Sunday, November 22, 2009


Recently I've been pining for the vintage vehicle of my college youth...a 3-speed bike. I see no need for 24 speeds, and every bike I ever bought my kids constantly had problems with the derailleur. So I've been browsing online to check out 3-speed commuter bikes (not easy to find!). My search took me to the site of the Oak Cliff Bicycle Company where I was horrified to find the following flyer for a local bicycle race next weekend.

This flyer is so repulsive to me on so many levels, I don't know where to start. First, I left a comment on the bike shop's site, telling them how offensive I found the poster...and the very concept of the race. I added that I assume that the folks behind the race and poster did not live through that terrible time. The site owner responded: "No they did not. We’re sorry, we honestly do not want to offend anyone but I’m also not going to censor their Flyer."

In my mind, this poster is a symbol of so much that is wrong with our society. It is a reflection of how so many people, especially those of Gens X and Y, have become numb to images of graphic violence. From video games to movies, these young people have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of scenes of exploding brains, steaming entrails, and other gratuitous gore. It also expresses that desire to shock people's sensibilities, just for the sake of being shocking.

In this age of the 24 hour news cycle, when cable news devotes a whole afternoon to live coverage of the Balloon Boy hoax, these folks can't imagine the depth of a nation's despair during the week of November 22, 1963. I remember that, after the assassination and into my high school years, when that ominous voice broke into a TV program and intoned, "We interrupt this program to bring you a special announcement," my heart leapt into my throat, and I braced myself for some bit of devastating news. I was in sixth grade in 1963, and to me the assassination marked the end of innocence, the end of childhood as I knew it. I watched as the caisson moved down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the drumbeat and the clopping of the horses' hooves was the soundtrack of grief. After seeing the widow in the blood-stained pink dress, or watching a little boy on his third birthday saluting his father's coffin, it is impossible to understand how anyone could make that poster for the JFK Assassination Bike Race.

Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the people behind this race and poster aren't cruel or sadistic. Maybe they are just ignorant. Maybe all they know about the JFK assassination is what they learned in high school history class, which probably amounted to answering a couple of multiple choice questions about the presidency of Pres. Kennedy. Perhaps this video will give them an inkling, just an inkling, of the scope of the nation's grief.

The race went on as scheduled, even though the organizers did not have a permit. When interviewed by Channel 11 news, Race organizer, Alain Warchilde, stated: "It's not my art work. It's a cover from the 1978 single for the Misfits; something I felt tied in with to the theme of the race. That's the reason it was used, not to offend anybody… not to upset anyone."

What an absolutely specious argument! The Misfit single Warchilde is referring to is an obscene, even more offensive, song about the assassination. If it tied in with the theme of the race, then the whole thing was obviously intended to offend and upset people!


Mike said...

You're 100 percent right.

I posted on the OC sites as well, but thank you for your thoughtful treatment of this.

I'm particularly by the ridiculously condescending excuse that OCBC did not mean to offend anyone. Please!

If you want to shock and offend -- which is usually the last resort of those with no constructive or creative ideas -- then just do it. It's your right in our society. But please have the courage to stand by your childish decision instead of retreating with blather about not meaning to offend and avoiding censorship.

Disgusting poster, disgusting response.

Galen said...

Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to post your opinion here and especially on the OCBC site.

Holly Jefferson said...

Are you sure you should be riding a bike if you've been on disability for over a year? Road irregularities can jam vertebrae together and aggravate existing back problems.

Galen said...

Holly, thanks for your concern. At this point I'm just browsing and day dreaming. If I have minimally invasive surgery, I'm hoping that I'll have more stability in my spine.

Nikko said...

Why do you have an over inflated sense of self worth?
Do you think everyone cares about your opinion? They don't. I can think of a million ways to help society out, and sitting in front of your computer to rant and rave is not one of them. Go volunteer at a food bank, or or needy kids, quit ruining the Internet with blathering.

Galen said...

Well, actually Nikko, I've adopted 10 kids with special needs (saving them from lives in desolate institutions, foster care, or on the streets), provided therapy to disabled kids for 30 years, help take care of my blind, disabled 91 year old mother, rescued 5 animals from shelters, etc. What exactly have YOU done?

And, no, I don't think everyone cares about my opinion...only those with some moral fiber, some sense of decency, so concern for the climate of violence that permeates our society. Perhaps you don't fit into that category, so you don't have to read my blog.

Mark said...

I think the poster creator has seen far worse than Kennedy's assasination. I agree that the poster is shocking and of little moral value, but we live in a free country thanks to the stand taken by men like President Kennedy and MLK, however 9/11 had a far greater impact and I am sure the guy behind the race was around for that. Are you as digusted with the tourism industry built around the location of the assination? Just wondering.

Mark said...

You wrote:
"these folks can't imagine the depth of a nation's despair during the week of November 22, 1963."
Did you sleep threw 9/11? That was far more traumatic than Kennedy's assassination and yes I was around for both. Censorship is as un-American as you can get. Poor taste, sure, but please just roll your eyes and move on. Just wondering, are you as disgusted with the cottage tourism industry created by the assassination?

amandalbs said...

