Writing is Peaceful

4 writers at a table

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Trump Takes Call From Harvey

21192988_10154695223930974_7616990094029462329_n.jpgPresident Trump takes a phone call from Hurricane Harvey because Donald loves the sensation of talking to the most powerful citizens of the world. Such phone call would be very interesting, since Harvey is a radical activist, as was Sandy, and Katrina and Rita.

Undoubtedly the POTUS would ask Harvey to stop shutting down American oil production. Sandy took an abrupt left turn in the North Atlantic and nailed Wall Street. Katrina overturned many oil drilling platforms in the gulf and Rita, well, does anyone remember - back in 2005, the spectacle of herds of SUVs trying to flee the oil town?

1st Nation peoples teach us that the Earth is a living being, with things to do, statements to make, good and bad moods, healing powers and health issues. A hurricane's strong wind makes the connection of many things. We could call it a thought and a message. And yes a Category Four is full of angry thoughts.

The photo here shows Harvey, and Irene, and I understand that Irma is in the waiting room, angry as hell. These are intelligent beings and we need to hear the common sense in their screams. Fossil Fuel extraction must stop immediately.

Yes, Harvey is intelligent. Wouldn't it be great if there were two intelligent beings on that call?

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Gardening In Trump Tower

trump_escalator.pngWe are ready to return to our gardening in Trump Tower. I speak in code-words here, but just to say our first write-in sessions commence the week of Sept 11-19. We feel that our work in the public garden on the 5th floor of the Devil's "700 ft. tall gold-tinted Presidential erection" is the laboratory of culture that we've been looking for.

For The Church of Stop Shopping, after 17 years of work in anti-consumerism around the malled world, we have come full circle to face the King of Consumerism. He brands with every glance. Trump steaks. Trump jets. We are TRUMP PROTESTERS.

At the Write-In ritual, the surprise details of life that flow from our pens and pencils onto the notebook are radically pre-social, are what art was supposed to be. We will slip our message into the minds of passing tourists, or sing our writing in tactical earth-worshipping gospel.

A Selfie will become its opposite, call it an OTHERIE. And what is that? It's taking down the wall. It is the sensual aliveness of the unscreened face, the direct experience. Earthalujah! Shopping has stopped!

Shopping ends and living begins. If the tourists on the bottom floors of this tower stop shopping? Oh then the bankers, real estate moguls, hackers and lawyers in the upper penthouses suddenly become unmonied and very lonely. They crawl to the elevators to join us on the ground.

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Serious Crazy Action

20526086_10154854785443963_1468539888673584547_n.jpgWe are at such a time now, when serious crazy action calls out to us. It is what we know we must do and can do. Start the culture over. Go to nothing, find nothing (not easy to do, the products will be screaming to keep us from a quiet moment. But put on your costume and crank it up.

Enter the Sacred State of Exalted Embarrassment. Shout the truth in a place that the rich call private but which used to be public. Sing a radical harmony and never lose the beat. There's justice in the beat. The beat is process of constantly starting over.

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Charlottesville

20861785_10154657517205974_9197984636243243427_o.jpgA big bunch of cowards from Trump down to local pols and cops - let a torch-burning KKK and Nazis parade for the world. So public policy results in psychological cruelty to people for whom lynchings are fresh in mind. I'm thinking of African-American children most especially.

If we could surround the KKK with thousands of peaceful people - that seems ideal. But let's be realistic, there are some of us who will be suckered into the same violent self-righteous as the hard right we face. If we had the battle of Charlottesville in a hundred cities, that's not better.

We should go in the other direction. Much of the 36% of the country that still support Trump are just libertarians who watch too much TV. To quote Nelson Mandela, "People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love..." We need to engage with them. We need to learn to talk and listen with everyone we can, and find a way to reverse our fear of The Other. This would be those with different religions and skin color and cultures, but also other living beings of the Earth.

The Earth's crisis tells us that we can't waste time with unproductive anger. Not now. We need to self-cultivate a radical forgiveness that encourages the same in others. Learning to talk across class and race and gender lines, standing at a front door, with something better to offer than a Democratic candidate. Let's talk about saving each other. Let's talk survival. This is what the Earth is asking us to do with her fire and flood.

