Hi Billy — Maybe I’ll see you at Joe’s Pub this year. One person I’m not looking forward to seeing this holiday season, however, is my Uncle Sean. Aside from his slovenly boozing, he’s a MAGA fanatic who practically showers in his red cap. I’ve tried keeping my trap shut. But we’ve had bad run-ins. We’ll be on a family fishing retreat on Black Oak Lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin, so I can’t avoid him this Thanksgiving. But, I love the schmuck. How am I supposed to cope!
— Lionel, Ditmas Park
Are you asking the pastor for a way to be comfortable? Asking to feel better while depicting this uncle of yours as a duped bumpkin, well, be careful. There’s fascism lurking in a privileged person’s comfort. Lionel, nothing’s as clear as you make it. Things are turning inside out. They are using live ammunition. The streets of the cities of the world are screaming, the flood and fire is raging closer and closer. The American consumer’s comfort-and-convenience is besieged like a sexual closet in a fishing shack in Wisconsin.
You’ve got to love the schmuck so much that he can’t hate anymore. Do this by loving yourself enough to stop de-humanizing him. The Trump people got us dancing to their tune. Hate! Easy to use! Apply as directed! Actually, Lionel, the Trumpers aren’t the real source of all this. The 1 Percent got the right and left moving like we’re not on the same dance floor. But I believe that you and Uncle Sean can along.
Instead of fishing with him, drinking beer and farting on the lake with the loons, why don’t you go hiking? Get out of the boat and find a path and walk a long ways, until you get lost and it’s getting dark. Get lost in the wilderness. Get lost and get desperate for your friendship to work. Get lost and wonder if there are bears around here. Uncle Sean needs your knife and you need his rope and you got to save each other. Get lost and maybe you ‘ll lose your prejudices. You two need to start over.
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I was debating the other night with a friend about freedom of speech and whether there should be limits on it given the way it’s being wielded by the far right to divide and demonize people in really harmful ways. What do you think?
— Evelyn, Harlem
The far right wants it the other way around. The right believes that limits should be placed on what the left says, because the right feels that we have divided and demonized people in really harmful ways.
Well, white liberals controlled the media, and education, and the arts. And then freedom of expression was, over the years, sold to the market. We let that happen. Long before Donald Trump there was Ivory Soap, 99 and 44/100% pure Ivory Soap. We pretended that the neo-liberal take-over was guaranteed by the Constitution; that corporations’ should have the rights of personhood, and therefore freedom of expression for their marketing. We are swept up into these super-persons. We walk around with logos and ad ditties on our bodies.
The First Amendment will be protected when our opinions are delivered with the power of a gift economy. The planet crier is shouting in Times Square, and she is offering her news for free. She has a stronger voice than the 50-foot-high rubberized canvass celebrity who hangs over her from the side of a building. In the Church of Stop Shopping we believe that products are the Devil. Products’ voices are weak and cold because people are instinctive ad-blockers. To have freedom of expression, you need to love.
Reverend Billy and Savitri D’s Church of Stop Shopping perform at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater on Sunday afternoons from Nov. 24 to Dec. 22