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This summer has been a whirlwind of teaching permaculture and working on making a movie from my novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing. But a few days ago I took a break to attend a performance of Guys and Dolls put on by SF Arts Education, in which my fifteen-year old Goddess-child Kore was singing and dancing. SF Arts Ed runs a wonderful program where students from middle schools and high schools put on Broadway musicals, complete with singing, dancing, and a full jazz orchestra. We had balcony seats behind the stage, so I was looking down on these bright and beautiful young people of all different backgrounds and ancestry, reflecting the multicultural nature of San Francisco itself. They are a talented bunch, but I also know how hard they work, how much time they rehearse and the discipline they develop. What a gift it is to have such wonderful youth growing up in our city!
Weighing on my mind were the terrible murders in Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik blew up government buildings and then went on a shooting rampage at a camp full of young people. His avowed intention was to somehow defend the purity of Norwegian and Christian culture against Moslems and others who in his mind are undesirable. He apparently fantasized himself as some sort of modern-day crusader.
Breivik is clearly insane—meaning, far off the spectrum of consensus reality. Unfortunately, there are many others who share his views if not his eagerness to commit mass murder. When news of the bombing first surfaced, the media leapt to the conclusion that Muslims had done it. Racist commentators bleat their poison over the airwaves daily, and solemn pundits intone that somehow in Europe, ‘multiculturalism has failed.’
I was pondering all this, watching the wonderful dancing and the songs from a day when multiculturalism meant Jewish gangsters on Broadway encountering Salvation Army missionaries. A Broadway musical, I thought, must be the most quintessential American art form, if there is such a thing. I considered whether these youth whose ancestors came from Europe, African, China, Japan, Central and South America, the Pacific Islands, India, and probably some other places I haven’t listed might not benefit from doing something more ‘multicultural’—the Ramayana with African drums, perhaps, or Ntozake Shange’s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow iss Enuf.
But the jazzy music caught me up in pure enjoyment. And then suddenly it struck me—Guys and Dolls is multicultural. Along with every other Broadway musical, as well as jazz, gospel, blues and rock & roll, it owes as much to Africa as to Europe in the rhythms and patterns of its music. That fabulous tap dancing started as Irish clogging way back when. The form of storytelling with music and dance goes back as far as humankind recounting the hunt around the communal fire.
“Western culture” itself is multicultural. Breivik blew up his buildings with explosives invented in China. He counted his dead in Arabic numerals.
The media is full of strident voices telling us greed and prejudice and self-righteous, self-justifying bile are not only okay, they’re patriotic! Breivik’s horrific murders were a clear message about where that thinking leads—to the death of innocents.
We need strong voices now to raise up a powerful countercry, to say that all of us have value, that we’re here on earth to take care of one another, to proclaim that every difference of background and culture and perspective is a gift. We need a vision of how we might live in such a world—for if we can’t imagine it, how can we create it?
That’s why I’ve thrown myself so deeply into the project of making my novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing, into a movie. In the book, I envisioned a society that truly valued diversity. It’s one vision—not the only vision—of how ideals of justice might play out, and the huge support we’re receiving for the project shows how hungry people are for a positive vision of a future here on earth.
But truly, I don’t just want to make a movie. I want to make a different world. The movie is a vehicle toward that end—one vehicle, maybe not the best but the one that seems to lie before me right now. I’m enormously grateful for all the help and support we’ve been finding along the way. But I don’t want people to wait for the movie. Now, today, do something to nourish and strengthen your own vision. Now, today, do something to counter the voices of hate and greed and doom. Every heritage includes great beauty and great pain, and we will need to draw on the wisdom and experience of all of them to weather the storms ahead. Shout out the truth—that we all count. We are interconnected, interdependent, and when we get good at it, a multiplicity of rhythms will move our feet in a joyous dance, and a chorus of voices harmonize in exultant song.
Some simple things to do:
Pat Buchanan, on MSNBC, stated that Breivik may have been right about a Crusades-like conflict between Christians and Muslims. CREDO is circulating a petition to get the network, which is trying to position itself as a counter-voice to Fox News, to deny him a platform. Sign the petition at:
Oppose John Boehner’s plan to take money from seniors, the poor and the middle class to support big business, big oil and big money.
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