Saturday, July 21, 2018

Guest Blog - Tourists Against Trump - By Rev. Billy Talen #Tourists Against Trump

our secular gospel show graced old Episcopal church St Pauls July 9, 10, and 11 as part of the Greek Festival.  Then paraded under the sign TOURISTS AGAINST TRUMP then next two days from Syntagma Square through shopping district to Monastiraki market, below the Acropolis.

Consumerism is totalitarian, the cultural program of capitalism.  It is so dominating these days…   we look down at our iPhones and we don’t look up.  Maybe we don’t want to check out the weather, because it might be a super storm.  Or we don’t want to face the swamped inbox of public space, a thousand slogans an hour screaming from the walls.  Whatever, we like the privacy of the little screen.

After a long period of fighting Trump’s immigration policies, after deportation threats to a number of our singers in the Stop Shopping Choir, we flew with about half the troupe to Greece, guests of the Helenica festival here.  Looking back across our five radical song-fests, what happened again and again - the audiences leaped up and followed us out the door into the streets, clapping and shouting.  What was happening?  Think the days of “We Can’t Breathe” or remember the first hours of Zuccotti Park or the fire-hoses night at Standing Rock… Everyone here is moved in a very intense way – by those pictures of children in cages in the jails along the US border.  

Even the tourists.  Those who walk with a certain languid leisure in the old city and you just know that they are foodies, the purest form of gentrifier, yoga practitioners on a mountain with an expensive scenic view.  Yes, them.  As soon as we saw them marching, clapping, smiling, with us - we quickly made a 30 ft. long banner for street-marching: #TOURISTSAGAINSTTRUMP.  Before this our banner had read “Donald Trump is the Devil” and how true, but we wanted to include the tourists right away so we switched, because the notion that the uber-consumers would turn on Trump is such a great shocker.

Now, to get some stop-the-murderer values out of a tourist is not the same thing as ending Consumerism.   If you are in a cynical mood you can see “ethical shopping” all over this, or “photography safaris” or “the tofu gourmet.”  And yet, in Athens the presence of these unlikely protesters gave us the sensation of saving lives right now.  Trump’s Blackwater USA types will give the press some showcase family reunifications, sure, but no-one is fooled.  Estimates are 20% of the families are restored, after all this time.  There is sadism in this.  Everyone senses it, tourists, too.

Immigration cops and their ancestral baddies have been doing it for years, and calling it their patriotic duty.  They hardly need Trump to lock the door on the kids.  It comes down to us from sweatshops and child prostitution.  But it makes you think.  If the complacency of tourists is pierced by those children’s stares, then what other unlikely consumers will look up from their screens?  And – what form would an uprising of tourists take? They are so colonial, so fossil fuel burning and ready to be waited on…  But a credit card boycott?  (some form of Stopping the Shopping!) would send shockwaves to the 1%.  Or am I dreaming again?

All I can say is – you had to be there under the Parthenon last Friday.  After marching down from Syntagma Square, up at the Greek Parliament, through the canyon of brands on Ermou Street, to Monastiraki market… the tourists, upublically protesting ON THE OUTSIDE of Louis Vuitton, walking side by side with the refugees, the survivors of desert and ocean crossings…  yes, it was like a dream.  It reminded us how stratified Consumerism leaves us.  We might walk by each other on the same street, but with class, race and gender creating portable Trumpian walls…

It broke open when we marched straight into a brass band, which laughed when they saw our banner and hit the beat perfectly on our chant, “We are TOURists, we are TOURists, we are EVeryWHERE…tourists against DONald TRUMP.”  Then the Greeks chanted in their native tongue our unlikely statement The tuba and horns met us at the front of a 400 year old church and the dance party began.  There were so many people from so many places that there was a meta-song harmonizing with us, washing down on us from the sky, the song of wandering.  Palestinians held our hands up at shoulder height, laughing, teaching us a circle dance.

Tourists do not a revolution make.  Unless there is a way for tourists against Trump to contact one another sideways through selfies and social media, at the Acropolis and down on the streets!  Holding hands in a circle dance will get them back to the street.  Public space is where we go for social change because of unlikely match-ups like migrants and tourists.  Who knows how far those young eyes can carry us?  There is something going on when those children’s eyes, those young stares, looking for their loved ones from behind the metal mesh, can burn away the layer upon layer of products that surround the average tourist - and capture the heart.  

As tech billionaires forsake humanity and try to take us off to Mars there are still those eyes pulling us back to Earth. Those eyes bring us in. We feel the need to walk up to those bars and bend them open.

Scenes of Ivan dancing, the rev preaching, and the #Tourists Against Trump

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