by Matt Kolbet
Today’s urban perambulators are bound to be disappointed by the acumen of the graffiti that adorns brick walls, train cars and bathroom stalls. A few of today’s taggers are still self-congratulatory, veering occasionally into their love and its permanence for some current flame. Others, however, stray from this path and actually craft messages that reveal reason, not just the twisted polemics of a swastika or a cross.
Where are the old reliable subjects like racism? Why have swearwords taken a backseat to political stratification? Thoreau’s assertion that most men lead lives of quiet desperation seems more and more true when one sits on the porcelain throne and rather than reading a tried and true quatrain about the melancholy attempt to produce solid fecal matter and ending up with gas particles we are subjected to conscience-stricken ramblings about liberty and social justice.
This fad of turning the empty canvas of our surroundings into a place for wit and aphorism instead of merely smearing them with invectives, crossing out names, or adding “you too!” is worrisome on both an economic and social level. If graffiti becomes minimally cogent, what will happen to bumper sticker industry? This trend may also reveal that the media can educate as well as numb us, or worse, that public schools aren’t failing, robbing the country of one of its perennial complaints.
It’s enough to make me want to grab a permanent marker, find an empty wall and scrawl: “What art offers is space—a certain breathing room for the spirit." I might even have the cajones to attribute the quotation to its originator, John Updike, to aggravate the next person who sits down to take a shit.
Matt Kolbet has has been published previously in The American Drivel Review, online at Defenestration, One Good Story, and Sideshow Mirrors. He teaches writing near Portland, Oregon.