The Green Woman in New York Harbor

Issue 233

Our advice columnist Reverend Billy on aiding immigrant neighbors targeted by ICE and being sexy, not sexist.

Reverend Billy Talen Mar 7, 2018

Dear Reverend Billy,

I see these deportations on the news. I knew Trump’s election would be bad, I didn’t know this bad. Is there anything we can do now or do we have to wait till he is up for re-election in 3 years?

— Susan, Bushwick

Dear Susan,

Before fathers were pulled out of front doors with screaming children hugging their legs, New Yorkers sensed that something basic was wrong, something shifted in our city. How is it that older immigrants — people whose ancestors came from Italy in the 1920s, Ireland in the 1840s — are putting newer immigrants in chains? Is the chaos of Trump’s sick mind stronger than the green woman in New York Harbor who welcomes the world’s “tired and poor masses yearning to breathe free?”

Susan, too much of what we do is a form of shopping. The path to fascism is paved with a thousand conveniences. The monoculture of chain stores and luxury condos and little screens disconnects us from the reality around us. We are left in the wrong dream, too passive for the emergency. Are we desperate for a breakthrough to straightforward seriousness? America turns its lonely eyes to you, Nina Simone.

Yes, there is a place to start over. The NYC New Sanctuary Coalition saves lives every day by standing up to Immigration Customs Enforcement, Trump’s terrorist police. The courage we showed a year ago when we stormed Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport is manifest in everyday kindness. Accompany these Americans to the courts, to the hospitals. Take our neighbors into our homes. No, we can’t wait three years — or three days.

There is a wave of revulsion building against this President. At the heart of real activism there is no screen, no algorithm, no data. We are standing in the door between the abductor and our neighbors.


Dear Reverend,

I’m really happy to see #MeToo take out all these sexual bullies, but sometimes I wonder if more innocent behaviors like flirting are going to be stigmatized. To be safe, should I confine my love life to my dating apps or should I keep the faith in human-to-human interactions?

— Hank, Harlem


The #MeToo moment is crucial. As for whether you should confine your love life to dating apps, well, it’s easy to reduce a revolution to cheap choices. Dating apps can be as sexist as anything else, Hank, you can’t run away from change into the camouflage of pixels.

Most women — and men — have their favorite sort of flirt. It’s better to slow down and wait for the unexpected message. The other person might have subtly-stated rules of the game, or may want to move fast. The idea that #MeToo has made flirting dangerous is a French hoax!

A woman’s guidelines don’t usually favor pressuring and repetitive tactics, not just because it might foreshadow some form of violence, but because it’s boring. For some of us males, being sensitive is like facing a mysterious frontier. Now it’s #MeToo time and we have to start over and learn how to do it. 

Don’t resist it with snark or beer-drinking in sports bars. Let flirting be your noble science.  Figure it out. You know it’s working when she has become the flirt — check out the phenomena of the balanced conversation! Who knows, it might raise to the surface the things within you that are interesting, complex, intriguing.

One more thing: Learn to apologize. No emails, no shortcuts. Look her in the eye and relax into taking responsibility. The best flirting is honest. Flirt-a-lujah!

Reverend Billy is an activist and political shouter, a post-religious preacher of the streets and bank lobbies. Got a question for Reverend Billy? Just email and unburden your soul.

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Photo credit: Melvin Thomas.

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