Oh "fetish" is the wrong word because this comes from pre-sexual time, when I was ten and eleven. I would escape from my family and walk forever in those waves until it was dark. It was how nature carried me off, the world closest to the edge of the yard, where nature waited for me, waving and dancing.
If I knew I was dying I would want to go back there to the long grasses. When I go to pray, which is sometimes difficult being so without any god, I think of that time in my life, because the natural world was overwhelming the god that my family insisted was all-powerful and all-knowing. Creation was overwhelming the Creator and it came in the form of undulating prairie grasses.
So I've shared this with people openly of course, since I'm a public confessor, but it always feels like a secret, too. I pray in the park near our home and there isn't prairie there. But when I pray I close my eyes and I see the sky and the grasses blowing in the sunny wind and then New York changes into South Dakota swirling its grasses around my prayer.
Black Lives Matter segues into gardens and libraries and back to defending ourselves against the police. In New York, the cops enforce property rights. Gardens and libraries, parks and hospitals are under privatizing attack, with a full-on lobbying (bribing) offensive in City Hall. But we got the faith. The books will return, the Rose Reading Room re-open, and the 1%ers in the library trustees LEAVE.
If we pretend that saving a library is not an issue of police violence as well as real estate violence, we are startled when the thin veil is ripped by our shouts and suddenly a gun is there pointing at us. Then a “communications officer” steps in to announce that we are the violent ones.
The dots connect again and again, but we all have memory problems. Good politics is forcefully reminding each other. It does get spacey out here on the pavement under the iCloud. But here it is again: Human rights and Earth rights are the same thing. The Earth will remind us with the screams in her insistent wind. BUT ON V-DAY - WE SAY - LOVE-A-LUJAH!
Lena is in the next room, walking around inside a play that she has written. She is a character in it, but has the author's position too, talking with fellow actors that she listens to and talks to and gestures with - I almost see them. There seems to be a boat with fishing, and a map and a fish "on the fifth floor," which is a bit of apocalyptic imagery right out of the ocean rising to drown Wall Street. There's more than that in this scene. Much more.
She'll be 5 years old in two months and should be in school but we decided that her 3-D world was so vivid that we would wait for a break in the action before taking her into the city. Our love of invention is so extreme it is socially improper, suspect child-rearing. Then again, the hair-raising destruction by Brian Williams and Dominique Strauss-Kahn of their careers by invented worlds that overwhelmed them - is the top of the news today.
And the police in New York have created a fictional world that we walk and drive through at our own risk. Their idea is that Al Sharpton and Barack Obama flew the jets into the towers on 9/11. And the consumption economy is Frankenstein religion, making us salivate on cue, but now over-ruled by the Earth. Lena, the day will come when you will have a co-author in your scenes, or you already do. A wild wind turns us away from the script that we thought was our life.
Returning to my intuitive resistance to the 70 ft. tall supermodels with jewelry and purses hanging down the sides of Times Square buildings like juicy secondary erogenous zones - oh Earthalujah! help me!! That was 1998 and I began sidewalk preaching THERE IS ONLY ONE SIN AND THAT IS TOURISM! We bring it all back home sometimes, and here it is, to the original notion that got us singing together and loving each other free of materialism and jailed every so often: Stop Shopping! Start Living!
Three days ago another mysterious jury refused to take to trial an Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) policeman accused of strangling a passenger. Last night an MTA train coming into the Wagnerian town of "Valhalla, New York" saw a stalled SUV too late and six died in the collision. And as you members of the congregation are aware - your pastor was arrested in mid-sermon by over zealous MTA cops in Grand Central Station, and now we have filed a $500k lawsuit to help finance this Facebook page which siphons money to the MTA's banker, Goldman Sachs, but don't get me started.
And today, with the MTA a large, painful joke at the expense of our once-great city, I sit down with Lena to take the train home from kindergarten, and we're under the East River zooming along and we look up from The Cat In The Hat and find ourselves surrounded by these moral advisories from that same MTA, up and down the length of our train, placard after placard of unasked-for advise designed to reduce us to polite consumers with beige personalities. They should tell us not to do strip dances on the poles in front of the children... Because what evil is possible here? I want to know. I hope that Lena & I will always know what to do wrong & have the courage to do it.
Telling the public that the peace-makers are violent is such an old tactic by regimes like Stalin and Hitler - how could the police in New York still think that kind of strategic defamation works. WE ARE NOT YOUR POLITICAL OPPONENTS. We are taxpaying citizens who pay your salary. American freedoms have come from protesters as much as police - but both are guarantors of our life in this country, and in this particular case, in Grand Central Station on January 6th, both the protesters and the police were peaceful. There was no need to slander me. You are not winning with this behavior. You need to admit that the epidemic of deadly assault against people of color by police is real. This is not disrespect. This is heartfelt and responsible. Ask your own black cops. You have to change.
And Thank The Earth for Erica Garner laying down on the sidewalk in Staten Island, the ultimate die-in, inhabiting the last breaths of her dad, she drives the activism in us. We can do anything now!
