Can Portlandia Be Funny In the Age of Trump?

Comments

1
Or maybe the demographics Portlandia mocks (and really, it's a rather gentle mockery, all things considered), should develop a little thicker skin about being mocked. To quote William Arthur Ward, America's pre-eminent quip-meister: "to make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity."

But in any case, we'll get a chance to see how - or even if - Brownstein & Armisen can zag given the political zig the nation has taken: Portlandia has already been renewed for its eighth (and final) season.
2
I think that is the formula for every sitcom ever:

1. Somebody is sincere about something

2. They appear hypocritical or ridiculous

3. Profit!

I don't watch any of them myself. SNL? Please. Jon Stewart at least weaponized the formula which was somewhat more interesting.
3
"tear down the work of people who aim for conscious living."

This so smug and tone-deaf it's embarrassing. I imagine her saying this with her eyes closed and then farting into a brandy glass to savor the delicate bouquet.
4
Dunno. Nothing I've seen on that show has dampened my enthusiasm for doing something like taking a workshop on breaking down a pig or blow a whistle at motorists while I ride my bike. Portland folk in that demographic get mocked because they are interesting. If they weren't, the show would not work.

PEOTUS mocking a disabled reporter as a way of defeating the conversation is about as far from sketch comedy as any thing I can imagine. That comparison seems just about random.
5
I'd like make a very important clarification:

continues to make fun of white, urban, progressive people


These people are in fact suburban people - born and raised in the suburbs with suburban values - who decamp to the cities to replicate the profligate suburban-style spending and dilettante suburban lifestyles in a new land, and then claim moral superiority to 1) people who are from their communities who don't also colonize cities and 2) people who are originally from the cities and aspire to the suburban lifestyle that, in past generations, was advertised as obviously superior to their harrowing, dangerous, dark city lives.

In 30 years we will witness a complete return to preference suburbanization, led by young white professional people. The important thing, as always, is to make sure the goalposts keep moving.
6
Really?!?

Can we go back to talking about income inequality? This shits getting embarrassing.
7
I would consider myself part of a lot of the groups this show pokes fun of and I'm damn proud of it!
8
Really?
9
First, having lived in the PNW twice now (Seattle and now the Oregon coast, with plenty of time spent in Portland), the show is spot on > it's funny because there are people out there that are like that and therefore the show is relatable (either because you've encountered those people or you are those people and have a sense of humor). Having to listen to Porltanders complain about Portland ruining their city (nearly constantly) is completely baffling to me. IT'S A TV SHOW. It's social commentary. It's two people's perspective (actually more, I don't know who does all the writing). We are facing serious, life threatening problems with the insane clown posse of an incoming administration. How about we focus on the real life work that needs to be done in order to mitigate the damage that's going to be done? Getting rid of Portlandia (or any other show like it isn't going to do that). Portlandia isn't the problem. SNL is not the problem. Shows like A&E's "Life in the KKK" (or whatever the hell it was going to be called > normalizing white supremacy) are more of a problem. Thankfully it was cancelled due to the fact that it was discovered A&E paid the KKK and "scripted the show."

What's really a problem and way more important than any discussion regarding Portlandia are things like whether or not someone like Jeff Sessions is going to be appointed the Attorney General of the United States; whether the tiny handed temper tantrum twitter toddler will start a world war (with nuclear weapons); and, oh, I don't know, how many millions of Americans are doing to die in the next four years because they have no health insurance. What's really a problem is all the black people being murdered on a daily basis by law enforcement. What's really a problem is that Donnie Dump Truck and his white supremacist, billionaire administration, with the help of the Republicans in Congress just might LITERALLY destroy everything that has been built in this country for the last 60-100 years. Instead of wondering about a comedy sketch show on IFC that a fraction of the population watches can be funny in the age of Trump, let's focus on the very real issue of all of the people that are going to suffer (who have been suffering since the election) and who are not just going to lose their civil rights, but may just lose their lives.

