Total Revolution or Nuthin’

(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.

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