How were we EVER threatened into leaving our patch of Earth. We're supposed to believe that it's not public property or we are suppose to fill out a permit and wait six weeks? No it's FIRST AMENDMENT TIME! We're here on this Earth and we're not gonna get into the game of petitioning and lobbying and emailing in the distance somewhere from a computer. We're here on this ground and people on the street see us and free speech is magical and no cop or congressman or corporation can possibly move me off my spot. The longer we have our place the more our voices ring out! Now put down that submachine gun and let's talk about climate change and our kids. We're staying here on this Earth.
War is crucial to Consumerism. Militarism demands the largest products and the longest distribution lines. Intimacies within wars arise but they are closely monitored, bands of brothers may save each other’s lives but only after the products have exploded.
All the Apocalypses come from separation. The more terrible The End of the World, the clearer the call to look into each other’s eyes and start something. Earth in me recognizes Earth in you. The Earth wants to reunite.
The Gothamist is where I was identified by name as a person who had "attacked" police officers. This piece was published at about the time I got out of jail, on January 7th, after my sleepover in the Tombs. Turns out - how predictable - the Gothamist writer was taking the violent language from a Murdoch paper, the New York Post, which plays fast and loose with violence, to put it mildly.
Lauren Evans, who has written both the Gothamist entries, knew I was the one arrested, and so it was here that the false claim of aggression came together with my identity. It was the first place I read it, reading later the accounts in the Post and another Murdoch paper, the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Evans had tried to reach me, but phoned while I was in the Tombs, and then posted the story the next day - so my denial was missing. But it aint missing in this second story!
I want to thank the Gothamist and Lauren Evans for sticking with it and completing the story. When such defamation takes place, you do the best you can to get the counter-story out there. So we want to thank any media that helps us correct the record. The dispiriting thing is that the police and protesters were both peaceful. This slander comes from a professional spin-doctor who works as a spokesperson for the vast transportation agency of New York City, the MTA. He is like a corporate marketer, and doesn't think that his statements might have a human consequence.
For Immediate Release
January 22, 2015
Marnie Glickman, Communications Director for Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, 415-259-7121, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wylie Stecklow, Legal Counsel for William Talen, 212-566-8000 x4, email@example.com
Reverend Billy Files $500k Claim for False Arrest and Defamation at Grand Central Vigil.
Video, witnesses and DA's charges oppose MTA.
New York, New York -- In the midst of a 24-hour vigil honoring 170 unarmed civilians killed by police, activist-performer William Talen, also known as “Reverend Billy,” was arrested by Metropolitan Transportation Authority police while delivering a sermon in Grand Central Terminal. Talen has been charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration.
In the wake of his arrest, the MTA, through spokespersons, alleged that Talen "got physical with police commanders" and was "physically trying to block police officers." Video of the interactions between Talen and MTA police show that Talen did not "get physical" with police officers.
Reports in the Gothamist, New York Post and Wall Street Journal could not find witnesses to corroborate the charge. At his court appearance, the District Attorney did not charge Talen with any form of violence, such as felony assault. The court released Talen on his own recognizance.
"Both the protesters and the police were peaceful that afternoon. So let’s say that. Don’t be anti-police and don’t be anti-protester. We have an epidemic of violence against black people. That’s the violence," said Talen.
Talen’s attorneys, Wylie Stecklow and Samuel Cohen of Stecklow Cohen & Thompson, are seeking dismissal of the criminal charges levied against Talen. Talen’s attorneys have also filed a notice of intent to sue the MTA for false arrest, libel, slander, and other related claims on Mr. Talen’s behalf.
Attorney Wylie Stecklow noted “Reverend Billy is known around the world as a peaceful advocate for the survival of the environment and justice for all. By falsely accusing him of attacking police, the MTA has branded him as a target and a threat to police, and have jeopardized his safety and harmed his reputation. The attorneys at Stecklow Cohen & Thompson are committed to clearing Reverend Billy’s name and seeking redress for the violation of his rights by the MTA.”
Attorney Samuel Cohen added “The charges against Reverend Billy are confounding. Reverend Billy was invited to speak in the twenty-third hour of a twenty-four hour vigil, and was arrested while speaking, essentially for doing the same things that other vigil participants had been doing for the past day without being arrested. That alone is offensive to due process. We look forward to vindicating Reverend Billy in the courts.”
William Talen is both an activist and a stage performer. As "Reverend Billy" he pursues these parallel careers with the 35-voice Stop Shopping Choir under the direction of Savitri D. Talen and company lead a movement of nonviolent dramatic action, belting out their freedom-fighting lyrics in JP Morgan Chase bank lobbies, Wal-marts and on the front lawn of Monsanto World Headquarters.
Talen and the Stop Shopping Choir are artists in residence at the Public Theater in New York. After two visits (and one arrest) in Ferguson, Missouri, they mounted their "Monsanto Is The Devil" sold-out run in Joe's Pub at the Public. Talen and Savitri D live together with their daughter in Brooklyn, with many cops as neighbors. For more information, visit www.revbilly.com.