Thursday, June 14, 2018

“I Love to Tell the Story”: On Anarchists, Immigrants, Belle and Sebastian, Coney Island and a Weekend at Judson

Summer is upon us. So we wandered out to enjoy a weekend in the messy cocophy of New York City.

“Its great to be in your lovely, diverse city,” noted Belle and Sebastian’s singer Stuart Murdock during their show in Forest Hills on Friday.
Dog on Wheels
When I was a boy I was confounded by you
Now I'm still a boy I am indebted to you
Every song I ever wrote was written for you
Written for you
Now I'm feeling flat you seem a mile away
I'm so tired that down on the pavement I'll lay
Till the blossom off the tree comes falling on me
Fall on me
The summer night seemed to welcome all of us dancing in the old Forest Hills Stadium, “our new favorite place to play,” noted Stuart.
It had been an odd day.  Earlier in the day, we got the news about Anthony Bourdaine’s suicide.
Sometimes people run out of gas.

Tony why -   we lamented.
But it didn’t mean we didn’t have a space to enjoy the city, to let music pour in on us, singing, and dancing, with light pouring into the darkness. The little one had gone to see the band with us when she was only a few months old back in 2003. It was more fun.

The set list was great.
Dog on Wheels
I’m a Cuckoo
We Were Beautiful
If She Wants Me
Sweet Dew Lee
I Want the World to Stop
Piazza, New York Catcher
Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John
The Same Star
Stay Loose
Another Sunny Day
The Boy With the Arab Strap
We Are the Sleepyheads
Judy and the Dream of Horses
The Party Line

We love you, she screamed.
The whole crowd joined the band on the stage for Boy with an Arab Strap.

The next morning, I joined my friends at the anarchist book fair at Judson, our home base for church and community building.
Eric suggested I organize a panel on immigration.

Immigration and Mutual Aid, Coalitions, and Strategies (Gym)
Benjamin Shepard, of CUNY, will moderate the panel. Presenters: Rise and Resist (Judson Memorial Church) and New York Immigration Coalition. The New Sanctuary Coalition has been organizing mutual efforts; the National Immigration Law Center brought lawsuits over the Muslim Ban and DACA; and Rise and Resist is unrolling an education pressure campaign to abolish ICE. Come hear organizers these groups discuss strategies for addressing the attacks on immigrants coming from far and wide. Look at what these groups are doing and what kinds of challenges they face.
Opening the panel, I talked about Sacco and Vanzetti and their persecution as anarchists and immigrants. We build on their work when we organize today to defend other immigrants, including Jean Montrevil and Ravi ragbir, who are members of the Judson community, building a New Sanctuary Coalition to escort immigrants for ICE check ins.
One of my students started off the panel, tracing a narrative of her life, crossing the US border when she was four years old. It was very traumatic, she explained.  Yet, DACA gave her a bit of hope to adapt to this new country. Her work permit expires next year.
Nathan D Yaffe, a lawyer with the New Sanctuary Coaltition, talked about the ordinary violence  of the state immigration court, exposing the weaponized beaurocracy of the state.  People from Haiti, who came here for humanitarian aid, have been targeted in recent years, facing ugly hatefulness.  He gave an example of a friend who filed for asylum. The judge calls for a hearing and says to the man.  I gave you a list of lawyers for people going through this process. “You’re list got me fired from my last job,” he stated, rejecting the framing of a due process saying.  “I had to wait all day for the return call and it never came.”  The judges want to do what they are doing in secrecy, in the shadows, deporting. Yet, the work Sanctuary does with escorts exposes the injustice and violence, the banal beaurocratic violence that facilitates the deportation and  expedited removal of people.

Donna Gould and Enrique Picelli of the Rise and Resist Immigration Working Group talked about their group’s campaign to Abolish ICE.  The agency was only started after 9/11.  It was a turning point when immigration was perceived as a national threat. Its an agency created to deport people. It’s a machine producing detention.  And 65% of the detention facilities are run by private companies, with prison beds paid for with government contracts. So our job is to educate and put the word out, with street actions and acts of civil disobedience.
Geoff Kagan Trenchard, Anti Violence Project and New Sanctuary Legal Clinic; opened with a basic premise. “If you think of prison as modern slavery, then foster care is the auction block.  Its an awful traumatizing system.  The locus of my work is through trauma.  This system produces impacted shame.  ‘Stand up for yourself you worthless piece of shit!’  It mirrors  abusive family dynamics and forces people to go to court to humiliate them.”  He suggested the judges are often little Eichmans, engaging in a banality of evil.  Yet, we can push back. “The New Sanctuary Movement accompaniment program signals to the judges that people are watching them.  They cannot thrive in the shroud of secrecy.  For right now, we need to push, push, push.  Make resource maps and reach out to organizations that are involved. We have two to four more years of Trump.  As the pressure mounts, expect more violence, as we push Trump, watch ICE get more violent. Show up and be flexible as the field is changing.

