Imagine you are driving to work this morning in Las Vegas (yes, you are one of the select few locals who has a job that does not involve relying on the strip's ever declining gambling revenues or flipping a house to John Paulson in the second, and far shorter, coming of the regional housing bubble, with poppage imminent), and you observe what appears to be a man who hung himself below a billboard saying "Dying for Work."
Confused, you continue, only to drive by another billboard with what seem to be a man hanging off, this one saying "Hope you're happy Wall St."
Slowly it all clicks: the man is not real, and this is not a suicide done in protest by some depressed unemployed person, instead it is merely a mannequin, part of some grotesque attempt at a statement. Would this be considered shocking, and will the thousands of commuters who saw this feel any worse or better toward Wall Street and its denizens - America's bankers - having seen this, or will they merely continue with their lives?
What if the dummy was a real person? And is this merely a foreshadowing of things to come in a country in which class warfare has not been as violent in decades if not centuries, and in which the divide between the haves and the have nots has never been as wide?
And what happens when the next such "stunt" involves a real person - perhaps someone depressed enough to copycat what they saw on the 5 o'clock news? More importantly, what happens if a depressed jobless person takes their life but first takes out some of those he thinks are responsible for his plight - say Wall Streeters?
What happens then?
We don't know, but sadly we, as well as everyone else, may find out very soon.
What we do know is what happened today. From the AP:
Even by Las Vegas standards, it was a shocking billboard: A mannequin dangling on a hangman's noose below a black sign with the ominous words "Dying for Work."
Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremie Elliott says the 911 calls started coming in as the sun came up early Wednesday, with drivers worried the stiff, black-suited dummy swaying at the end of a rope along Interstate 15 near Bonanza Road was a real person.
"It's a publicity stunt, obviously done in bad taste," said Elliott, adding that officials were focused on getting it down quickly to avoid distracting drivers during the morning commute.
The graphic display along the interstate was one of at least two unauthorized signs spotted Wednesday morning in the Las Vegas area. Another found on Highland Avenue and Desert Inn Road was white with black lettering that read, "Hope You're Happy Wall St.," and a similar mannequin hanging off the edge.
A woman who answered the phone at Lamar Advertising Co., which owns one of the billboards, labeled the act vandalism and said the display was being removed. She did not provide her name.
Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns another sign that was affected, said they pulled the display immediately and plan to work with law enforcement to punish whoever is responsible.
"We condemn the destructive behavior against one of our billboards because it is illegal and punishes our advertisers," Clear Channel Outdoor spokesman Jim Cullinan said in a statement. "This is not an innocent protest, but it is illegal and dangerous behavior that Clear Channel Outdoor and the industry will not accept."
Not everyone is filled with remorse over this act:
While nobody has publicly claimed responsibility for the signs, the Occupy Las Vegas group, which is affiliated with the larger Occupy Wall Street movement, posted photos of the displays on its website. Its caption says the Nevada governor's budget has slashed social programs and aid to suicidal adults.
Sebring Frehner, an Occupy supporter who posted the photos, told The Associated Press he didn't know who put the hangmen up, but applauded the message behind it.
"People saying it's in bad taste are living sheltered lives and don't pay attention to what affects the working class," he said.
Fair enough. But how does one escalate in order to truly capture the attention of those "living sheltered lives." Will the next fake person be all too real?
Or will America's "working class", having been taken over the edge in its class hatred, decide to pay Wall Street a visit, and bring some mobile guillotines with it for good measure?
And is this really America any more, or is it France circa 1789?
And who will take the place of Louis XVI?