(Darkened stage. Jaunty whistling and cell-phone texting is heard, along with the footsteps of Converse sneakers on a dusty, small-town road. Suddenly, the screech of heavy tires, then a sickening thud and a groan. Lights up on the original American Gothic couple, sitting on the porch of their dilapidated house, up the hill from the road. Pa is snoozing in his rocker; Ma puts down her knitting and looks out, in the direction of the noise.)
Ma: Hey, Pa.
Pa: Yeah, Ma?
Ma: There’s a big ol’ anarchist lying in the middle of the road.
Pa: I believe I heard that one before, Ma.
Ma: This ain’t no joke, Pa. A cement truck done come outta nowhere and knocked that anarchist feller down.
Pa: How you know he’s an anarchist, Ma?
Ma: Black jeans. Black t-shirt. Cell phone. Lack of personal hygiene. A woman knows these things, Pa.
Pa: He ain’t one a them hothead terrorists what got arrested at the G-20 protest in Pittsburgh? (Gasps.) Ma! You think he’s the very one whose house the police raided?
Ma: Maybe. (Pause. Ma goes back to her knitting. Pa, now fully awake, seems troubled.)
Pa: Hey, Ma.
Ma: Yeah, Pa?
Pa: I feel kinda bad, sittin’ here on the porch in total comfort, while that anarcho-terrorist’s lying down there without his books, his computer, his notes, and all his personal belongings. You know, them police done took everything in that raid. Maybe I ought to throw myself down next to the anarchist in solidarity.
Ma: Now, Pa. Don’t you go actin’ like one a them guilt-crazed, grass-roots socialists. You just sit right here and wait for them corporate organizers to come by and turn you into astroturf. I swear, ever since the bank took our farm, you just ain’t been yourself.
Pa: (Pa’s hands go to either side of his head; his eyes open wide; he begins to rock back and forth agitatedly.) The bank, Ma! The bank!
Ma: Oh, lord — I knew I shouldn’t a brought that up again. . . .
Pa: Lookee here, Ma. The bank owned our farm, right?
Ma: Right, Pa.
Pa: And the bank told us what to do, right?
Ma: Right, Pa.
Pa: And the bank owns that cement company, right?
Ma: Probably, Pa. But —
Pa: You know, Ma, I’m beginnin’ to see a pattern, here . . . (Suddenly rises and declaims.) “It is organized violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom.” That’s Emma Goldman, Ma.
Ma: Pa, you’re not feelin’ well. Let me make you some hot —
Pa: (Throws down his cane in exhilaration.) Hallelujah, Ma! I done had me a revelation! The same societal forces what took our farm also knocked down that poor little anarcho-terrorist feller. We have all been trampled under the wheels of a corrupt, white supremacist, imperialist oligarchy, writhing in the insidious throes of late-capitalist, male-dominated, police-state surveillance. Glory be, Ma! I’m a-speakin’ in tongues!
Ma: Why don’t we just help the poor little terrorist up, Pa?
Pa: (Begins to march around the porch, chanting.) Gay/straight; Black/White; Together We Struggle; Together We Fight! We gotta form coalitions with other oppressed groups, Ma. ¡La Lucha Continua!
Ma: Now you listen here, Pa. Either you start talking sense, or I’m leavin’ you.
Pa: I think what you mean, Ma, is that “A Woman Without a Man is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.” Oh praise Mikhail Bakunin! He done put them holy words into my mouth!
Ma: Pa! Don’t you know Obama wants you to talk like that?
Pa: Au contraire, Ma. This is what democracy looks like! That anarcho-terrorist down yonder is making a, what you call, protest. He’s sayin’ that, although we may be knocked down by the Cement Truck of History — all our worldly goods repossessed and raided — there is still hope if we but have the courage to lie there and — (Ma is peering out at the intersection.)
Ma: Uh, Pa, honey?
Pa: Yeah, comrade Ma?
Ma: He ain’t there no more.
Pa: How’s that?
Ma: The anarcho-terrorist done got up by himself and limped away. (Long pause, during which Pa sits back in his rocker. He looks shaken and hurt. Finally, he regroups.)
Pa: Oh well. Anarchist dude has other towns to go to, other cement trucks to meet.
Ma: I reckon. (Pause.)
Pa: You know, Ma. Maybe we should do something nice for the little terrorist. Sort of say, “Thanks for lying there”?
Ma: Like what, Pa?
Pa: Hold one of them anarchist “raves.”
Ma: I give up. Go ahead, Pa, if it’ll make you happy.
Pa: Hot diggity! I’m gonna telephone the boys down at the V.F.W. to help me get the balloons all blowed up.
Ma: Maybe if you asked real polite, Pa, I’d sew you some nice “FIGHT THE POWER” banners.
Pa: And I bet we could blast the sound system all over town from that cement truck!
Ma: What? Work within the system for social change? Are you crazy, Pa? This has got to be total Revolution or nuthin’. . . . (They continue fomenting peaceably, rocking back and forth, as the lights fade.)
Susie Day is Assistant Editor of Monthly Review.