatives. New holidays? Conservatives. New hair and fashion? Conservatives. Michael Steele can try and rebrand the GOP with all his might, but conservatives will always be the parents banging on the door telling you to turn down that noise.
One day I’m going to see that bumper sticker again, pull over the driver, and ask him what he does in his spare time that’s so fun, yet morally correct. I have a feeling I won’t be bowled over with jealousy.
*One of the biggest perks of these classes that you can’t get from campus classes is the culture shock, and I suspect that’s one of the main reasons why these people want these classes cut . Xenophobia is hard to foster in someone who actually sees the outside world for herself. What use is casting Scandinavia as a boogeyman in your rants about healthcare if your intended audience has actually been there and realizes you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about? We better keep them here, stupid and docile, so we can keep them in line with our ignorance and lies. But you can’t really say that in an editorial; you have this façade of intelligence you have to prop up for people to take you seriously, so you stick with your same-based line of attack.