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KKK and new-nazis

20728292_10154648220935974_8884794186663241793_n.jpgWe are in Maine at a dear friend's wedding. Many of the people in the wedding party are from Charlottesville, Virginia where last night a torch parade constituted a direct death threat to African American citizens, with the memories of lynching so painfully fresh. Last night and again today that town will be the site of a march by KKK and neo-Nazis and so called "alt-right" (white nationalists).

If you know our work, then you know that we are devoted to the First Amendment, have created a gospel version of it, and have gone to jail reciting it too loudly. But the racist ritual in Virginia is nothing like freedom of assembly or free speech.

The mayor of Charlottesville is defending the open torch march on the basis of the First Amendment. This is a travesty. The holocaust of lynching of African Americans, thousands of legally unresolved murders in open view... How can't this be banned? And when will politicians condemn it appropriately?

There is a larger statement that is made by this march and it is a terrible setback. There are people who think this Nazi march balances as an issue with Black Lives Matter. It does not. The Nazi's are saying "We can kill you." The black activists are saying "Stop killing us."

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The Forest That Overwhelmed Trump Tower

a_tree_grows_in_trump_tower.jpgIt always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.  

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous “Other.”

Our destination is on the 5th floor.  There is a legal never-never-land called a “Privately Owned Public Space” or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public.  And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout.  We have such a need to re-establish our own body.  It is real and direct.  We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

What we have dedicated ourselves to over the long run, meeting three days a week in the Trump garden, is to turn over our personal soil by silently writing our responses to The Nightmare.  We are finding a way to our counter-dream.  We start with a wisdom quote.  One quote recently was from Emma Goldman:  “Love is the molder of destiny.  Love is the defier of laws.”  

Then we write together for 45 minutes.  At the end we stand with our writing and recite or shout or sing our words at the 700 foot tall gold-tinted presidential erection.  One veteran activist that we met at Occupy Wall Street called the garden “A Zuccotti Park with walls, the Zuccotti Prison.”  It is like a back alley lifted into the sky, with rotting tables under USA flags.  

We find the weeds and the moss in the cracks of the garden’s fake granite and we talk to them in confidential tones.  They are our leaders.  We ask the rebel plants for advice.  Clearly they are activists.  We want to be super-weeds ourselves.  We want to evolve to live to change The Nightmare.  We tell the weeds in the cracks that we know their descendants will flourish in a forest here, that the tower will come down.  

We ask the weeds that we be admitted as one of the species in the eco-system they are making as their roots take hold in the seams of The Nightmare.  We promise we can co-exist with life, to wake up from this bad dream having learned that we don’t have to be the apex predator.  We can do this!  With our species, we’ve learned that a strict program of love works best for us.  We know that now!  Please don’t forget us!  Take us along!  

 

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Uprising By Sunflower

20526086_10154854785443963_1468539888673584547_n.jpgHere we have clear instruction for defeating Trump. Let the radical miracles all around us bring out the revolution that we suppress into "style" or "culture". We need to reach for the sun! What if the Women's March never left D.C.? The million citizens would be still there, spilling into the stone buildings, making policing impossible, stopping the corruption with the concentration of bodies. Life doesn't live one weekend a year. Earthalujah!

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Reverend Billy In Secret Meeting At Trump Tower

trump_savi_stare.jpgWe’re in a strange place, a garden inside Trump Tower.  We are facing blank pages with our pens.  There are 15 of us. Savitri D and myself and singers from the Stop Shopping Choir and friends who heard about it. We’re waiting for the timekeeper to say “Write.”  We will write nonstop for 45 minutes. 
 
The Trump Company is required to let us sit here under this 700 feet high slab of gold-tinted glass.  Years ago, Trump agreed with the city to keep this garden open to the public, in exchange for 24 extra floors.  This is Donald Trump’s business headquarters and sometimes home, with body-armored men at the door with submachine guns.
 