We have a sociopath (rapist, bigot, liar, loser, etc. etc. etc.) 70 year old child who is barely as intelligent as a 10 year old with the maturity level of approximately a 3 year old about to become our president. Portlandia, on the list of all of the serious problems we are facing in the age of Trump, is about #1Trillion on the list. Seriously.
10
Ms. Drake doesn't seem to give people much credit. Can't I both love and giggle at the man who makes $60 artisanal light bulbs?
11
Portlandia has never interested me, not because it's too mean but because the satire is just so weak. Bikes! Feminism! Kale! They're just things. It takes a little more than just naming things to be funny. The only legit way to watch Portlandia is the way a friend of mine does, because he's homesick for Portland in the 90's.
12
There's nothing quite a dreary as a no-sense-of-humor liberal like the woman Charles dug up for that quote. That mentality is why so many people are intimidated by liberals.
13
I had found out about Evergreen from a billboard on I-5 down by Centralia and Chehalis, maintained by some right wing political crank that changed the slogan each day to some form of liberal-bashing screed. On that occasion, it said, "The Evergreen State College- Home of Hippies and Queers". Being both a hippie (My credentials earned by following the Grateful Dead as a teenager) and a gay man, I immediately began to ask around about this Evergreen. Having found it, applied to it, and been accepted to study at it, I was now seated on a concrete bench next to the CAB with a friend engaging in my own personal stock-in-trade, self-deprecating humor.

I joked with him about how many of my fellow long haired hippie-toed freaks seemed to believe patchouli was an effective substitute for soap, adding that I drew the line there. Despite my tie dyes and constant aroma of pot, even I would not stoop to that level. A dreadlocked young lady standing nearby became enraged, and began to lecture me that "soap is fascism".

I had moved into the dorms earlier that semester. After depositing my things in the tiny concrete box that oddly become my home, and greeting my new roommate with a mighty toke of the best shit I could buy before I left Tacoma, I walked over to the one story low slung building that effectively served as a student union. On the sidewalk, I encountered a young man who wandered around saying "dose for free" in the same way that people at the mall try to hand you a flyer about their store. I asked him what he meant. He informed me that I could either a) buy 3 hits of high powered blotter acid for 10 dollars, or b) hold out my tongue and he would squirt liquid acid from an eye dropper on my tongue for free, but he gets to decide how many hits. Obviously, I chose the latter option.

Sometime and some strangeness later, I found myself in the kitchen everyone on the same floor of the dorm shared, with my roommate and a beautiful dreadlocked hippie, who's father also happened to be some kind of an ambassador from Belgium to the United States. The hippie snorted lines of some pill he'd crushed on the table whiel I and my roommate passed a bong. A campus police officer appeared on the balcony outside the kitchen window and looks inside at the scene. I waved. He waved back, and co tinged down the stars to the floor below. My roommate, upon noticing this asked, "Was that a cop?" I replied that indeed it was. We laughed and took another big rip of the bong.

That was 20 years ago. I now have two Master's degrees and am finishing up a doctorate. I can laugh at this because, well, it was funny. I regret none of it, and enjoyed all of it, and contrary tot he myths did not wind up homeless and in a ditch getting drunk on cheap wine. Nor did anyone I know of from my old college days, although I maintain a very close friendship with most of the people who lived in my dorm. We get together sometimes to laugh about it.

It's important to laugh. The only people in all this world that I fear are the humorless. When the only laughter you are capable of is that cold, sadistic cackle employed by sadists, you have ceased to be human. It's important to laugh at ourselves, so we do not take our lives so seriously that we cannot enjoy them.

Is Portlandia making fun of progressive granola-heads from the Pac NW? Maybe. So what? That laughter isn't at their suffering, or aimed at dehumanizing them or declaring their lives absent of value.

Sometime, do look up the lyrics to the Evergreen State College's Fight Song. It's the most pornographic thing you've ever heard. It has to be. How else are you going to get a bunch of stoners to watch a game of fucking basketball?
14
Of course we should make fun of them.
15
I live on the other side of the North American continent, in a different country. Nothing has made me want to move to Portland more than Portlandia.

Surely Portlandia is about gently mocking our own liberal uptightness and, by our desire to make the world better, our tendency sometimes to overthink things. Armison and Bernstein live in Portland, they love Portland. I'm pretty sure they love feminist bookstores. We've got to be able to laugh at ourselves.
16
@15 exactly
17
@12 it's kinda hard to be intimidated by people who can't even decide which bathroom to use.

@13 Omnia Extares!
18
If you find the unjoke unfunny, Charles, it's precisely because people like you are the butt. I've been getting laughs from your column for years.
19
William dear, why do you and your fellow Tories have such a fixation on potty time? Did Mommy do something mean to get you to stop wetting yourselves?
20
Sadly,there is nothing funny, or clever in Trump-land at this moment. Maybe 100 years from now....
21
To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.
22
I've lived in Portland twice, both times as part of the demographic that series pokes fun at. And I find it hilarious; some of the situations fairly closely mirrored ones I was in myself. The series is making good-hearted humor.

