May 5, 2010
Two things dominate my thoughts these days: Tuesdays with Morrie and Ammon Hennacy’s Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist.
The first is seeming more and more to me like channeling. When we start rehearsing I find myself stumbling all over the place with lines until I get oriented in Morrie’s character. Then it all goes pretty well, yet at the same time I find myself feeling more and more unlike my “normal” persona, particularly my social persona who interacts (usually on a relatively superficial level) with others. So when we take a break I find it as hard to resume that ordinary persona as I did taking on Morrie at the beginning of rehearsal. It’s like nothing I’ve every experienced before, except maybe when I played Strider and the horse took over my stage persona for the length of the production. I think it could be because both these characters really are far from my normal persona yet at the same time I’m somehow calibrated to channel authentic versions of them on the stage. It strikes me as a somewhat unique ability which, strange as it makes me feel at times, I have to cherish.
I wonder if that will take place as well with Ammon. I don’t know yet. I’m still reading the Autobiography and wondering how I can make an absorbing stage play out of it. But leaving that aside for the time being, his arguments are influencing me heavily. He’s right, the state makes a virtue out of returning evil for evil. What else is our present “war on terror” about? And under the despicable “Bush doctrine” the ante is raised to “do evil to your enemies first before they can do it to you.” This is totally contradictory to the teachings of Jesus, yet Christians—even as they honor war—gather in their churches, including our own, week in and week out, bowing their heads before Jesus as if they are actually his followers and, worse hypocrisy of all, as if anyone who isn’t confessing faith with them is not. How long, I asked myself in my morning meditation, will my lips be sealed in the presence of such ignorance and blasphemy?
On the other hand, is it my business, as I’m not even a Christian let alone a church member? Ammon called himself a Christian. I can’t say the same. So maybe my role is to look to my own faith and see where I violate it. There’s plenty to work on there without blasting others for their self-justifying lapses.
However, it bothers me when so-called Christians are wrecking the world, socially, environmentally, economically, and any number of other ways—war being the major instrument of horror, exploitation, and illusion—and no one but a few radicals on the fringes, like Steve Baggarly (the Ammon Hennacy of Norfolk), really calls them to task, tells it like it is.
Well, my idea of somehow making a theater piece out of this is the only way I can think of to satisfy this gnawing at my conscience. It may turn out to be more than a one-man piece, too. I’m just not sure. And how can I be at this early stage? The problem with the Autobiography in that regard is that it doesn’t contain much drama, except (as far as I’ve read) Ammon’s early conversion in jail. I’m hoping for more, but without it I’ll have to rethink the project. I feel as if it’s on my docket, so to speak, but perhaps not in the way I first thought of it.
Meanwhile, Tommy Smigiel took away Randy Wright’s City Council seat in yesterday’s election. I think it all came down to Bay Oaks Park, the issue where Wright was so outstandingly wrong that enough people noticed. I’m glad for the part I played in that. So far it is my main public legacy in my career as an activist journalist here in Norfolk. More to come, I suspect, though probably not as a newspaper writer. There aren’t any more newspapers to write for!
Daun Hester didn’t fare so well in her race for mayor, I’m sorry to say. Fraim won handily, though I voted for her and, in fact, in an unusual coincidence ran right into her coming out of the polls as I was tying up my bike to go in. She stopped to shake my hand and ask for my “consideration.” I told her she had my vote, and we both parted glad for the encounter. I felt sure afterwards that she would win, but I was wrong. I feared Smigiel wouldn’t and I was wrong again. But I got ½ of what I voted for, even if I doubt Tommy can withstand the pull of ambition for long without caving to the pressures inside the sick belly of city hall politics where money is the ultimate coating of the membrane. We shall see. Obama certainly has caved. It’s all too easy to believe these days that he’s a phony who said what he had to say to get elected when he had his fingers crossed behind his back. Rather than believe that I tune out, as much as I can. Not nearly enough. I came to the conclusion yesterday—and fortunately another day begs for reassessment—that the sacred-cow system we’ve built up, this American Way of Life, was so totally toxic from the start in its Anglo-European colonialism that its present collapse was predestined, and everything of our culture we see around us is sheer poison which is killing us, day by day, degree by degree. I thought this as I walked into Walmart’s to fill a prescription for synthroid which I’m pretty sure is interacting badly in my system. I also thought that if they had listened to “us” back in the 1960s, things could have been different. But they didn’t listen. They shut us out and suppressed our spirits, and now this is what we've got—criminal global corporatism, endless, senseless, wasteful wars, environmental disasters of Biblical proportions (as currently unfolding in the Gulf), world-wide economic meltdown, climate change with mass extinction of species, including, perhaps, our own. Where will it end? Can even our planet survive our human sojourn on it? Not the way we’re going! Yet there are those—many in number—who believe we must “stay the course.” One of them is our numskull Virginia governor, who is all the more determined to bring off-shore drilling to our coasts, saying that just because a car crashes doesn’t mean you stop driving. As if there’s any comparison! At the same time it’s driving that has a lot to do with the “advanced technology” that failed in the Gulf, causing this devastating spill that many a Cassandra warned about for decades.
I suppose it’s useless to want to go back to simpler times. That’s one thing I’ve seen in my life. If we’re going to make it at all we have to go through where we are and come out of it in some sort of evolved state. So my political mantra is “Evolution, not Revolution.” And, face it—that brings us right back to those few passages in the Sermon on the Mount, as Ammon keeps insisting—love your enemies, return good for evil, trust God to take care of you, and store up your treasures in Heaven, not on Earth. In short, behave on Earth as if it were Heaven.
For most people, apparently, this is a big stretch. It is for me!