Here’s a fun idea for Syria: Disneyland. Just because your government has oppressed you for generations and your country is in the midst of a full-scale civil war and your house is on fire right now doesn’t mean you don’t want to have dumb photos taken with Mickey and Goofy before you get soaked on Splash Mountain, right?
Like me, Syrian businessman Tarif al-Akhras thought erecting Cinderella’s Castle in his country was a no-brainer, which is why in July 2010 his company signed an agreement with the French firm LOFTUS to build Disney Syria inside TransMall, a massive shopping center in the city of Homs. They might have been onto something, but we’ll never know, since eight months later anti-Assad protests kicked off in Daraa, and the site that was planned to house the Happiest Place on Earth is now a major battleground in the brutal war.
Very few details about the project can be found online, but I did discover that the estimated cost of establishing Disney Syria was only $22 million, which is teeny-tiny compared with the $400 million it took to construct Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando back in 1971. To me, this means that everything about Disney Syria would theoretically be very hilarious. It would probably look like a living, breathing issue of Adbusters—especially with all of the heavy street fighting going on around and possibly within it!
Since May 2011, rebel forces in Homs have been at war with the Syrian Army, with more than 6,700 casualties reported thus far. In a short time, the city has transformed from a bustling, sunny tourist destination into a smoky desert of rubble. But I don’t see any reason for Disney Syria’s backers to not move forward with their plans. If anything, the country could really use all the positive symbolism and reinforcement it can get—“Dreams really do come true!” etc.
I was so excited about the potential of riding It’s a Small World in the middle of a war zone that I called Disney’s corporate office to ask when we can expect to see some Pixie Dust—and not just Murder Dust—sprinkled over Homs. The American lady I spoke with told me that she wasn’t sure about the time line for the project plans, and suggested that if I was interested in getting a job at the nonexistent Disney Syria I could visit their careers webpage and apply. OK! (Whoops, it doesn’t exist.)
Maybe after all of the fighting is over, Disney should completely demolish their theme parks around the world and leave us with only Disney Syria as a testament to the thousands of children who have already been murdered in the most atrocious ways possible in this complex conflict.
For an overview of the issues that have fueled the conflict in Syria, we recommend reading “Road to Ruin,” our condensed timeline of Syrian history, and “The VICE Guide to Syria,” a crash course on the country’s geopolitical, cultural, and religious complexities.
VOTE FOR WHOEVER YOU WANT
Here we are. After years—fucking years—of campaigning, spin, narrative, counter-spin, ads, interviews, news cycles, primaries, debates, speeches, pressers, PACs, think pieces, tweets, conventions, scandals, fundraising dinners, and rallies, the election is happening. We finally get to VOTE, guys! For president! All that’s left is to actually, physically, select the candidate we’re voting for. Most of you have already decided whether to vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney through careful deliberation or a deep, instinctive hatred of the guy you don’t want in the Oval Office—or you’re so disgusted with both candidates that you’re going with some other dude out of sheer frustration.
But your options aren’t limited to Obama, Romney, and the most prominent third-party candidates. You aren’t even limited to the long list of people officially running for president (some of whom have endearingly amateur websites). There’s a line on the ballot where you can write down the name of whoever, or whatever, you want to be president. People take advantage of it too: In 2008, over 100,000 folks chose to exercise their franchise by picking “none of the above” and wrote in votes for Donald Duck, Vermin Supreme, Jesus, and Bill Clinton, among others. Why not join them this time around? After all, being one of the millions of people who vote for Obama or Romney will not change anything or have any effect on the election, whereas being the only person to vote for “Poop Comes Out Of My Butthole Haha” will at least make a poor, overworked ballot counter smile. Here are some options if you aren’t satisfied with the Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and Poop Comes Out Of My Butthole Haha:
Remember when Hillary ran for president in 2008 and lost out to Obama? Well, some people are still really, really pissed about that. PUMAs (“Party Unity My Ass”) are a loose group of people who are so pro-Hillary and anti-Obama that they’ll either vote for Romney or write in “Hillary Clinton” on their ballots in the manner of a lovesick tween writing the names of the guys in One Direction all over her homework. These former Democrats not only won’t ever vote for Obama, they’ll also start rumors that he’s gay. Join their movement on Election Day!
You know who is also not running for president? Ron Paul. He was in the Republican primaries, then dropped out. Now, if you want to cast your ballot for an anti-government, anti-war, pro-marijuana legalization candidate, you still can—there’s always Gary Johnson, the guy running on the Libertarian Party ticket. But what if you want to vote for a candidate who has those policies but also has a history of publishing a racist newsletter? Well, you’ll have no other option than writing Ron Paul’s name on the ballot. You gotta stay true to your principles.
OK, but what about people who want to vote for someone with the Paul name, but think that casting a write-in ballot for Ron, a guy who at one point ran for president, is just too “lamestream”? Those folks are going to have to go with Rand Paul, Ron’s son, who supports some of his dad’s policies and looks like a guy who could be president, not a leprechaun. Rand is going to get at least one vote—Daniel McCarthy, the editor of The American Conservative, who wants to send a message to the GOP with his vote. I’m sure the party will be paying attention to everyone who receives write-in votes, but even if they somehow choose to ignore Dan’s vote, Rand’s running in 2016 anyway. He’s already in Iowa.
The Newark, New Jersey, mayor probably needs to run for governor before he runs for president, but it’s only a matter of time. He’s charismatic, he uses Twitter to interact with his constituents directly (he even recently took the time to give some inspiration to a user named @DAT_NIGGA_REEE), and is basically a character from a not-entirely-believable TV drama—he let people stay at his house during hurricane Sandy, and he fucking saved a woman from a burning building. How do you run against a guy like that? Might as well get used to voting for him, America.