Not Exactly Preaching to the Choir: Can a Climate Activist Convert Immigrant Advocates?
I caught a rather unusual double-marquee performance art extravaganza last weekend starring art world darling Guillermo Gomez-Pena and actor/activist Rev. Billy of the Church of Life after Shopping.
Have you hear of the phony reverend? His real name is Billy Talen, and his is not religion-as-usual. He does have a terrific choir, though, filled professional singers and actors. I caught their act at a conference against mountaintop removal coal mining earlier this fall. The audience of mountain activists couldn’t get enough of Billy’s spoofy evangelism and responded with appropriately-churchy conviction.
Last Friday night at Gala Hispanic Theatre, the reception wasn’t quite the same from the largely Gomez-Pena inspired crowd. They clearly enjoyed the Mexican/American/artist/activist’s observations, mostly on the sorry state of the country’s immigration debate. He didn’t have much of anything to say about the environment or our unsustainable consumerist ways, Rev. Billy’s two big issues. And Talen, looking very much “the white man” (even whiter than most in his impeccable suit and mane of frosted hair) steered far clear of the immigration divide.
The acts really didn’t meld much. It was painful at times. The audience clearly didn’t want to hear the anti-consumerism stuff and seemed completely lost on the environmental issues. At one point, it looked like the reverend was trying to beat an early exit but couldn’t get Gomez Pena’s cooperation. Still, I hope they continue because there was enough good stuff to hint at something much bigger and more interesting, if only they could engage each other and their issues, which might be more closely connected than they think.
We had drinks before the show with a friend, a sociologist who teaches at a local college. I was telling him about a recent Mother Jones story about Tea Partiers who are taking on their local zoning boards to derail “smart growth” land use rules that they consider an assault on the American dream of suburban living. His take: Rather than fearing “sustainablity,” the tea partiers’ are probably just afraid they might have to move into the city and live next door to blacks or Hispanics. I wonder if he’s not right. Perhaps, the theory could also explain the degree of global warming denial in the country? People hope to avoid scary challenges to their worldview by simply not thinking about it? Ay Caramba!