I reminisce about a long-ago family reunion...
The Dutch Calvinists Expel Rev Billy Early
When I was a teenager I attended a reunion of the Talen family, in Holland Michigan. (I was a Dutch Calvinist, from birth until this particular family gathering.) The second night of the reunion, with 30 cousins everywhere, including about six tall Dutch American young women cousins, I decided to host a dance party. I commandeered one of the cottages that we rented on Lake Michigan and put James Brown and The Doors and the Velvet Underground on the sound system. We lowered the lights and laughed and danced.
An uncle appeared in the doorway. He wasn’t dancing. He stared at me like I was a cloven-hoofed satyr. I must have been monstrous to look at. I was a body builder in those days, big chest and shoulders, with long matted Conan-like hair. I wore red and white plaid wool bellbottoms and lumberjack boots. This uncle – I called him the Manly Uncle From Christ - he pulled on the wrist of his daughter and she was sucked out the door as if by a great wind. This happened again and again, Manly Uncle From Christ after Manly Uncle From Christ appearing to fetch a daughter – until I was dancing alone. So I went outside, only to find the beauties lined up opposite their Manly Uncles From Christ and I began what I think of as my first sermon. I preached about freedom and dancing…
My sermon ended when a Manly Uncle From Christ who bulldozed golf courses for a living hit me so hard that I fell to the ground unconscious. I came to in a police car. I spent the night in the Holland jail. Next morning, the policeman drove me to the airport and gave me a ticket. “Is this from my family?” He shrugged. Most of that Talen family have not seen in 40 years. So now I'm a New York orphan, spending Thanksgiving with other orphans, many with abusive expulsions from their bio-families less comic and more violent than mine.
The timeline to St. Louis is in full effect! Last night (Wednesday, November 19, 2014), Middle Collegiate Church hosted a spiritual and healing benefit.
Performers included: Lower Eastside Girls Club, Poet Cheryl Wilkins, Camille Beckles activist, Bernardo Polombo musician, Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir and Joan Baez.
So much love and song filled the air way beyond the rafters of the church building. So many people singing songs of poignancy and hope.
We gathered to show our support to all of those victimized by police insensitivity. This is a human issue not just a race issue. We stand together to tell those that would try to hurt us or our loved ones THAT WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THE PAIN!
We are on our way to Missouri. Next Stop, Monsanto is the Devil at Joe’s Pub (The Public Theater), 2pm , November 23, 2014 in NYC.
The following photographs were taken by Barbara R. Lee, Stop Shopping Choir.
A soprano, bass and tenor of the Stop Shopping Choir
The Stop Shopping Choir at Middle Collegiate Church
Joan Baez at Middle Collegiate Church
Camille Beckles, activist
The following link is fantastic photography of the event taken by Erik McGregor:
Thank you, Erik!
We took the risk of two shows the same week with different scripts. Human Rights and Earth Rights. The people and the planet. Two things to save, facing two devils: Bullets from militarized racist police and invisible toxins from Monsanto. Eventually we will understand that not-killing each other with racist bullets is the same not-killing the whole biosphere demands... but we don't have the language for that yet.
Last night at Standing With Ferguson with Joan Baez, when my duties as host came, I stumbled at one point with a remark on Earth Rights where the topic should have been Human Rights, and I know I've done the mistake the other way around, too. Life on Earth is writing the script for us, and sometimes we don't get it. My own hapless method is to keep on shouting. Earthalujah!
New week, Reverend Billy, The Stop Shopping Choir and other activists will make a road trip to give thanks in Missouri. We will give thanks for the organic Thanksgiving dinner that will contain no GMOs or other harmful substances that Monsanto produces. We will have that dinner somewhere near Monsanto in order to send a message that we won’t be cowed or fooled into believing Monsanto’s lies. Monsanto must be stopped!
We give thanks to the people of Ferguson, Missouri who are standing up and saying NO MORE POLICE BRUTALITY! Join us in person or vicariously through this blog.
In 2014, the people who have the old-fashioned kind of hope, as in the phrase, “I sure hope that…” – those are the ones who flip hope into hate. Sentimental love of class becomes oppression; hope for one’s race is soon racism; hope for one’s sex is sexism.
Hope is the main product of Consumerism’s super mall. 900 kinds of hope are for sale; hope for youth, for good looks, for wealth, for convenience… When hope is a manufactured thing, yearning for something better is trivialized, and we become passive. We are no longer agile. We are not powerful. We are shopping.
In 2014, they dare the passive consumers to re-dream their hope. Police wait to arrest the appearance of real hope. There is reborn hope in Ferguson, Missouri and the fearful cops are buying armored tanks and submachine guns. They don’t have a chance, not when real hope takes the streets.
