Since I don’t have a television at home, when I’m in a motel I can’t help but surf around the channels. So I experience the manufactured evil in the cop shows, the sports shows, the news – that drives those stories toward the next commercial break. Truly our electronic commons is militarized now, with steep differences between good and evil and heroic violence the only resolution, and the product we buy.
Consumerism tends toward the cheap generalization of good and evil. But the beauty of humanity is its unending complexity, and the ability we have in that rich texture to change everything with a few well-placed words. The gesture of a hand can signal peace across the barriers of police, marble facades, picture windows of the rich – all those borders that seek to control us – they are still crossable.
This Appalachia Rising weekend in DC, oh – we got the dynamite of actual evil. Hair-raising wailing speeches by Larry Gibson, Marie Gonnau, Dr. James Hansen, Debby Wilder – we felt the rocks flying over the trees, the selenium and arsenic and mercury rising from the interiors of the violated mountains… we felt the epidemics of children in the valleys. And then in the face of frightfully real evil the mountain people turn from their brave shouting and then they start hugging. Lots of hugs, long slow hugs, and a steady rain of laughter – as if to steady themselves. They even hug people just arrived from the city.
This was the identification of the murderer Big Coal by citizens who do not accuse easily. These tragedies were not purchased by these people. This evil is not a media product. But we pay for these tragedies when we flip the wrong switch, turn the wrong dial – or leave the television on. We indulge our cheap evil, a different flavor evil and different cute-faced hero on each channel. Our little black-plastic gadgets are powered by living things the size of mountains exploded and scraped onto the vulnerable people nearby. It turns out that the disposable evil of everyday television has the oldest mountains inside, 280 million year old living beings are in the background of these cheapened stories. The mountains seem to be waiting for us addled viewers to recognize evil again for what it is, and then find our necessary goodness.
See Rev. Billy and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir live at Mountains and Gardens Save Us! Sun., Oct. 10, 1 p.m. at the Highline Ballroom, tickets and information at revbilly.com