Historia Nervosa


From the morass of Hollywood sentimentality, flag-emblazoned newscasts, and the music industry’s recycled clichés (where was Lee Greenwood on the evening of September 10?), one voice rang clear after 9-11: David Rees’s. His online comic strip Get Your War On—in which profanity-laced anti-war screeds floated incongruously above a red-ink clip-art world of clean-cut office workers in cubicles—still marches forward at The strip, now collected as a book, became ground zero for the most incisive commentary on the events of the day. “Oh Yeah! Operation: Enduring Our Freedom is in the motherfucking house!” announced Rees’s first strip, posted on October 9. This sarcastic enthusiasm resonated: Within two weeks, the site had received more than 5 million hits. The strip offered catharsis for the thousands who needed to know they weren’t alone in feeling helpless and suspicious—of terrorists, yes, but also of their own government’s jingoism and attacks on civil liberties. With his strip online, Rees was beholden to no one—neither advertisers who might get cold feet, nor an established following with expectations to betray.

His cubby folk—John and Jane Everyman—turn American relief efforts in Afghanistan into “a game called ‘See if you have any fucking arms left to eat the food we dropped after you step on a landmine trying to retrieve it.’ ” (October 9) One bespectacled, tie-wearing man strums on his keyboard and chats idly on the phone, “Holy fuck—anthrax in New York City! We’re getting our fucking ass kicked!” And his friend, similarly attired, similarly expressionless in appearance, responds: “Seriously! Who the fuck are we fighting, fucking Lex Luthor? When is the goddamn Death Star gonna shoot that big-ass laser at us?” (October 14) Rees’s strip mirrors many of the conversations taking place under the radar of “with us or against us” patriotic furor and bravado. The book chronicles over a year of neurosis, a greatest-hits of American hysteria ranging from anthrax and the visions of Nostradamus to Pakistan’s potentially wayward nuclear arsenal.

Rees is donating proceeds from the sale of the book to the Adopt-a-Minefield campaign, so if you weren’t one of the thousands who flocked to Wall Street to buy postcards of the towers, perhaps this is the more appropriate commemorative item. The sad, funny, laugh-until-you-cry part of reading these strips is that today, more than a year after he started this project, Rees’s words ring just as hilarious in their illumination of the futile and the absurd, and just as true. Iraq? Are you fucking paying attention?