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Protesters marched against Monsanto and genetically modified organisms in 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Did Our Anti-Monsanto Song Beat The Three Hates?

(or 'If Monsanto Loses Its Name, What Will The Lovers Go On To Love Even More? Bayer’s $57 Billion Offer Means Organic Farming Lovers Must Rethink Their Praise!')

Rev. Billy Talen

We were approached recently by the Wall Street Journal. A writer on agriculture subjects wanted to know about what Monsanto protesters will do when the object of their wrath merges with, and disappears into, the Bayer Corporation. How does a protester continue? The article based on our conversations was published last week on the WSJ’s front page (below the fold).

"What if we had a national newspaper that hired Earth-lovers as editors?"

But it is the on-line version that rocked our world. The WSJ article for our screens, seen by nearly a million readers per day, was very different indeed. The headline and subtitle above called us “haters” three times. “If Monsanto Loses Its Name, What Will Its Haters Have Left To Hate?” And then below that in italics: “Bayer’s $57 billion offer means GMO haters must rethink their insults; ‘two devils’.” The lead photo (above) features a protester’s sign from a South African anti-GMO march that’s straight out of a 30’s Hollywood movie about dark magic savages. The sign depicts a Honeybee with a pitch-black death’s head, and scarlet cat’s eyes. Under this killer bee is the phrase 'Monsanto Monster.'

It was as if they couldn’t call us haters often enough… But once the reader gets past this name-calling and its scary death’s head protest sign, do we measure up to our vitriolic billing? We appear to be a bunch of singers with a decidedly light-hearted kind of hate. In fact, the writer, a man named Jacob Bunge, seemed to know how to outwit the headline and photo editors that loom over his writing. He must have known that these Murdoch editors couldn’t get at the reality of our songs.

The 35 activist-singers held forth for Mr. Bunge, with the iPhone held aloft in the center of our East Village rehearsal studio. (He was in Chicago): “Are we planting aspirin this spring?” Mr. Talen softly crooned, as other members of his choral group swayed along. “What does Monsanto-Bayer bring?”

Farther into the piece the picture of Occupy Monsanto’s Adam Eidinger’s art car has a giant yellow Honeybee on the roof, from an Occupy Monsanto protest about the killing of the beloved buzzy fuzzies by neonicotinoids and glyphosates from these two devil companies. But this is more like a page from an illustrated children’s book than a dark curse from the Old Testament.

I talked on the phone with Jacob Bunge probably six or seven times.

He’s a soft-spoken person and there is precision in his thoughts. He is one of WSJ’s productive writers, judging from the number of features he’s got in his archives. And he exists in this world where partisans have that shrill hate that we identify with Fox News. In fact, he reminds me of Bill McKibben at the party platform meetings of the Democratic Party, surrounded by Debbie Wasserman’s people, old labor conservatives who support fossil fuel projects, etc. McKibben representation of small town Americans and their moral opposition to fracking was beautiful and compelling writing… like a folk song. He was out-voted in advance.

Witnesses of such an articulate, but not yet successful, defense of the Earth, may create future actions that do have success in making change. That’s the good fight behind the lines. You’re surrounded, but there may be changes later. That was our hope with this WSJ piece. But we’re running out of time. As racism, war, climate change, and species extinction worsens, do we have name-calling warriors who can match the Hate Hate Hate people? Are we meeting them and opposing their energetic damnation with our own… our own what? Our own not-hate. My teacher Reverend Sidney Lanier always told me. “Love them. Love them till they cannot hate.”

The hate-shouters have noticed that their curses make us freeze. Trump mostly just stops us. That’s what the three hates did to me. I was groggy from it, out of it for a couple days. I kept saying – “What? That’s unbelievable! Can you believe they said that?” In politics, the haters seem to be winning the meta-language fight, and not just in the US.

The Earth-haters will only be stopped when we start, when we have the audacity of a lot more than hope. When will we have the language power on the level of the Earth’s language, the super storm language and that rolling force of love in the unstoppable process of regenerative evolution? How would that work as words? What if we had a national newspaper that hired Earth-lovers as editors? What if the headline of our story read: “If Monsanto Loses Its Name, What Will The Lovers Go On To Love Even More? Bayer’s $57 Billion Offer Means Organic Farming Lovers Must Rethink Their Praise!”

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Rev. Billy Talen

Rev. Billy Talen

Reverend Billy Talen is pastor of The Church of Stop Shopping, New York musicians and singers who create different kinds of ritual trespassings in corporate space while holding six-part harmonies.  Their illegal concerts have recently favored banks that finance fossil fuel industries.  Upcoming shows include the Brooklyn Folk Festival, Mother's Day at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater, and the March Against Monsanto in Miami.  Talen is the author of "The Earth Wants YOU" (2016), from City Lights Books.

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