Saturday, August 14, 2004

Itty-Bitty Lefty Weeklies

I like to read the aforementioned itty-bitty alt-weekly papers in whatever city I'm in. Fortunately, I'm currently in New York, where the itty-bitty weekly is the Big Bad Lefty Village Voice. There was a funny, subversive bit in there about the RNC this week - well, honestly, the whole paper this week was a funny, subversive bit about the RNC. Be that as it may, I couldn't find the thing I liked online, so I'm forced to type it out. It was under this headline, though.

Let the typos commence!

Activists in Republican's Clothing

Madison Square Garden is south of Union Square, and just east of Rockefeller Center. To get there, take the H train and get off at the Penn Square stop. Or at least that's the way it appears on the maps that Mary C. Matthews -- age 31 and way, way not a Republican -- plans to have a group pass out to delegates at the GOP confab.

She's one of an unknown number of anti-GOP activists taking a Trojan Horse approach by volunteering at the convention. "I'm mobilizing a group of female comedians to faux volunteer and pass out fake maps, T-shirts, buttons, restaurant, and hotel info," Matthews says. "I was inspired by that ad Ed Koch did trying to get people to volunteer. He said, 'Some people won't know uptown from downtown.' I thought it would be funny to make sure that was true."

Over 18,000 people have applied for the 8,000 volunteer positions at the convention. Prospective volunteers are screened, but not for their political affiliation. That's because the New York City Host Committee, the group responsible for recruiting, is non-partisan.

Though Matthews and her posse decided against trying to become official convention volunteers, they'll be posing as such in homeade RNC shirts. "They have theme days -- like retail day and parks day -- and the itineraries basically tell you where campaign delegates will be," she says. "We're going to go talk to them and gain their trust. We want to confuse them and show them the political climate in New York might not be as welcoming as it seems."

Mattews will film the conversations (posing as a tourist) for a documentary called
Misinforming Republicans for the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. "It will be hard to keep quiet," she says. "I might reach my breaking point." - Kate Torgovnick, Village Voice, Aug. 11-17, 2004

Bwahahaha! Actually, I'm really not a huge fan of Kerry. I could take him or leave him, though I'll probably reluctanly end up voting for him. (Anybody but Bush. Anybody but Bush.)I'll do the reluctant voting, even though New York state is a forgone conclusion. We're not a battleground state. They don't spend money on political ads here. Why? 'Cause it's gonna go Dem., no matter what. It always, always does (barring Mondale). We don't count, no matter what the folks who ripped on me for voting Nader last time around may think. That Nader vote didn't do anything but allow the Green Party on to the ballot for the next election -- it certainly didn't kill Gore (thank you very much, electoral college).

In other lefty news, this guy used to be a friend of my boyfriend's. (I think the relationship consisted of drinking cheap swill in an East Village bar, but what do I know?) Anyway, he also merited a spot in The Voice - and not for the first time. I haven't checked out the current shenanigans, but it seems like fun.

It's just one sentence, but it guarantees five freedoms. Or at least the First Amendment used to, before the swelling of post-9-11 alarm started shredding your rights. For 30 glorious minutes every Tuesday, those constitutional protections are revivified as a random bunch of New Yorkers joins Reverend Billy (the performance artist Bill Talen) at the WTC PATH Station from 6:30 to 7 p.m. for what theater theorists would term a performative act—an utterance that calls into being what it names—but what the Reverend dubs "ritual resistance."

Using cell phones as decoys, participants repeat those heady lines as they lean against a pillar, pace about as if awaiting a friend, fall into step behind commuters, or find some other way to not quite make a spectacle of themselves. The acoustics in the all-concrete top level of the station leave words hovering, so folks rushing for trains can catch whole phrases—"the right to freedom of speech or of the press," "petition the government for a redress of grievances." And the long escalator ride down to the turnstiles provides ample time for all 45 words to sink in.

Some commuters stiffen and hurry away when they suddenly realize that the person chattering behind them is not simply another bellowing cell-phone jerk, but worse: a pro-Bill of Rights subversive. A few turn and smile. For participants, the words acquire an incantatory power, intensified at 7 p.m. when declaimed in unison. The mantra might not make John Ashcroft melt into an unctuous goo like the Wicked Witch of the West Wing, but here—where the wound of the WTC gapes across the plaza and cops dash up to demand a permit for demonstrating on the Port Authority's "private property" when the group recitation gains momentum—it creates a verbal force field that embraces all speakers in their own portable free-speech zones. As Reverend Billy preaches, "The First Amendment is our permit."

I <3 New York...


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