As many others here have already observed, if you can't laugh at yourself, you got problems.
23
Nobody in this world is, or ever should be, immune to mockery. Not people in Portland, not people in Seattle, not people in Pus Boil, Mississippi, or Varanasi, India. Not me, and certainly not you, Charles.
24
@21:

If you're going to use a quotation, it's considered good etiquette to attribute it to the author, as I did when I used the exact same quote in @1 above. Either that, or just read the comments all the way through, you know, to be sure you're not going to come off sounding like a lunkhead for repeating something someone else has already said.
25
There was that one season opener where everybody's playing in the sun and tanning and then go chasing the sun whenever the cloud break moves.

Yeah, that bit of ridiculousness is true.

If you've never said "I know I'm being ridiculous, but..." well, you might be a Portlandia character.
26
Conservatives eat their hearts out wishing they even had a body of cutting satire they could consider recalibrating or aiming at more deserving targets. The reason liberals sink the odd basket for the other team is that the game is so lopsided, it risks being such a blowout nobody will watch. Portlandia is a condescending act of charity, outright pity, toward right wing humorists. The true cruelty of it is how well it demonstrates the hopeless incompetence of conservative wannabe satirists.

The show isn't really taking the piss out of lesbians or environmentalists. It's rubbing conservatives' noses in the fact that they're not even in the game.

The best they have is to sneer "sad!" at pretty much everything. It's not even a bit, or a one liner. It's a word. One word. That's really all they got. Portlandia reminds them of that painful fact, week after week. Ouch.
27
@26,

Back when Jon Stewart was at the top of his game and destroying GWB on a daily basis, the right kept trying to launch a counter-program/personality who would do essentially the same thing from a right-wing perspective. They obviously couldn't find a network to actually broadcast though and I think I recall watching a few minutes of a youtube video someone was trying to promote as "humorous." I recall it being kinda funny, but only in the most embarrassing and cringe-worthy forced, low production value sort of way. I actually think it may have been pretty hilarious in this respect.
28
Jackson Pollack (AKA, Jack the Dripper) was once interviewed by Life Magazine. The reporter asked him to respond to his critics, who compared his work to baked macaroni.

Pollack conjured up the image of a rose garden, and asked the reporter if the flowers had to mean anything in order to be pretty. "Isn't it enough that it just looks beautiful?"

Indeed, we could say much the same about life (or Life, for that matter). Nothing sucks the joy out of things than some idiot who comes along demanding to know what the meaning of it all is. Have you ever written something where you focused more on the musicality of the piece, its rhyme and meter, and how pleasant it felt to hear it performed? The frisson it sent down your spine was the whole point. Is an orgasm subject to neo-Freudian dream analysis? Have we all become so damn neurotic that everything you experience has to be some self-indulgent quest for truth and meaning?

I had beautiful sex last night with a guy I've been seeing off and on. Although the humor he gave me resulted in massive cumshaw spread all across his chest and arms and the blanket below, I did not turn it into a Rorschach blot and proceed to look for patterns that looked like bunnies in the spooge. There was no deeper meaning to that cumshot. It was just a puddle of jism.

Now, when we laugh at ourselves, are we 'mocking' our culture? Should we all immediately become frustrated and knit our brows as we blow out our heart valves with increasing worry as t what it all means?

Or just laugh?

Isn't it enough that the roses are beautiful? And isnt it enough that the sex was great, and the jokes were funny?
29
Spllcheck sucks. He gave me a hummer. Not humor. It was a cumshot, not a cumshaw (WTF is a cumshaw?)
30
Cumshaw meaning: present, gratuity; also : bribe, payoff

