Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights, Saturday December 1st 2007

Tonight’s little narrative will start with our arrival at the Ave, which was slowed up slightly by discovering that people had noticed our little hidey-hole of a parking structure (no, I’m not telling where.) Kazz was forced to drive his brick-red SUV up an extra level to find a space—which caused some amusement when we returned at 2a.m., the place was mostly empty, and the vehicle wasn’t to be seen in our usual parking space.

The rainfall earlier in the day left a wet scrim of puddles and moisture on the sidewalks and buildings, but the best part about tonight was the closure of Mill Ave to motor traffic. It isn’t every day that a person can safely visit the circle of bricks in the middle of 5th and Mill without being run down by a drunkenly driven bimbo-box. Today the shells of white tarp form the tents from the Art Fair. Which, I am told my the news, would not turtle itself due to the thunderstorm that rolled through that weekend.

The cold is into the mid 50s and just chilly enough to make my fingers ache as I clutch my Witch Hunter Robin messenger bag, the volumes sliding through numb fingers as I proffer them to attractive passersby.

Drum Circle

It took it a while to actually start up, to the point where the drum circle really only barely found its jive by the time we vacated the park in order avoid the baleful eye of the TPD and others. As always, it reformed out in front of the post office with the “No Loitering” sign sighing and drinking coffee bought from Starbucks across the street.

At one point during the evening Remy and a gaggle of other Mill rats stumbled past a warning on his lips, “A friend of mine – in with the cops – came and warned me that they were going to sweep through there, so be careful and don’t attract attention. Not that you usually do.”

So, of course, Kazz, Emanuel, and I went down to drum circle so that I could report on the cops “sweeping through” and catching people who attracted attention. We waited almost an hour (up until midnight exodus) and were met with a disappointing anticlimax. No cops. No sweep. Nothing so much as a peep of activity for my pen to eviscerate.

The Demographics of a Football Game Night

ASU vs. UofA? I don’t know. Football really doesn’t spin my wheels, but the people who crowd to these games do. So, after the finale of spattered fireworks lit up our eyes and deafened our ears, the Sun Devil stadium’s vomitoriums sluiced forth their spillage of humanity onto the shores of Mill Ave.

Mostly college age folks and some in their thirties take task to the Ave and wander past cheering together. Motley bunches of brightly plumed costumes (the maroon and gold prominent on sweaters) cheering and jeering their favorite team names. A fight even broke out near the preachers—the police intervened and it ended without much incident. Later on we saw a pack of TEAM leading an irate woman away from the area of Tempe City Hall (the upside-down pyramid.)

Street Preachers

An event that almost every social anthropologist watches for happened tonight with the street preachers—I discovered a cultural dialogue happening! This story starts during the previous Saturday (one that I neglected to properly blog.)

Kazz decided to take his atheist mores and approach the people talking to the street preachers with better and more defensible tracts than he did before. After poring over numerous documents he developed a quote-by-quote rendering of the King James Version Bible that directly supported the premise – and gloating title of the tract – “GOD LOVES SLAVERY.”

Once again, I let this develop on its own. Kazz and Emanuel passed out these tracts to passersby and even the preachers (one of whom, David, I believe, commented, “I want to read these lies for myself.”) This night he approached me with questions such as, “You didn’t read those did you? They’re perverting the Truth.” I have some qualms about this sort of attitude that I’ll get into later, now onto the dialogue.

One of the preachers—whose name I do not know—printed up some triple-length-fold-overhand tracts with a cute little ASCII cross and some equally ASCII art Jesus fish stating: “The Bible does condemn slavery.” In one week, these were written, produced, and printed in response to Kazz’s tracts! They are a new work. They attempt to speak to the direct KJV quotes from Kazz’s SLAVERY tracts. However, they also seem to ramble off into weird directions such as talking about Muslim slavery and then finally stagger into dark territory with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

To document this dialogue fully I will have to get copies of both of these tracts and get them scanned in (and, I hope, permission to post them.) The real warp and weft of communities and cliques is visible where they rub up against each other, this is a brilliant example of one of those evanescent events. My next mission will be to talk to the originator of the counter-tract and get his take on the production of his reply and why he decided to go that route.

As I promised, my thoughts on “perverting the Truth.” Yes, Truth with a capital ‘T’. Why? Because when one of these people says the word they mean absolute, incontrovertible veracity in a supernatural sense Truth. And, of course, he’s referring to the dogmatic Christian Bible and the direct quotes from KJV that Kazz reflected in his SLAVERY tract. I looked at his straight and said,

“My people don’t hold up your Bible as a credible source. So, no, I don’t believe those quoted scriptures. Yes, I did read it. And, doesn’t it make you feel a little bit queasy that you have a supposed Truth that can be ‘perverted’ by directly quoting it?” This brings me distinctly, in fact, to one of my favorite dogmatic cop-outs that is designed to cover this exact eventuality (someone else using the Bible to disagree with you.

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

This quote is scintillating in its sheer insidiousness; easily comparing a detractor, who, quoting directly from the same holy book as they, to the personification of all evil—that Adversary of YHVH (or more properly humanity, being that Satan is supposedly prosecuting counsel in a celestial court...) But, in all its elegance it reflects a thunderously worrisome fact: not only can the devil quote it for his own purpose, people can too! It’s one thing when a supernatural power, quintessential to the very inner-workings of morality can warp the Truth into verisimilitude (being that it’s a supernatural Truth after all) but it’s totally another when the mundane, feeble mortals who toil beneath the benevolent gaze of the Lord can do exactly the same thing.

What kind of a moral authority is this that can be so easily turned against itself without even the supernatural leverage of a super-being?

I don’t quite know the answer but it concerns me greatly. The best way to knock down this behavior, of course, still remains critically examining even this holy book, not as the Truth, but as an ancillary tradition that reflects the history of the Christian people. And by this day and age it’s an ancient history. One that updates poorly to contemporary values because when treated as a Truth (including the reprehensible commands and laws from the Old Testament) practitioners are barred from modifying—and sometimes rationally thinking about—how this affects their daily lives and the lives of others.

“Don’t stop thinking.” Kazz’s tracts end. They may be dark criticism of extremely bad attitudes promulgated by ancient bigotry enshrined forever in a holy book, but the conclusion is still the important seed to take away. It’s not his job to give you something better; it’s your job not to do or facilitate evil.

Think about it is sound advice.

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