Voice of the Jaguar:
Is our nation in a drug induced coma? Escalating bank mergers, corporate owned media, synergistic chupacabras like Disney and McDonald’s turn our once diverse landscapes, cities and towns into one trick ponies. How often have you gone on an interstate drive and said: “Everyplace is starting to look the same.” Or asked yourself in your own neighborhood, “Hey, why is Quiznos right across the street from Subway, and Walgreen’s across from CVS?” Consumer choice or survival of the fittest? No more neighborhood drugstores where you can pick up and smell a bar of Maja soap, and the pharmacist knows you well enough to offer free medical advice Doña Fulana is equally generous with bochinche and guarapo recipes.
Have you been to Manhattan lately? The character of once diverse and exciting ethnic neighborhoods has been turned into a massive, homogenous souvenir shop and mall. Banana Republic replaces bodegas. People race about the matrix speaking into headsets about things that should be said face to face or not at all, nodding to the God of I-Pod, eyes glazing over at the sight of 50% OFF signage. My stomach squeezed into vinegar the day I saw Disney and Starbucks had anchored themselves in Harlem. Manhattan has lost its character.
Springfield almost got the Simpsons. I’m glad we didn’t. Springfield still has character, and endless potential. We don’t need the easy fix to put us on the cultural map, we need commitment from local, state and federal government; the corporations who profit from our people and our resources; and from each other. We need dialogue among and across ethnicities, generations and class; accessible, inclusive gathering places without loud music, booze and distractions. We need places where we can slow down, be intentional and really see and listen to each other. We need to take a collective look at how we’re living or not living. We need Liberation Zones where honest dialogue with community and corporate leaders is at the top of the agenda. Maybe then we can begin to intentionally rebuild our city enhancing what we already have, supporting the bounty of talented people who live here. My partner and I have decided to open our home for artists and organizers. We have begun to gather monthly to come out of isolation and the soul deadening effects of busy-ness, if only for a moment, to say “we’re not alone.”
My brother in law, Michael Lescault, died recently. He had been a union organizer in South Africa during Apartheid. When it came time to disconnect him from life support, his best friend and youngest brother remained in the room. Thirty seconds after the monitor flat-lined, Michael, who was left handed, raised his left arm in a fist of power. His best friend later remarked, “Leave it to Michael to defy even death.” Michael reminded me that it is never too late for acts of resistance and that no act is ever too small. It’s also never too late to unplug from the matrix and take your life back, if only for a moment.