So it pretty much works for your post.
31
I love this show. They are merely mirroring reality and it's absurdities. Either they are habits and behaviors that we might think are a bit too much, or they're the habits and behaviors, that we have grown accustomed to, that "the other" might observe as a bit too much. And it's not just the reality of Portland. I visited Portland and went to a bar in SW. I asked for a gin and tonic (a simple two-ingredient beverage) and what I got was a drink that was loosely based on what I had ordered. There was gin and tonic in it, but it also contained cucumber, two sprigs of rosemary, gold schlagger, another liquor that I couldn't pronounce, and two of the bartender's homemade flavored bitters, and also somehow my drink was green. The bartender (who referred to himself as a mixologist) flat out told me that this was a "remix of the classic beverage" and he had made it for his friends over at a party and they loved it. Considering that, he only charged me for what a gin and tonic should cost, and assured me that if I didn't like it, he'd make me the "classic version" for free, I went ahead and drank the beverage and it was amazing! It was something that he was proud to have produced, and it was a fun experience plus we flirted a little bit afterward. Sometime, after that, I saw the Portlandia sketch about the mixologist, played by Andy Samburg, and I fell out of my seat in laughter. They captured the scenario perfectly. I loved that I was able to relate to their comedy and I loved that they made an absurd joke on something that was so seemingly inconsequential.

Also, where I live in Columbus, OH, farm-to-table restaurants have become ever so popular that suggesting any other dining experience is an easy way for judgement to be cast upon you with the wrath of god. I've been to all of them here and because I can afford it, I do tend to frequent some of them almost on a weekly basis. From this experience, I've learned that being able to enjoy such dining instantiates social class of some sort or another. I've noticed that there are almost never people of color at these places and that all of the patrons trend to look the same. Many of these restaurants are located in gentrified neighborhoods (go figure), however, the folks who live (or haven't yet been priced out) in the community are unable to afford to participate in the community's offerings. If you feel uncomfortable with sketches that poke fun with absurdities such as how people question the origin of their chicken and whether or not that chicken once had a name, then I'd advise you to check your privilege. This is because, Portlandia is only showing how it is a privilege to be able to be picky about the food you eat, or why you're going to eat it. A family with food insecurities, would probably never think to ask about the farm on which the food was raised, or to what degree is the food local. It wouldn't be apart of their paradigm to allow for such questions to enter their conscious.

Furthermore, I'm as liberal as they come, and my feminist values are put above all the rest. And even I would say that I absolutely love the "feminist book store book." I have friends who are "feminazis" and I can't tell you how frustrating it is sometimes to hear or see them talking at or past people who don't exactly understand their perspectives on the world. I once had a cisgendered friend introduce herself to my mother, "Hi I'm Cara, she/her pronouns." My mother looked at me like "What?!" I had another friend get agitated that I referred to her as "queer," and not specifically "gender-queer." There are times where I can't go two sentences without being corrected on the definition of terms and such. I see this dynamic play out so well in the customers and the store owners for those sketches. Having the vocabulary of Will Shortz, and the brilliance of Einstein is completely futile if you can't learn to communicate ideas in a way that people understand them. It puts people off, and they'll associate that experience with confusion and the feeling of being out of touch. No one wants to constantly be reminded that they're stupid, and when someone comes at you with whatever well-intentioned academic rhetoric without empathy, you'll back away with disdain for whatever values that person holds.
Trump mastered this psychology. Even with all of the disgusting gaffes and racist islsmsphobic rhetoric, when it came to talking about such issues as jobs or building walls, he spoke to people as if they were people and not career politicians. He wasn't speaking in a way that suggested he was speaking from a peer-reviewed political theory publication. He seemed relatable.

We need shows like this to help check us. We don't like to think that some of our social problems can be created by our progressive actions and behaviors. Some people wouldn't even think that it's possible. We need to hear and see what we look like when we behave in out-of-touch ways, that we don't think are so out-of-touch.
32
@13 I had found out about Evergreen from a billboard on I-5 down by Centralia and Chehalis, maintained by some right wing political crank that changed the slogan each day to some form of liberal-bashing screed.

A friend of mine used to call him the fascist farmer. It wouldn't surprise me if that is mentioned in the show at some point. I could imagine a character getting rather offended by the billboard, then making the drive to say something about it (because, after all -- the man has no idea how offensive his words are). He is a man of the earth -- he has a kinship with the soil -- I'm sure after a brief discussion (perhaps with some fine micro-brew) we could all reach an understanding.

33
@ 32,

It was 4 o'clock in the morning, or thereabouts. I sat in the driver's seat as my friend drove me up I-5 into the city from Tacoma. The year was 1993, and I had just moved to WA in February.

There wasn't a soul on the road besides I and my highway companion. Well, with one other exception. A figure marched up the middle of the asphalt dragging a long chain of what appeared to be knotted handkerchiefs. I urged my friend to pull up next to him and free this strange creature. He did, and I rolled down my window as our vehicle pulled to a halt next to him. "What's goin on, buddy?"

