Last year I wrote a follow-up to my maturely titled 2017 e-book, 69 Ways to Own The Libs. Owning The Libs Across America was an update on how right-wing media ecosystem had changed during the Trump years, and how the pandemic had completely altered the brain chemistry of every Republican you know.
Among the worst COVID developments was the far right's sudden and horrifying interest in the nation's educational system. Because some school districts asked students to wear a mask during a raging pandemic in which 3,500 Americans were dying every single day, conservative parents lost their collective shit and began flooding school board meetings with their anger and vitriol. They had no interest in compromise. As in every other aspect of society, they wanted a takeover. They wanted to bend wills and get their way by any means necessary.
Slight personal sacrifice – wearing a face covering for part of the day – was simply too much to bear for the broken brains who believe personal liberty includes the freedom to spread a deadly disease for which there is no cure (and at the time, no vaccine). So-called mask mandates – no one really ever had to wear a mask in the US – poked the right-wing bear and brought its rage right to the schoolyard. Enter bad faith: Parents and conservative commentators had to feign concern about children and what they endured during and shortly after COVID lockdowns. Pretending they cared about kids was the best way to legitimize their radical views as part of the mainstream educational discourse.
A funny thing happened when right-wing, Facebook-addicted parents who get their news from memes began attending school board meetings: Their demands to end masking curdled into much uglier priorities, like banning any and all teaching of actual U.S. history, slavery and all. Masks took a backseat to ensuring children did not learn about systemic racism.
The far-right's injection into education has also wrought one of the most frightening developments of our dystopian moment: The banning of books about LGBTQ folks, or written by LGBTQ authors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, of course, is at the forefront of the book banning movement, as Florida school district officials make like good little goose steppers and remove books that could give kids pesky ideas about who they are and whom they love.
Donald Trump has stepped up his fascist book-banning game of late, trying to compete with DeSantis' overt appeal to the country's worst, most ignorant, most hate-filled people. Trump has pledged to “dismantle and destroy the left-wing censorship regime” in U.S. schools – a policy stance soaked in bad faith. The only way to ban books without looking like a nazi is to pretend some all-encompassing left-wing force is brainwashing children and censoring conservative thought. Even then, you look like a nazi. That 19 states with Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures have begun burning books is a ratcheting up of the temperature for those of us feeling like frogs slowly boiling in our respective pots.
Thanks to masking policies during the worst days of COVID, the 2024 Republican nomination contest could come down to which candidate is more willing to indoctrinate American youth with far-right propaganda.
So yeah, happy Friday to you and yours. Below is an excerpt from Owning The Libs Across America. I took a strange pleasure in writing it until I realized how real it had become. My absurdist approach was not, it turns out, absurd enough.
Chapter 1: The politics of a wood chipper
The sun hadn’t come out for a week. The gloom was thick, and it was everywhere. But at Dawn’s Diner in northwestern Ohio, it was morning in America. The red shirts awaited me.
The lousy weather couldn’t suppress the excitement inside the little diner that had survived “urban revitalization,” whatever that means. I could hear the bustling inside Dawn’s as I approached the front door, adorned with a beautiful handmade sign, written in alternating red and blue letters on white paper: NO MASKS, NO VAXXED.
Freedom emanated from this place. These were my people, and they were here to see me.
They cheered for me, as they usually did when I entered these book signings. There were old folks, parents with their kids, a fat guy wearing a t-shirt with my face on it. This never got old, being adored by Americans – real Americans – who had read my 2017 book, 69 Ways To Own The Libs, and told their friends and their friends’ friends to buy it too (you’d do yourself a favor to ignore fake news reports that a group called Freedom Under Communist Kronies bought 700,000 copies of my book to send it skyrocketing up the New York Times bestseller list). The whole thing took on a life of its own and before I knew it, I was on every conservative cable channel offering new and inventive ways to upset liberals. The more I talked, the more my book sold, the more I was invited on to new TV shows and podcasts. Jotting down my strategies for waging culture war against our domestic enemies turned me into a rock star.
