Yesterday was the first good weather day to really hang at Union Square, and everyone knew it. They were all out. The crazies & college students waving “FREE HUGS” signs, skateboarders, musicians, junkies, drunks, and I even saw Richard Edson there. And of course the first beautiful day of the year wouldn’t be complete without a street preacher yelling about the damnation & insignificance of us all.
I’d seen him before, about 2 years ago appearing from the crowd, then absorbed by another group of loud mouth fundies. But this time it seems he worked up the courage to take on the crowd all by himself on this lovely afternoon.
As I’m sitting there watching him carry on, the crowd is slowly but surely turning against him. One group sitting on the steps starts heckling, then another group are dancing around him with “FREE HUGS” signs, teasing him with unlimited hug offers, while even another group who were sitting listening to hippies on guitars turn it into a “Praise Satan” circle. And the preacher just kept on preaching.
Bible in hand he preached about how because you have to teach children NOT to sin, that’s evidence we’re born evil, and how God wishes everyone could go to heaven but “would you invite someone to your home who didn’t love you?” and on and on and on and on while I videotaped.
Then this girl who’d been sitting next to me the whole time says to me, “I think it’s funny how all these people who are talking about ‘free hugs’ and ‘loving everyone’ are being so hateful to this guy.”
“Well, first of all,” I replied, “No one’s being hateful here. No one’s trying to take swings at him, or screaming ‘Get outta here you fucking fuck!!’ They’re all just making fun and bustin his balls.”
“No one’s being hateful here. No one’s trying to take swings at him, or screaming ‘Get outta here you fucking fuck!!’ They’re all just making fun and bustin his balls.”
“Yeah true, but you know what I mean. All these kids are all back there hugging everyone and saying how much we all need to love each other, and this is how they’re treating him. It’s just funny to see them say one thing and do another.”
“I don’t think I heard anyone back there saying ‘love everyone.’ They’re just giving away free hugs.” I couldn’t believe I was defending the “free hugs’ kids. “And what they’re doing isn’t hate. They’re just bustin’ his balls New York style. This is Union Square. It has a history for exactly what’s going on here.”
“I know. I’ve lived here all my life.” She retorted. “But aren’t all these people supposed to be about free speech? They’re not even letting him talk.”
“They’re doing exactly what people should be doing to someone who’s standing on the street corner yelling crazily. It’s no different than if he were standing there yelling how martians beamed him up into their ship and he’s warning us of their iminant attack. I’d even say that he’s the one who’s ideas are… I wouldn’t say ‘hateful’… but inhumane.”
I could tell she wasn’t into any of what I was saying. She didn’t respond to me, then a few minutes later she got up and left.
I understand where she was coming from, but I couldn’t help but imagine that after several more minutes of watching all that was going on she saw the “craziness” of his beliefs reflected in her own. Hell, that was one of the first dominos in my conversion to reason.
The Useful Tool of Mockery.