We were supposed to show the world that there are many of us... OK alright there are many of us. Many, many citizens who want to save the Earth from the fossil fuel industry and their partners in banking and government. There were not nearly as many of us in the Climate March as, say, New York's Halloween Parade, but who's counting? There are a lot of us who want to survive. On the other hand, the whole thing had a dated quality. We cannot hesitate any longer in this recreational protesting. Will someone give me an Amen?
Now six weeks on, we see that the Society of Spectacle swallows up all counter-spectacles. It was a permitted parade and the New York police routed us so that we would be entertainment for the Clinton Global Initiative. The neo-liberal czars watched us from the penthouses of the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue. We were a street performance with a huge cast of characters, a sort of pornography for them. One of them was Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, one of the most violent men in the world. Among the sponsors of the conference: the top polluters HSBC, Exxon-Mobil, Deutsch Bank, etc. The NY police routed us in a perfect square-shaped route around their hotel, over on 59th, down 6th Ave, and then west on 42nd.
We should have broken from the march and rushed into the lobby of that "Davos West" hotel, then run up the steps to the VIP lounge to round up the CEO's and their politician toadies at their cocktails. Meanwhile, the Church of Stop Shopping wishes to honor the 25 arrestees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which rubber stamps climate-killing projects of all kinds. We especially applaud the art work they put at FERC’s front door, forcing the employees there to destroy towns and families to go to work. The heart of a social movement is expressive confrontation. Are the wind and waves and fires telling us to be polite? We must punish the sinners! Earthalujah!
"Let me fulminate! Pound the pulpit! Shout at the shaking sinners! The End is Near! The Apocalypse isn't a Movie! Batten down the hatches! Our consumption is consuming us!" ---None of this works.
We are at the end of the impact of persuasion, memes, great graphics and punchy slogans. We now read the last word from the scientists in this new report from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The science can be seen straining at the outer limits of their rhetorical map, with phrases like, "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."
And if you read The Guardian piece, it is noted that the UN officials wanted to go farther, with phrases that actually said outright that we will die.
Conservative forces edited that level of preaching. But coming as it does after the Big Vanilla Smoothie of the People's Climate March, this report seems a rebuke to moderates who still think we can have a movement without direct action. Earthalujah!
I woke up this morning only to find that I had turned into an old wall, overlooking a civic lawn or a field perhaps. My partner Savitri was nowhere to be seen but towering over the bed, and towering of me as a wall, was our daughter Lena, who had apparently designed this landscape while I was asleep. Now any movement by me to get off the bed was met with an astonished scream. "You're the wall! Walls don't move!"
Lena was, this morning in her Hawking-Minelli mode; that is, she has the authority that comes from a working knowledge of the origin of the universe, as does Stephen Hawking, and on the other hand she is never far from a blow-out song and dance routine, in the manner of Liza Minelli. I could only ask Lena questions about the town she created, in which every little bunched up bit of blanket a bodega, every pillow the slope of a park.
In fact I had to pee, but it was pointed out by Hawking-Minelli that WALLS DON'T PEE! Walls hold water back, Lena said. They don't pee they hold rivers back. Oh so I had a field on one side and a river on the other... Blinking out from my predicament while she was constructing her city, I wondered suddenly whether walls do witness the world around them. The world of last night's dreams had just enough proximity to Hawking-Minelli for me to ask the question, "Are the walls watching us?"
The old environmental movement evolves into something new. We are ready for the miracles of wild bravery.
In a social movement that changes society. there needs to be a scary time, a Halloween, a time of beatniks, hippies, punks and gangstas. That is the way it has been in the United States. From the abolitionists to the Dreamers in the immigrants' jails, when someone started to become effective, they were urged to slow down and be polite. People told Dr. King "This isn't the right time!" and then they told Malcolm X "You're offending people..." We need that now, the polite self-effacing era of Bill McKibben needs to give way to the young black radicals of Ferguson, Missouri and the Pennsylvania grandmothers chaining themselves to fracking equipment.
The old issues are necessary talking points, but we're talking too much. "Environmentalism" can no longer exists as a stand alone movement. When we met at the New School this summer in the planning stages of the Peoples Climate March we had a rousing rally in the big hall, and then broke into our "issues" in different university classrooms with labels on the doors like "food safety," and "transportation," and "energy." There were about thirty such issue rooms. I went to food safety, hoping to meet some beekeepers. My class was twenty-two white people and an African American woman from Oxfam. And my classmates were very polite.
The activist wildness must come from a vision of all the issues being one demand. That is why Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have more to do with climate activism than the Wildlife Conservancy. The only issue is that life itself is in peril. That changes everything. Our climate march sessions didn't have a room for "Peace." Or "Children." Or "Consumerism" None of the issues embraced the whole thing the way the Earth embraces us with its super storms. So the climate march got off to a polite start, the emergency muted into a permitted de-politicized parade. The absolute opposite of the climate parade would be the children at the Texas border - and those children are where the Earth Revolution waits to be born.