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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

It’s like punk rock, only it’s a pig

Published: April 3, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau once noted that even if the ancient Athenians were wrong to put Socrates to death, at least it meant that they took his ideas seriously. This is the eternal dilemma I carry with me whenever I’m in the presence of the members of Students for a Democratic Society. It’s not just that they are shades more radical than their counterparts in Democracy for America, more outspoken, not clean-shaven. More to the point, SDS members take ideas seriously – very seriously. How can a thoroughly bourgeois individual such as myself walk into their midst and remain unscathed?

It was precisely this thought that raced through my Dayquil-addled mind as I stepped into the back room of the radio station Wednesday night. Their hit talk show, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out”, had just wrapped up to be replaced by a sports chat program, but the atmosphere was still charged and energetic, coming off of a heated discussion of the revived squatting movement on the Eastern seaboard.

Carrie Mills, who goes by the radio handle of “Carrie Nation”, strikes a powerful figure. Her flowing blond locks and delicate features come from a heritage that marks her as a Daughter of the American Revolution; tonight, however, and pretty much every night, she elides the trappings of a conservative Connecticut upbringing to radicalize the Brandeis campus. At the moment, she cradles in her arms black and pink spray paint and a large plastic drop cloth, an indication that – as the youth like to say – something big was about to go down.

I pointed at the implements of instruction and jabbered through a mental fog of phenylephrine and dextromethorphan: “What are those for?”

Ms. Mills glowered at me. “Pigasus is running for Student Union President, and I’m his general manager. There’ll be a press conference on Rabb steps tomorrow at high noon – ask questions then.”

Clearly, I would just have to wait and see.

The next day, with significantly less mucus and a song in my heart, I proceeded down the Rabb steps after a rousing lecture on the anarcho-syndicalist movement. What greeted me was a sight to behold: a huge banner, reading “Vote Pig!” featuring a strikingly realistic flying pig. The press conference was more of a political rally on the cheap. Ms. Mills, clad in a flowing green tunic she previously sported at a Black Panther memorial event, yelled slogans down the Rabb steps.

“You Can’t Possibly Go Wrong With A Pig!” she thundered. “Vote Pigasus for President!” Her impressive vocals and the odd acoustics of the Rabb steps helped propagate the message; witnesses claimed they could hear her from halfway across campus.

Other SDS members and hangers-on chimed in, resembling in tone and style a Mississippi camp revival for latter-day hippies. “All Politicians are Pigs Anyway – Might As Well Vote for a Real One!” yelled Guy Rossman, a towering specimen of Minnesota manhood. “Pigasus Will Make Brandeis Kosher!” shouted Amanda Hoffman, a thin slip of a girl decked in an eternally cool Johnny Cash t-shirt. Their exhortations clearly had an effect on some; when the crowd walking to their 12:10 classes was polled, an exuberant Vu Truong screamed back “PIGASUS!”

Others, however, were not so enthusiastic. One junior, who wished to remain anonymous, feared that it was precisely these sorts of tactics that made people apathetic, something which could lead to the election of the next Ronald Reagan. However, she added that the revival of the Yippie’s 1968 Presidential candidate was “cute”, prompting her to giggle slightly and remove the pencil ensnared in the tightly-wound bun of her strawberry hair.

Mariel Gruszko, a slightly calmer SDS member, explained that the campaign for Pigasus was run with two goals in mind: to point out the absurdity of Student Union elections, which only waste resources and induce hyperventilation in over-serious candidates, and to highlight the lack of choice available to students. Maia Stamieszkin, another SDS member with an unpronounceable last name, chimed in that she got behind Pigasus because he represented her values. When I put it to them that Pigasus was ineligible for the position – not being enrolled as a Brandeis student, not to mention that his campaign banner was not made of approved Student Union materials – Ms. Gruszko shrugged this off. Ms. Stamieszkin darkly declared that “it’s not possible that he won’t win”, and returned to yelling at passerby.

The Pigasus campaign clearly represents a new direction for Brandeis politics. Mr. Rossman indicates that a large vote for Pigasus could signal a move towards leaderless democracy on campus. When pressed for future details, he could only tell students to “Stay tuned”.

At 12:20, with the lunchtime stomach rumbles setting in, most of the campaigners began gathering their things. Ms. Mills turned one last time to face the campus, warmed by the overhead sun but still struggling to leave the last vestiges of winter behind. “It’s Time For A Dictator on the Brandeis Campus!” she announced, and turned away, fist clenched in solidarity.