I sat down on the subway this morning and placed my briefcase on my lap, leaning it up against the seat back in front of me. Just above the leather handle was a short sentence, legibly printed in black ink. A tiny bit of graffiti. A spontaneous piece of free speech. Six uncomplicated words. Here is what it said:
It’s simply expressed, no obscure or esoteric language used. It isn’t eloquent or particularly profound at first blush. It isn’t racist, hateful or excessively vulgar. It isn’t artistic, poetic or incendiary. But it does seem honest in an exhausted sort of way.
It might be political. Maybe it’s an expression of dissatisfaction with current policies and conditions. Or maybe it’s a commentary on the inability of the US Congress to reach an agreement on anything; a “vote the incumbents out” sentiment. Maybe it’s an endorsement of the current administration, an agreement with their message of “looking forward.” Maybe it’s in support of a change from the current administration, a chance for a new and different direction. Maybe it’s a rallying cry, a call to action to really ramp things up and get something accomplished—break loose the logjam.
It might be environmental. Maybe it is a statement about the state of our planet and the effect man has had on it. Maybe it was written because the author thinks the whole global warming or climate change argument is a crock. Maybe he or she wonders what will be left for future generations if we continue down the path we are going.
It might be financial. Maybe the individual is having trouble making ends meet. Maybe it’s an investor tired of low interest rates and poor returns on the market or someone who’s house is underwater. Maybe it’s a commentary on class inequality; a shout against the 1% who hold nearly 36% of total wealth in the US. Maybe it’s an unemployed individual who is close to giving up looking for a job. Maybe it’s someone who hates their dead end job and is looking for growth potential.
It might be personal. Maybe the originator of those words is suffering daily physical, mental or sexual abuse. Maybe it’s in response to finding out a spouse or significant other is cheating on them. Maybe it’s all about being bullied. Maybe it’s the reluctant admission of an alcoholic or drug addict who has realized they need to find help. Maybe it’s a single parent. Maybe it’s just someone who is tired of being single. Maybe it’s a fashion statement, a plea for a new wardrobe.
It might be none of those, but maybe it’s all of them—save the whales, save our schools, cure breast cancer, choose life, give a woman the right to choose, support unions, promote right to work, raise taxes, cut taxes, bail them out, let them fail—all rolled into one efficient phrase. Maybe it’s a perfect statement that covers both sides of almost any issue. Maybe it makes a perfect T-shirt. How ironic that billions of dollars have been poured into ads and marketing by countless lobbies, campaigns and corporations when someone with a pen on the Metro figured out that maybe, just maybe… shit just has to change.