I return to the Hartford, Connecticut area tomorrow via Amtrak (my favorite way to travel while I am not teleporting) to perform Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs at Manchester Community College on Tuesday morning and Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible on Wed evening at University of Hartford as part of their Colloquium series on civil liberties. Both shows are FREE and open to the public. Get details at my site.
I lived in Hartford for eight years, arrived the month before Sept 11th, and only just moved to Central Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley, where my partner Glen teaches creative writing. It’s been a stretch in some ways moving from an urban to a rural setting, but I had grown up in the Sullivan County Catskills in rural New York State surrounded by fields and farms and wildlife. The country doesn’t scare me–it’s the suburbs. Never lived in suburbs before. That feels isolating in a way that I am not sure I can handle.
Glen and I just purchased a home in the city of Sunbury, PA (pop. 10,610, well now 10,612.) It is a small city stuck in the middle of lots of farm land, rivers and woods. It seems a perfect fit for us. After living in the rural NY State until high school graduation, I have lived in New York City, Memphis, Lusaka, Zambia, Quito, Ecuador and Kiddiminster, England. Glen grew up in Kruger National Park in South Africa (with lions and zebras for neighbors) but then lived in London, NYC, Miami and Madrid. We are city boys who understand and love the country.
Buying a home (and a large Victorian like we did) feels odd on many levels. Most notably I feel I have shifted in class. I come from solid working class roots and although I have been to college, I never because a “professional” and entered a professional class. I guess I have been more of an artisan with a bohemian lifestyle. Now partnered to a college professor, settled in a large house I would imagine a doctor or a lawyer would call home, I feel class conscious. It is not a guilty feeling exactly, rather a disorientation. I recognize we got an inexpensive home during an downturn in the market and incentives to buyers. Still when you see the house, well you will understand my disorientation. It is like an opulent manor house. As Glen says it is a work of art with gorgeous woodwork and all sorts of special features. It possesses both a grandness and a coziness.
I don’t think we talk about class enough in the US, at least I don’t. I know a group of radical queers in Hartford who bring me back to class time and again–thanks Abbey and Deric. Also N. Jeanne Burns, a fellow Quaker, writes articulately about class. Megan Rohrer with her work among people who live on the streets as she as lived on the streets and has written a communal response to poverty. Perhaps one of the privileges that keep me blinded to class struggle and class oppression is my own class–living in “nice” neighborhoods, traveling in planes and trains and cars, so that I don’t SEE the struggles. I walk around with a curtain in front of my face that blocks the view and instead plays pretty picture and fun programs to distract me–Oh look it is the next generation of iPhones. Maybe I can watch Glee on it! You get the point. It’s easy for me to live as if everything were cool in the world, and if it gets too dreary, well there is always YouTube.
It seems I have to fight to stay awake, informed, engaged. So many forces conspire to dull my mind and keep me from seeing reality. Abbey was writing on her Facebook about how so many people can get caught up with a Cinco de Mayo celebration, but May Day–International Workers’ Day? (cricket, cricket)
What does poverty look like in my neighborhood? I don’t know. Strange how in Luke’s Gospel Jesus is quoted as saying,
Blessed are the poor…
But then in Matthew he gets quoted as saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Suddenly it moves away from a physical poverty to a spiritual one, to which many churches infer that they need to focus primarily on souls and not economic justice. (note: there are over 300 Bible verses that refer to economic justice while only five that may say something about gays, yet I hear much more about homosexuals than the homeless coming from most ministers) Maybe Jesus was being provocative or clueless or subversive. Not sure, but if I woke up physically poor tomorrow, I would not feel blessed.
In one of my recent Jesus Loves You! Twitter posts (you can subscribe here) I tweeted:
Jesus Loves You! Blessed are the poor–well not really. At Holy Praise Tabernacle we believe poverty reveals a lack of faith and hygiene.
The poor have a hard time of it even in churches (especially in churches) where everyone is quick to blame the poor person for their physical poverty. I muse muse muse over poverty and class as I work on my newest play I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window. I welcome your thoughts, information, resources around class and poverty.