Jackie Vimo, of the National Immigration Law Center, a national organization, stood up to speak next. “My family come to the United States from Argentina, fleeing death and dictatorship.” But it wasn’t easy for as a queer Latinx, involved with ACT UP.   So Jackie developed an intersectional analysis, looking at the new detention centers where they hold kids today.   Jackie suggests we look at immigration as a labor issue, as we did in the early years of the global justice movement.  Move beyond families not felons to conversation about work and why people come here. We need a bigger conversation. This is a debate about one group trying to control what America is and is going to become.  It’s a racial class project.  Trump said it, he’d rather have rich Norwegian immigrants. So lets speak more broadly, bringing back the imagination into this project.
I spend the rest of the afternoon at the anarchist bookfair talking with friends, catching up, running into people.  My friend Tibby, who I know from Marxist reading groups, said she was still looking to get that pension from the revolution.  With a very wry wit, she tells stories about a half century of organizing, participating in work stoppages, hanging out in Paris in 1968.  The most satisfying thing I ever felt was that first contract after the work stoppage in 1968, she told me.  Between revolution and friendship, she told me, she’d take revolution. But they are not mutually exclusive terms.   I love my comrades and miss them. And think about them with a great feeling of loss.
My friend Erik and I talked about his new book on George Orwell and Alex Comfort.
“The Duty to Stand Aside tells the story of one of the most intriguing yet little-known literary-political feuds—and friendships—in 20th-century English literature. It examines the arguments that divided George Orwell, future author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Alex Comfort, poet, biologist, anarchist-pacifist, and future author of the international bestseller The Joy of Sex—during WWII. Orwell maintained that standing aside, or opposing Britain’s war against fascism, was “objectively pro-fascist." Comfort argued that intellectuals who did not stand aside and denounce their own government’s atrocities—in Britain’s case, saturation bombing of civilian population centers—had “sacrificed their responsible attitude to humanity.”
Later, Comfort and Orwell developed a friendship based on appreciation of each other’s work and a common concern about the growing power and penetration of the State—a concern that deeply influenced the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Shortly before his death in 1950, however, Orwell would accuse Comfort of being “anti-British” and “temperamentally pro-totalitarian” in a memo he prepared secretly for the Foreign Office—a fact that Comfort, who died in 2000, never knew.Laursen’s book takes a fresh look at the Orwell-Comfort quarrel and the lessons it holds for our very different world—in which war has been replaced by undeclared “conflicts,” civilian bombing is even more enthusiastically practiced, and moral choices between two sides are rarely straightforward.”

The following morning we were back at Judson for kids day, a celebration of kids, a theology of creativity and storytelling.

Our first song of the day was “I love to tell story…”

Andy helped the kids perform a wrestling match between Jakob and God, starring my kid.

“In a murderous time the heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking.,”  Andy later quoted  Tony Kushner.
Our little one read the morning praver.

Morning Prayer

Please be seated.  This morning’s prayer is a poem by Barbara Hamby entitled “How to Pray.”

Falling down on your knees is the easy part,
like drinking a glass of cold water on a hot day,
the parched straw of your throat flooded,
your knees hitting the ground, a prizefighter in the final rounds.
You’re bloody, your bones like iron ties, hands trembling in the dust.

What do you do you with your hands?  Clasp them together
as if you’re keeping your heart between your palms,
like their namesakes in the desert oasis,
because that’s what you’re looking for now,
a place where you can rest.

It has been a dry ride for months,
sand filling your mouth, crusting your half-blind eyes,
and you need to speak to someone – though who, you don’t really know.    Pardon is on your mind.

Perhaps you could talk to your mother.
You are fifteen and think her life is over.
You don’t say it, but you think it,
and she’s ten years younger than you are now,
her hair still dark.

How do you thank her for waking up each morning
and taking on a day that would kill you
and not just one but thousands?

How do you thank her for the way she tossed words around
and made them spin and laugh and do cartwheels on the lawn?

And your father, he’s the one who loved poetry,
bought the book that opened your world to you
like someone cutting into a birthday cake the gods have baked just for her.

Do you talk to him about not caring
and teaching you that same cool touch?

And King James, how do you thank him for all the words
his scribes took from Wycliff and Tyndall,
and Keats for his odes, and Neruda for his.

But this wasn’t meant to be a prayer of thanksgiving
but a scourge with a hair shirt and whips and bowls of gruel.

But is it blood the gods need,
or should your offering be all you have – words
and too many of them to count on the fingers pressed to your lips,
or maybe not enough and never the right ones.

And we ran outside to enjoy the summer in the city, running around the village, up to Union Square, and out to the beach.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

After the play, Andrew sent 
the following post:
Happy Friday, Judson Mommas and Poppas!
I’m here with one last email before taking a break from the weekly grind to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for allowing your children to be a part of Judson Sunday School this past year, and particularly this pastSunday.  How much fun was Kids Day?!  Your children were wonderful, whether it was their singing; Scarlett’s poetry reading; additional readings by Penelope, Jamya, Mae and Sebastian; Theo “Shostakovich” Lawrie’s prelude; Azalea and Ella’s beautiful special music; and even "Nacho Jacob" - I still can’t believe we pulled that off!  I had a blast and I hope you did too. 
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