Do the Wrong Thing

A person drinks coffee while looking at products and merchandise during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 22, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Don’t you wanna hang out with the Bleach Boys, baby?
In a land where ministers murder golf pros?
Don’t you wanna drink some bleach tonight?

“Bleach Boys,” the Dead Milkmen, 1988

The Republicans have become the party of self-harm. This kind of self-harm isn’t really about harming oneself—people who are very serious about that just kill themselves quietly and deliberately—it is, instead, about theater. Self-harm as a form of political theater has a long and sometimes proud tradition, from Mohandas K. Gandhi’s self-starvation to Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation. I admire Cato the Younger’s resolve to die with dignity by his own hand rather than live under Julius Caesar’s tyranny, though I generally do not approve of suicide. Cato’s was a good death, a concept increasingly difficult to hold on to in a society that values prestige over honor and pleasure above all.

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