"Fuck you and your cafe society!" he began as he launched into an incomprehensible rant whose nature I could not fathom. The general absurdity our car had driven into he middle of overwhelmed me and I began laughing hysterically as Mark pushed the gas pedal and released the break, sending us spiraling off into the heart of the City.

The Hat and Boots. The Lenin Statue and the Troll. The fascist farmer's sign. Its these little quirky things that convinced me to make this my home.

I love the quirk.
34
Don't forget the giant egg in Winlock. It's not visible from the highway, but it's not that far off the road.

I think the Fascist Farmer sign still exists. I think the original guy died or something, and they ritzed it up a bit a few years back. I haven't seen it in ages, as I refuse to drive between Portland and Seattle. I'm strictly an Amtrak type when it comes to that route.
35
@34: The fascist farmer sign is definitely still there
36
Another post to get Charles' Slog Tickle Machine fired up, perhaps? I always imagine it as a physical thing similar to a Rube Goldberg machine, but for some reason it has a pull start like a chainsaw or outboard motor.
38
I thought poking fun at people with privilege --at their privilege-- was generally a good idea. No?
39
@ 34,

It was the early ritual. May 1st.

The corner of Division and Henderson was the main intersection connecting the Evergreen Bubble to the rest of Olympia. There were and are still ways around it. However most of the fun was clustered around there, from the Tequila Bar to Rainy Day Records, adjacent to the head shop, which in turn stood next to the pizza parlor. The landlord clearly understood most of our primary motivations inside the Bubble: Get drunk, get stoned, listen to music, and then eat.

There was however no way to avoid the time, even if you could technically avoid the place. Some sort of protest was mandated, regardless of what form it took or what it was supposed to represent. Remember, that this was the same place hose Voter's Guide featured a perennial candidate named Prophet Atlantis. He ran every single election cycle for whatever was on the ballot- mayor, city council sheriff- and his bios always began with the same sentence: "I am schizophrenic, off my meds, and therefore overqualified". I voted for this man religiously, as did most of my peers.

This is why Olympia has always hated the West Side, or more specifically, the Bubble. We didn't pose a threat, except maybe the threat of government by snark. However, we felt an obligation to earn that hatred that had been so graciously bestowed upon us by the town. It was an honor to be so deeply resented.

And so this year, I and some colleagues visited the Goodwill just up the road and purchased an old beat up couch covered in urine stains for about 30 dollars. Next door we paid a visit to the Liquor Control Board, where I, the oldest of our little group, filled a cart with a variety of bottles. We then drove to that fell streetcorner to meet our destiny.

The couch appeared in the middle of the intersection, with the full service bar and a sign offering free cocktails to anyone body enough to sit on it, stay there, and enjoy their beverage. Traffic backed up all the way down the hill, and we were entertained by a symphony of horns and obscenities shouted by those who couldn't figure out what we were protesting that May Day.

Neither could we.
40
@27:

FOX News did briefly make a foray into that territory about ten years ago with something they called "The Half-Hour News Hour". I believe they cancelled it just a few months after it started airing.

@13/32:

Old Man Hamilton was known throughout SW WA as a particularly cantankerous character, apparently somewhat to the right of a typical John Bircher of his day, the sort of person who would pick a fight just for the hell of it. The billboard went up in the early 1960's, because he was pissed that the federal government expropriated a portion of his land for the construction of I-5, and has been there ever since.
41
@31 - great comment, and why I still read the Slog comments.
42
Disclaimer: I haven't watched the show (I don't have a TV by choice, which probably qualifies me to be an extra in Portlandia right there). I know the show by reputation and from a few clips that have turned up on the Internet.

Having said that, it seems to me that the main theme of the show is poking fun at materialism. Many of the problems we face directly spring from our conviction that if we can somehow manufacture and distribute enough stuff, corn, beef, cars, clothing, sex, books, toys, iPads, New York Times subscriptions, Stranger comments, then we'll lead happy and fulfilling lives.

This is the basic philosophy underlying modernity. Its assumptions are absolutely unquestioned. It's so foundational, we don't generally even notice that it's there. Absolutely everybody, left, right and center, subscribes to it. The arguments are all over the best way to create and distribute material goods.