I’m like a less communistic pro-Brexit Mick Jagger.
I was on the thirteenth day of my three-month tour of our once-great nation, whose vile deep state apparatus had overthrown the government and installed Joseph Robinette Biden as president in 2021. Life went on for many, but for those who saw through the facade of the left’s many manipulations, crisis was everywhere. It was in the masked faces of our countrymen as they shopped for groceries, the brainwashed masked children as they went to school. It was in the zombies lining up to get jabbed with an experimental vaccine (and tracking device) by Big Pharma. It was in the gay couples in Target commercials, the black woman astronaut in that car insurance ad. Everywhere you looked, there it was: Crisis.
My agent, a kindly lady named Diane, had booked forty-four book signings in my nationwide book tour. The good patriots at Freedom Under Communist Kronies (please don’t abbreviate their name as FUCK; they don’t like that) had bankrolled the whole thing – my hotels, my air travel and rental cars, my food. They even bought me a supply of Patriot Blend 100 Percent Organic Coffee, which boosts energy and testosterone levels with every sip. It’s the closest thing one can get to drinking actual liberal tears. I love it.
I was torn about taking all these freebies. I’m not one to take handouts. But after my divorce – my wife wasn’t a fan of my book – and all the alimony the liberal woman judge ordered me to pay, I had to humble myself and take the free stuff from Freedom Under Communist Kronies. I’ve prayed for forgiveness every night since. Milton Friedman came to me in a dream and offered forgiveness. That was all I needed.
Back to Dawn’s Diner: Diane had set up a folding table where I would sign copies of 69 Ways To Own The Libs. Before I could sit down, I noticed nearly everyone in the place was wearing red – t-shirts, dresses, dress shirts. A little girl was wearing fire engine red overalls. I asked about all the red and a woman named Jane stood up and spoke for the group. Jane looked like a Fox News anchorwoman without the porn star makeup.
“We formed our group to oppose mask mandates in the local schools,” she said in a shaky voice (celebrities like me can be intimidating, you must understand). “We formed on Facebook, and when we decided to finally meet in person at a school board meeting, we needed a way to identify each other.”
“For some reason,” Jane continued, “a bunch of people at the school board meeting said we should’ve worn brown shirts. But brown is ugly, and red is easier to see from a distance. It was a dumb suggestion. Why would we wear brown shirts?”
A diner waitress had brought me a five-egg omelet, nine strips of bacon, and my patriotic coffee -- my liquid liberty. Before I dug in, I asked how the school board meeting had gone.
“Great,” Jane shrieked. A cheer went up from the other red shirts. “We convinced board members to end the mask mandate and stop all school curriculum related to slavery. It was a resounding success, if I do say so.”
I couldn’t help but smile. What a glorious victory for lovers of freedom in this sleepy Ohio town. I shoved a piece of bacon into my mouth and motioned for a teenage boy to hand me his book to sign. “How’d you do it?” I asked as I scribbled my John Hancock on the kid’s book. He squealed with delight. Weirdly, and out of nowhere, the teen coughed on my omelet. The kid leaned over to within inches of my plate and let out two nasty hacks. Not wanting to be mistaken for a beta germaphobe lib, I said nothing and smiled.
“The corrupt local newspaper will tell you John over there” – Jane pointed to a burly man wearing a red shirt that didn’t quite cover his gut – “took a school board member’s dog hostage, but there’s no evidence of that. It’s all liberal lies.”
“And you might hear that Leonard threatened to burn down the houses of any board member who voted for the mask mandate.” The crowd bustled.
“Where’s Leonard?” I asked between sips of coffee.
“Doctors say he died of the Democrat virus,” a woman shouted from somewhere. “Same with his boy. All lies. We’re pretty sure he’s on vacation in Florida. Won't answer his texts though.”
