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I’ve yet to see a fertilizer salesman go belly up.” —my Uncle Tasso on the topic of shit

These are tough times. I don’t care where you sit on the socio-political spectrum; it doesn’t matter what your economic station in life is—this is a rough-and-tumble era. If you’re a Tea-bagger (sorry, if the epithet fits, wear it), there are just way too many crazies out there who care about hare-brained notions like the environment and the sanctity of the individual in the face of an ever-burgeoning corporate kleptocracy to go around. If you’re a member of that slightly less-crazed bunch that I refer to as the Radical UnLeft (there is nothing ‘right’ about them), the same broad criticisms will no doubt apply. And if by some long shot you’re a member of that class of people that is rapidly qualifying for inclusion on the endangered species list known as liberals, lefties, commies, etc., you will arguably agree that things have devolved to such a place that the phrase “It’s all gone to shit” has taken hold with hermetic strength. All of which I’d find alarming if it weren’t for one simple fact:

I love shit.

You know, crap, cow pies, road apples, poop, stool, doodie, that shit. I know what you’re thinking—Raysses has gone bat-shit, which, given the point I am making here, strikes me as perversely congruent. But in a time and place in which nothing and no one seems to be what they represent themselves to be, I find, um, relief, in dung’s unalloyed nature. More than anything I know of, it is exactly what it seems to be. And if you’re not moved by its physical traits, just take a deep breath—if that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, step on it and go for a walk. The court of public opinion will let you in on the obvious.

If pressed, though, I suppose I don’t actually love shit. I love the idea of it: that there is something in this world that is so purely what it is as to banish all discourse of what it might otherwise arguably be.

Which, to me, is the shit.

Linguistically speaking, though, shit is a word of a thousand feces. What other item can be taken or given with such relative ease? It can be little, deep, or tough. You can get it together, lose it, shoot it, or have it for brains. It can fly, sometimes hitting the proverbial fan. It can put a pig into a state of delirium, though you wouldn’t want to be upstream on any creek that shares its name without a paddle. And woe to the person who can’t distinguish it from Shinola, a brand of shoe polish that was popular in the mid-20th century. This is actually where for me shit loses its charm and takes on its most feculent state. For all of its conceptual malleability, its greatest misuse has been as a tool for agents of what I like to call the Anti-Shit-for-Shinola conspiracy. This group seeks to deceive people by overexposing them to metaphorical shit, causing them to suffer what I call “fecal fatigue,” losing the ability to tell the difference between shit and its opposite.

As dated a reference as it must seem in this age of the ephemeral, I think the years 2000 to 2008 are key. For my money, that was an eight-year blizzard of dung bunnies, started by an act of unprecedented political thievery, from which only more dung flowed. Governmental programs whose titles were abject lies (think “No Child Left Behind”) gave way to military strategies aimed at inappropriate targets cloaked in names that aspired to shock and awe, but only gave way to shame and disgust. But even in the wake of the political cow pie that was the Bush administration, one could arguably point to shit’s ability to fertilize the ground it fell on. For the first time in history, the party that rose to oppose those who had been in power offered up not only a woman but also a man of color as its primary candidates. Wasn’t that progress?

As it turns out, shit no. The President seemingly took office on a mandate of desired change from a status quo that was poop personified. But he has proved all too willing to take the crap his ideological opponents proffer, all of which has resulted in the governmental dump embodied by the recent issue of the debt ceiling and its theoretical resolution. For the first time, our government was reduced to using a tactic I used as a desperate teenager—the use of the word ‘super’ to mask efforts that were anything but. When I was guilty of some misdeed, I would be super-contrite, pledging super-attention to not repeat my infraction, all offered with super-sincerity. Seeing the powers that be offer up a super-congress to address an issue as pressing as the debt ceiling, knowing it was there all along, is nothing short of super-shitty.

A steady diet of figurative excrement can’t help but inflict long-term damage. George W. Bush begat Sarah Palin, who begets Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. For me, this isn’t about liberal or conservative, or left versus right. It’s about shit from Shinola. It’s about being deluged with crap to such an extent that we’ve lost the ability to tell the difference anymore so that when someone places a steaming bowl of something in front of us and invites us to eat it, we do because we don’t know any better. Or because we no longer think we have any choice in the matter. But we do. I, for one, am sick of this crap—I know shit from Shinola, and you do, too.

So next time someone or some entity tries to pawn off some symbolic Shinola on you, push back and tell them you know shit.

It’s your doodie.

Originally posted to TheSometimesWhy on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 12:18 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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