@ Mark

or by 9/11 for that matter... How many people do you think got rich off of made-in-china flag pins and ribbon magnets? No doubt all proceeds were donated to the families of those who died...

I still remember questioning the intentions of those who promised to donate "10% of today's sales" to Hurricane Katrina victims, the red cross, tsunami victims or the families firefighters harmed in 9/11. Why not just do it instead of making it a sales pitch?

Galen said...

OK, the trauma of 9/11 is equivalent. Would any of the people who have lambasted me for expressing my opinion over the JFK race and poster try to justify it if someone organized a 9/11 race and promoted it with a graphic poster?

I take issue with all the folks who basically have said, "If you don't like it, just move on." This "whatever" attitude has had a damaging effect on our society. Yes, people have the Constitutional right to carry signs protesting health care with images of Dachau, they have the right to whip up crowds by calling Obama a terrorist, they even apparently have a right to carry guns to public events, and they have the right to make light of JFK's assassination by having this bike race and posting this flyer. But if I disagree with their actions, I will speak out against them, as I feel they are creating a very dangerous climate of hatred and violence in this country.

And, no, I think making money off any tragedy is nothing but crass commercialism and I don't approve of it, either.

Durango said...

Some of the comments you've gotten for verbalizing your opinion about that offensive JFK poster sort of reflect the sad mindset that would make such a poster. The guy asking, "Why do you have an over inflated sense of self worth?" I'm guessing has been asked that question many a time. You share your opinion about something that bothers you, share it on your blog, which is all about sharing ones opinion and some idiot comments that you have an inflated sense of self worth. People who say things like this to other people appall me.

GreSam said...

Perhaps this is just down to a difference of generations & ages? I imagine that most of the boomers will remember when anything less than a 1-piece women's bathing suit was considered offensive, or that men and women could not date without a chaperone present... Heck, Elvis' pelvic thrusts and the Beatles were even considered offensive to most of the then adults, but the Boomers enjoyed and encouraged changes to all of these things.

It is the same today as we all grow older and the younger generations enjoy or condone differing behaviours, arts and attitudes. While I am glad you are able to openly express your opinion, I also believe that you (or anyone) should not force your opinion on anyone.

I am an avid cyclist and I will be attending the race. I am not going because of the poster, I am going because I want to support cycling in Dallas.

Galen said...

You are one of the few folks with an opposing opinion who has expressed it in a civil, respectful way, and I appreciate that.

I find it quite interesting that so many have accused me of "forcing my opinion" on others, wanting censorship, attacking the bike shop, etc. If you read any of my comments or my blog, all I have done is express my own opinion that the poster and the theme of the race are offensive to those of us who lived through the assassination and that they contribute to the present climate of hatred and violence which is roiling across our nation. I only posted a link to my blog, so that people on the OCBC site could read it if they wanted; it was Alain who pasted it into the comments section, as if I were forcing folks to read it.

Yes, much of the disagreement falls along generational lines. I have to remind myself not to condemn an entire generation for the actions of a certain segment of that age group. But the attitude of that segment is quite disturbing to me and I see it as a cancer on this society. I'm talking about those who are totally self-absorbed, amoral, hedonistic. They lack respect for anyone or anything. They have the attitude that "anything goes," (at least anything that THEY want to do). Everything is a joke, especially if it is insulting or offensive. They want all of their "rights," but none of their responsibilities. They are hypocrites, proclaiming their right to free speech, but personally attacking anyone who DARES to express an opposing opinion.

And, yes, I held anti-establishment views in my youth, and still rail against the Bush debacle, the health insurance companies, etc. But I can recognize that during the 60s, we sometimes stepped over the line, for example, demonizing the veterans who came home from Vietnam. The excesses of youth cannot excuse contemptible behavior.

jeremy said...

Your welcome for all the web hits mom-gag.
I wish you had gotten this out of your system on any of the tons of sites that have this image, but at least you got it out.
Feel free to consult the Misfits. They're playing tonight at the House of Blues in Dallas.
My 5 year old nephew saw the pornographic image of two men groping each other on your site, but hey that's what the internet has to offer.
I'll probablly have to stop all comments on my site if people keep trying to speak for others like you have or insult each other like they others have, after all it's a cycling site and none of you upset are cyclists.

Galen said...

OK, this is my blog, so I'll have the last word.

Jeremy, I don't really care about the increase in hits on my site, since (a) none of these folks will be readers who return to read the posts about my usual topics (caring for my disabled sons, healthcare, poetry, etc), and (b) I'm not selling anything. But you're welcome for all the additional hits to your commercial site.

And as for the "trying to speak for others like you have or insult each other like they others have," you seem to be ignoring the fact that it is mostly the supporters of the poster/race who have spoken for others and insulted folks. Just look at how many people have said that I demanded that the poster be removed, when I never, not once, said that. And your dear cyclists have made me the target of quite a number of insults and snide remarks.

In conclusion, I stand by my statement that the poster is offensive and that it is a symbol of much that is wrong in our society. The response of those who supported the poster/race only served to confirm my opinion.

Tinted_man said...

I am of generation X and I am disgusted by this poster. The desensitization of our world is ever amazing to me. I can only find solace in the Bible these days.