Any long term skateboarder in the lifer sense will surely remember a classic T-shirt that came out in 1990 boldly stating "USA #1." The design accompanied the Blind Jason Lee "American Icons" pro model, drawn by Marc McKee, which was heralded as an instant classic and has since become an elusive Holy Grail for many skate collectors to this day. You have to understand, satire wasn't really a part of the skate graphics repertoire back then, but the "American Icons" blew the door wide open for a flood of illustrated social commentary to come out of skateboarding in the decades to follow—and thank god .
Sorry, you'll have to ignore the quote of Jason's as it's completely out of context here, seeing as I'd separated it from a spread of his boards printed in Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art, published by Gingko Press (used by my permission).
Unfortunately, satire has become a curious oddity of late, the general gist of which has more often than not been lost on the more recent generations it seems—specifically those who prefer to knee-jerk react than carefully consider the time period and context in which such creations are born. Well, not only that, but I've seen some truly ridiculous things that I once would have assumed were completely done with satirical intent in mind, but are in fact dead ass American serious. So it's really hard to know what's what anymore, you know? For example, this:
On one hand, let's say it's the left for comparative shits 'n' giggles, yes, it's definitely satire. On the other, the Conservative-Christian right, this is just another walk through the corner gift store. So, from a sales point of view, I guess it's a win-win? But here's a little backstory as to how we arrived at this particular point in coincidentally controversial time.
This design stemmed from a board graphic I originally did for Sweet Skateboards, circa 2018, but was actually the belated tail end of a "Eurotrash" triptych I'd done for them, circa 2013. At the time I was asked to do those, I felt kind of self-conscious for being a lame American making stereotypical light of European fashion—especially when Americans are certainly no less Goofy Boy themselves—so I agreed to do the series with all intent to add a fourth deck portraying how an American might stereotypically look. The problem, however, was that I was primarily working on Bad Grandpa (2013) then, and the few remaining freelance hours I could squeeze out of a week only allowed for the initial three Euro-centric designs.
Four years later, I'd all but forgotten about the "Eurotrash" series when a suprise inquiry popped into my inbox from Sweet asking if I'd still be interested in finishing off the set. Considering we were now knee-deep into the Trump stream of shit, I happily obliged as it would let me blow off a little steam. Plus my previous company had just imploded, so any freelance work was now a very welcome necessity. The final graphic was, or at least I thought then, over-the-top: A fat bastard all decked out in red, white, and blue with accompanying patriotic accents, beer holsters, and an AR15 accessory item. Fuck me running, though, if I didn't see this exact same character running willy-nilly throughout Capitol Hill on January 6th, 2021.
Anyway, the black tee I'd drawn up for Captain USA depicted a beaming caucasian Jesus waving a flag and giving the thumbs up. My partner in StrangeLove, Nick Halkias, thought this alone was too good of a graphic gone to waste in such a throwaway manner, so he asked if I could regurgitate the design as a deck and tee for the upcoming 4th of July holiday . I didn't have a problem with that, so I churched it up a bit and threw in some fireworks flair, because USA. I imagined it would make for a fitting tribute to satire, something I've always believed to be an important cornerstone of American democracy; however, two key things happened during the graphic's completion: 1) We learned a tad too late that our tee printer wouldn't be able to finish the job until late July; and 2) The United States Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling with disconcerting undertones of further bad shit to come. So yeah... an emergency JESUSA! print was the immediate call with all profits going to Planned Parenthood, while we wait a few more weeks for the decks and tees to amble into the warehouse.
He is coming! Sooner or later at least.
Believe me, I know this won't sit well with everyone. And you know what? That's totally a-okay. This country was founded on the democratic principles of diversity and freedom. How we arrived at this "my way or the highway" point in near-totalitarian time, though, I have no idea (well, I kind of do, as we all do, but it's madly baffling just the same and I'd sooner not dwell on it), but feel totally free to disagree and live and let live. Like I said, this was once considered to be a valued American ideal and way of civilized life, where you do what's best for you, I'll do what's best for me, and never the twain shall fuck with the other in any harmful or oppressive manner whatsoever. But once that line is crossed and there's no longer a separation of One Church & State, well, that’s a real problem—Roe v. Wade case in point, because no one, not fucking ever, should impose their rule or claim over a woman's body and her right to freedom of choice. Shame on anyone who believes otherwise.
By the alarming by and by, does anyone else remember a documentary called Jesus Camp? It flew around for a hot holy minute, we all got a good laugh out of the unbelievable li'l Christian radicals, but fuck... if that came out in 2006... and the kids then were say 10–18 years old... and it's now 2022... that would make them all around the ages of 26–34? Jesus. Did these fanatical chickens really come home to roost?! And heavens to Betsy, just look at this eerie excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for Jesus Camp:
In one scene shot at Christ Triumphant Church, a woman brings a life-sized cutout of George W. Bush to the front of the church and has the children stretch their hands toward him in prayer for him. This is derivative of the laying on of hands, a common practice in charismatic Christian circles. In one very famous scene, Fischer rails hard against Harry Potter, and infers that it is a gateway to joining the occult, in an attempt to scare the children into avoiding it. She infers that if Harry Potter was a real warlock, and lived during the old testament era, that the Jews would have stoned him to death. This aggressive attitude was a common position on the fantasy series, in the Evangelical community at the time. In another scene, Lou Engle preaches a message urging children to join the fight to end abortion in America. Children are shown a series of plastic models of developing fetuses, and have their mouths covered with red tape with "Life" written across it. Engle is a founder of the Justice House of Prayer and a leader of Harvest International Ministries, a network of charismatic-oriented ministries with which both the church and Fischer's ministry are affiliated. He prays for Bush to have the strength to appoint "righteous judges" who will overturn Roe v. Wade. By the end of the sermon, the children are chanting, "Righteous judges! Righteous judges!"
Jesus wept indeed. —Cliver
1. It's worthy to note that not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Next to "Skate and Destroy," "Keep Politics Out of Skateboarding" might be the second most popular motto. But can you even begin to imagine a world without Jim Thiebaud’s Real “Hanging Klansman” model?
2. You would think by now that we would've learned our holiday lesson. Anyone remember last year's 4th of July firecracker-themed boards that ultimately came out in the fall? Of course you do, because they're still on the site! But no, we remain to be the world class slow learners we are. Good job, StrangeLove! Better luck next year.