An Interview With Will D. Campbell
When we said, “Be a Christian,” who we really got that from was Thomas Merton: Be what you are. You are already katallagete; you are already reconciled. So behave as if that’s true. It’s a fine point to make, but it’s a very important and, I think, radical point.
When I was able to open my eyes, I saw lying next to me a young man, nineteen, maybe twenty at the oldest. He was in shock, twitching and shivering uncontrollably from being tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed at close range. His burned eyes were tightly closed, and he was panting irregularly. Then he passed out. The sidewalk was wet from the water that a medic had poured over him to flush his eyes.
The lawyers are shuffling papers and nervously smoothing their ties. The clerks are talking about how chilly it is this morning. I check my watch impatiently, try to get comfortable on the hard wooden bench, glance again at the letter which informs me, as if I were an unruly student being summoned to the principal’s office, that I’ve been selected for jury duty, that this is the only notice I’ll receive, that if I fail to appear I can be held in contempt of court.
“Krome was set up on an abandoned missile base in the middle of a swamp. It’s big enough to hold about a thousand people, but they’ve got to have twice that many there now. All kinds of human rights violations. Not enough toilets, not enough water. These people haven’t done anything, but they’re being treated worse than convicted criminals. They even put hormones in the food to keep the men from rioting. It’s a concentration camp. You’ll see,” he promises me.
I once read an interview with a Taoist farmer in New Age Journal. In the spring he’d throw some rice grains on the ground as he walked around his land, then forget them. Around August he’d notice plants growing. One day, he’d pick the grains. Later, someone visiting his house would offer him money for them. “Years go by and I forget I’m a farmer,” he said.
I’m also a fag. Which means that I regard my accomplishments and abilities and virtues with considerable irony. Not because I think any less of myself in the abstract, but because I know how little my accomplishments and abilities and virtues protect me from self-doubt.