But among other things, it's an ecological nightmare. It's a moral nightmare (among other things, this system relies heavily on slavery). It may very well turn out that it's not really even very successful at making us happy and fulfilled (viz. all the studies suggesting that income above certain levels doesn't affect happiness, that people in traditional societies might actually be happier, etc.)

So there's a variant of this philosophy that the highly educated, upper middle class, liberal elite often subscribes to. It's that we can have it all: all the material things that we think we need for happiness, all produced without any negative externalities, if only we could become well enough educated about the material goods we consume. Then we can all be happy materialists driving our Priuses, drinking our fair-trade coffee, consuming our locally sourced vegetables and wearing our hand-crafted fashions.

It's all bunk of course, and that's what makes Portlandia work. The problem is that materialism itself is unsustainable. Merely tweaking it won't work.

Incidentally, the same applies to lots of other groups. Highly educated people naturally believe education is our panacea. Tech people think it's technology. Business owners think it's the free market. They are all proceed from the same assumptions, and so make the same errors.
43
born and raised in portland.

my issue with "portlandia" is that it takes a half-baked joke and then makes every attempt to absolutely run it into the ground. most of the sketches don't seem to mine the full comedy of a goofy situation or culture, but rather just pick out something random and then say it 100 times. frankly, it feels like lazy comedy.
44
#43: Agreed, its major sin has nothing to do with its politics. It's just not very funny, which is the real crime in comedy.
45
@13 are you trying to revive #CrimingWhileWhite?
46
@26, That's absolutely spot on.

And can I say, this is generally a standout thread for the value of comment sections. I hope more slog writers read it and decide to stop turning comments off when they post.
47
@ 40,

I stood inside the medical tent organizing the mess. Donations came flooding in during the previous shift. However, they were just thrown haphazardly around the tent, which made it impossible to use any of the supplies, if they became needed.

As I sifted through the boxes, Food Not Bombs set up a station a few yards away and began doling out edibles to protestors. A drum circle spontaneously formed next to them. The acoustics at Westlake were surprisingly perfect for this sort of thing. An unpainted concrete wall, as I had learnt years before in my undergraduate years, is the best mirror for sound there is. The wild rhythms bounced off the walls and through the glass and steel canyon of downtown, making Pike Place bounce as if it were alive.

Several area homeless had joined the protest. Some did so because there was food, medical care, and shelter here. This was the Night of 500 Tents, after all. Others did so for more conscious political reasons. If anyone had a more direct and immediate understanding of the dangers f capitalism, it was they. Though the police threatened us the entire time, they and we had only our chains to lose.

One such woman was clearly suffering from a lack of access to mental health services. I say this because she had removed her pants and begun to masturbate tot he rhythm of the drums. I looked at my fellow medical volunteer and asked if maybe I was imagining this. She confirmed that I was not. Disgust registered on both our faces, and we returned to our task.

Hours later, the tent was well organized and we had prepared bottled of Maalox and water, a surprisingly effective eyewash for people affected by pepper spray and tear gas. I had yet too stay at Westlake past sundown, so I didn't know what to expect. I asked someone who had been there every night since Occupy began. H described it as "All Night Donkey Kong".

As night fell, the police circling the camp began to run into the camp, smashing down tents and arresting those inside. They moved in neat lines, which immediately recalled the video game my fellow protestor had referred to. I stood inside the first aid tent, oping the Red Cross symbol would deter them from raiding us. My eyes were drawn to the very first arrest of the evening. The police had smashed a tent and were trying to drag out an elderly woman. Then, out of nowehere, the masturbator I mentioned before appeared and got in between them, effectively forcing the cop to arrest her instead. In that moment, it occurred to me that she was saner than I'd thought. It took four cops to carry her off, each grabbing a squirming thrashing limb. Apparently, she'd figured that she was likely to go to prison anyway, so why not sacrifice herself to spare the old woman who might have gotten beaten up by the pigs? Here I was, all six feet and muscled, hiding behind a red cross symbol, and she threw herself right into the fray, this tiny little 5'4" woman, and put up such a fight that it took 4 hulking SPD cops to haul her off. I immediately felt ashamed of myself.

The night dragged on in this way, and by dawn there were only a few tents left standing, the medical tent included. I took a scrap piece of cardboard and wrote on it with a Sharpie, " I AM MY BROTHER'S KEEPER". I stood on the corner across from Starbucks to greet the morning commuters, holding my sign up with both arms. An astonished cab driver stared at me through the window.