Being inside Trumplandia can be unnerving.  For the New Yorkers who join us in the tower garden, Trump has been the city’s unsavory clown for decades.  We encountered the gold lettering of his name everywhere and we glimpsed posturings with hair in the distance.  When we take the five flights of gold-plated escalators up to the garden, we suffer a full-body immersion.  The gold mirrors make a dim, almost soupy light.  God it’s ugly.
 
“Write!”  We all start scrawling. What we write might be called secrets, first-thoughts, recovered memories, streams of consciousness.  I say “secrets” because we don’t share our writing with one another.  Not yet, anyway.  Now in our fifth week, we haven’t read our work out loud or handed off the journals.
 
We’re focused on pre-Gutenberg writing.  We use the older technology of longhand-and- paper. We’re spending time on the nearside of pixels, streaming, virtual reality. This home-made culture of our little band of citizens, at the site of world-wide piracy and hokum and treason – assumes that something has gone radically wrong in our basic social communicating. But it is inside the sentences that you and I speak all day long, let’s admit it.
 
To borrow from science fiction, there a space-time rip in our language. The Trump tweets, Russian hacks, and Koch trolls seem more like symptoms than causes. Our failure is more devastating than Donald Trump. As a nation, and as a species, we don’t know how to communicate with ourselves. Our town crier function is silenced. The attack-noise of products and law enforcement and fear – make our public media conceal more than reveal.
 
Otherwise we would have written or spoken something in public about the racism, compelling enough to Out The Hate. Why haven’t we shown that families must be protected? How can our defense of life itself be demoted to “issues” and “policy” and “write your congressperson?” This 700 foot wall is crawling with Devils!
 
We don’t need to be great writers. We need to say something. Where is the art of effective protest, the howl, the arts as a starting-over point, or call it just plain I-don’t- buy-it independence. Freedom of expression has become as irrelevant as White House press conferences. 
 
This is why we are turning inward for awhile. Margaret Meade said that revolutions start with a few people talking at a table. We’re in the thoughtful inhale before the talk. The stakes are so high and the hour is so late. We’ll spend some time tilling the soil of silence.
 
There are little weeds in the cracks of the pink granite floor of this so-called garden. There is moss and mold along the walls. We talk to the weeds at the end of our 45 minutes. We ask the weeds to remember us as they dismantle this modernist slab. Can we be super-weeds in your forest?
 
Culture starts from inside, quietly under the surface, like a seed in the soil.  The first breath of a thought, before the socializing starts, is the protest that will grow to bury this wall.We sit together at tables in the garden, the police and the tourists eyeing us from the edges of the gold decor.
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My Preaching Heart

19787252_10154541031195974_9162927819115128198_o.jpgFive days ago my ticker began tocking when she should be ticking. Instead of the reggae beat I was born with, with the beat "one TWO three FOUR" the beat converted to "ONE two THREE four" and pumped 25% less blood. This is called fibrillation or heart arrhythmia. 

In my life I've been preaching on street-corners and in bank lobbies, trying to find the evil and shout back at it. I made my voice louder by working with an opera singer, vibrating my heart with the rest of my body. He taught me to make my whole body a big woofer and my volume doubled. I did this because the police kept taking my bullhorn. My cardiologist says I have to learn to carry some kind of stress-reducing walking yoga into those "contested spaces"... 

Last February I had a real episode, with a jolting in my chest. I took the bus to the local hospital and the busdriver took the whole bus to the front door of the ER. She said her father had a bad heart. I spent a miserable three days and nights in the cardiac ward, getting the "fix", with needles in the back of my hands at 4 AM, pills and bad food. Hospitals!

I suddenly knew I had to leave. It was the middle of the night. I walked out. They threatened me, "If you die outside the door we can't be responsible!" I walked home in the dark with my heart tossing and turning. When I got home I was dizzy. I crawled in with the warm, dreaming Savi and Lena. When I woke up my heart was beating, no - I was beating - on the reggae beat I was born with.

And this morning I'm back on the beat again. This time I cut out the hospital part. This picture near my desk, with the smiling heart, is Lena's.

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