Why I can’t stop putting dildos into the hands of powerful conservatives
There have been so many gun massacres of late it’s difficult to recount them all. Increasingly, they’re striking closer and closer to home for me as well. Just a couple months ago, a shooting happened on an Oregon college campus a few hours from where I live. My wife is a college professor in Oregon and I never in a million years thought that was a dangerous profession, but now every day when she goes off to work I will have this thought in the back of my mind. The most recent San Bernardino shooting was about ten miles from where I went to college and took place at a location I used to drive by weekly. A couple of those injured in the attacks went through the same program I did at my school.
Like most of these tragedies, they involve powerful weaponry, sold legally to people that shouldn’t have had them in hindsight. Over the past few years we’ve had countless gun-related atrocities take place in the US. Kids killed in a school. Worshipers at a church shot point blank. Women in a medical clinic gunned down in broad daylight. A holiday party at a public health department ending in bloodshed.
In the wake of most horrific news events, change takes place. We realize something in the system is broken and close the loopholes that make future events improbable or less likely. Yet with guns, we do nothing. No matter how high the body counts reach, we hear the same refrains: now’s not the time to talk about guns, if anything we need more guns in more places, and perhaps most famously the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
After every massacre I think ok, enough’s enough. We’re finally going to see meaningful change to prevent a future tragedy like this one from happening again. And then… our leaders do nothing.
The contrast in the first Republican and Democrat debates a few months back couldn’t have been more stark. At the democratic debate, the candidates (except Jim Webb) talked openly about curtailing sales of military-style weapons and putting tighter controls on gun show and private party sales loopholes. While at the GOP debate, it was a battle of one-upmanship to see who could toe the National Rifle Association’s harsh anti-gun control stance.
Of course, these kinds of atrocities happen regularly only in America. Most every other developed nation has active controls on weapons designed to kill humans. It makes logical sense. And you never feel the threat of violence and death even if you’re walking in the dodgiest parts of London late at night in the way any major US city feels at that hour.
Heck, in America you can’t even sell a car at a car show or via Craiglist without alerting licensing organizations. Every car carries a unique identifier that anyone can lookup and track instantly for the entire life of that car. Why is that we don’t even treat guns like we do automobiles in the US?
The GOP Candidates
With all this in mind, I read yet another news article on the GOP responses to a tragedy, and as they often do, it featured an image of a candidate proudly displaying a weapon to show his cred. Again, I felt a sense of powerlessness at a Congress that does nothing about guns and would do nothing, then I got a goofy idea to do something with it. I will freely admit it’s something very stupid, but at least I could blow off some steam and protest in my own tiny way.
I decided to take every GOP candidate/leader photo featuring a gun and replace it with a dildo.
Yes, it’s very juvenile, and I know it’s fairly pointless, but I wanted to rob the original images of any power they hold by making the same subjects appear ridiculous when the photos were altered. That’s all there is to it.
At first, I did some Google Image searches and figured I’d be done in a week with the current crop of candidates, but doing deeper searches with better tools, I suddenly found myself picking and choosing the best shots from hundreds of options, where candidates and leaders of the GOP featured themselves holding, shooting, and proudly displaying guns. In one week, I’m already up to 32 completed images and I have a downloads directory with dozens more. I joked that maybe I’d hit 500 images someday, but now I’m starting to think that’s actually possible, and that’s a frightening observation about gun culture in the US.
Like any web project I take on, there are guidelines that lay out boundaries to help the work support the original idea. Mine are pretty simple. The subjects are conservatives in power, that work in lawmaking or help support it, and yet do nothing to curtail guns. I locate an original photo of them with a gun (I’ll never use a photo of them holding a phone, or a microphone, or a corndog, just real guns near them), photoshop the gun out, plop a dildo image in, and make it look somewhat realistic. I post it to GOPdildo.tumblr.com along with a link to the original so you can see what I started with. Then I added links to the dildos themselves because so many people asked. Later on I usually tweet out links to the new posts as well. Sometimes friends send me their doctored images and I post them too.
The dildos are all from Amazon. Right now a search on Amazon turns up 55,311 dildos for sale, complete with high resolution photographs of them on a white background. This comes in really handy for a project like this.
It’s worth noting I don’t wish to bring any shame to dildos. I think they’re harmless and delightful objects men and women are free to use however they see fit. A dildo is practically a teddy bear when compared to the vast variety of sex toys, sex acts, and sex fetishes out there. I don’t feel any embarrassment when I see one in a shop window. But I don’t think the subjects of my images feel the same way, and therein lies the tension for the project.
It’s been hilarious to see what I originally thought might be a tiny twitter art project that would hopefully crack up my friends spread like wildfire across social networks, and later to news sites, and eventually into many other languages. Mostly people see it for what it is, a silly way to express frustration at The United States’ current endless cycle of gun tragedy followed by inaction while leaders posture with their weapons in defiance of any changes.
Of course, it being on the Internet, there’s a flipside reaction as well. I’ve been asked to meet people to see their guns, and perhaps to experience getting shot by them, I’ve had people on Twitter tell me all the things they want to do with a dildo to me, and I’ve even had a guy say he’d love to shove his gun up my ass and pull the trigger so I got the full idea of how powerful his weapons are. Usually I block or mute people on Twitter that tell me stuff like that so I don’t have to see it again.
The strangest reaction to me is when someone finds these images “hateful”. I’ve seen the word pop up a few times in responses, and it really throws me how something as harmless as a dildo crudely added to an image is seen as hateful, as if the original photo of someone proudly displaying a weapon capable of ending anyone’s life instantly is instead seen as righteous. That right there? That is a set of priorities that are fucked up, full stop.
My Someday Wish
I think the US should have stricter gun controls. Ultimately, I wish we could follow a model close to Australia’s, where basically nobody but farmers wanting to control vermin or humanely kill livestock when needed have 3 foot long shotguns that are registered and licensed (and only people with legitimate reasons even get considered for). Handguns are rare and you have to shoot in a club’s range for six months before you can even apply to own one for sporting purposes only. Semi-automatic weapons are limited to the military. Australia is a special case, being isolated from neighboring countries and going on nearly 20 years of strict controls, but their numbers of deaths from guns run about 200 per year, while in the US the number runs above 30,000/yr.
I would also be happy with controls less strict than Australia’s in the US. Gun shows and private sales should carry the same oversight a sale in a shop does. Every gun should be identifiable and tracked. Mostly, I would like to see politicians (yes, from both parties, but especially the GOP, who control Congress completely on this issue) do something, anything to bring some sanity to the hard-line, 239 year old ideas concerning firearms, and bring it into the reality of the present. Sure guns are in the Constitution and woven into our history, but so was slavery and we certainly changed our tune on that since 1776.
And yes, even if we banned the sale of all guns overnight on January 1, 2016, we would not be living in a safety wonderland. It will take many years before grandfathered-in guns move out of circulation and use, but that still doesn’t mean we should continue to do nothing. Imagine if in the wake of the Columbine shootings back in 1999, we put stricter controls on firearms? Would there be less than over 300,000 people that died by gunshot since that massacre? Sixteen years on, I bet it would have made a serious dent.
Finally, my last wish is that people stop sending me Michele Fiore’s family christmas card where everyone’s holding guns. I’m not going to put dildos in the hands of her entire family, jesus christ people have some decency.
Follow along, if you wish, at #GOPdildo on Tumblr