Jane, after a husky-sounding cough and a disgusting sneeze onto the old man seated in front of her, continued. “And of course there’s a bunch of vicious misinformation out there about Marjorie sending emails to board members about killing them and stuffing them into her backyard wood chipper. But that can’t be true. Margie’s wood chipper hasn’t worked for years.”
“Go test it out right now!” Marjorie yelled from the back of the diner. She coughed and wheezed. “Piece of shit won’t turn on! Hasn’t since forever!”
Of course the local press had persecuted these freedom-loving Americans. It’s their job to smear anyone and everyone who bucks against their left-wing agenda. I had talked to the town’s reporter, an old guy named Ted Ladd who had done all the reporting, editing, and photographing for the local paper, called the Gazette, since 1981. We had talked about my book signing but couldn’t meet in person at Dawn’s Diner because he was vaccinated against COVID-19, and Dawn had banned any vaxxed weirdos from entering her establishment and shedding the virus everywhere. It was, Dawn said, a public health matter.
I found Ted to be an incredibly nice and well-mannered older gentleman until he started rambling on and on about a local “activist group” intentionally spreading COVID in public places. He had warned me not to go to the book signing, at which point I lost my shit. I asked him who he worked for, who was paying the bills for the Gazette, in whose pocket he so comfortably resided. Was it Soros? Gates? Fauci? Dolly Parton? The old man said the Gazette was a “volunteer venture” and a “bare bones operation” his mother had started in 1969. Nice, I said. Then I hung up on him as he warned me once again about this so-called COVID spreader group. Poor Ted, poor commie Ted.
A line had formed in the cramped diner, all the red shirts orderly and ready for my signature on the book they had surely read dozens of times over the years. First up was a lovely mother who had curled her blonde hair and put on quite a bit of makeup for the book signing. Beside her were two plump children. They reminded me of my kids, Ronnie and Maggie, and for a moment I felt indescribable sadness – the price of freedom. I said hello and signed the book, addressing it to Anne. Then the kids leaned in close and hacked directly into the face. I felt their warm droplets cover my cheeks. I instinctively closed my eyes and opened them as quickly as possible, not wanting these good folks to think I cared about spreading germs like some Biden worshiper.
“Thank you,” I said. Anne thanked me, said she prayed for me every night, and made room for the next person in line. It was the wood chipper lady, Marjorie, who opened her cavernous mouth and coughed in my face. Taken aback, I resisted the urge to wipe the spittle from my cheek. I handed her the signed book and asked for the next person in line. It was the hefty man in the too-small red t-shirt, who didn’t even have a copy of 69 Ways to Own The Libs. He leaned over the folding table and spit in my face. My lips dripped with his saliva.
I smirked and suppressed my gag reflex. I didn’t want to be rude.
“We hope you don’t mind,” Jane said, stepping up to the table. “We thought you would approve of spreading this damn virus and showing it’s no big thing at all. It’s the flu. We’ve all had the flu. As a community, we feel we need to show the Democrats we aren’t afraid of the Fauci flu.” Jane then spat into her hand and smeared her spit all over my pursed lips. The fearlessness of this woman -- of these people -- was truly inspiring. I was overcome, and my tears mixed with the snot and saliva covering my face. It was a beautiful moment in a time of crisis.
You may have heard I spent five weeks in the hospital after that. That much is true. What isn’t true is that I was clinically dead four times while intubated. That’s a baldfaced lie. I only died twice while a machine breathed for me. And like any man of faith, I was raised from the dead.
The nurses – when they weren’t making TikTok videos dancing around my hospital bed – said they were freaked out by my drug-induced ramblings about Majorie’s wood chipper. One nurse ran out of the room during my final wood chipper episodes. Apparently I’d cry out about a wood chipper, begging the hospital staff to keep me safe from Marjorie. How could I have known, the nurses asked, that the remains of two school board members had been found in the backyard of a local woman named Marjorie while I was intubated.
I guess Margie finally got that machine working.