Today’s terror level in America: Orange, or High. It’s also the colour of the current commander in chief. Co-incidence? I don’t think so.
Sex, money and religion are the holy trinity of terror. Though there are myriad methods of manipulating the masses, these three are among the most popular. And Donald Trump employs them all. Hugely. But the Cheeto in Chief does not own the market on terror tactics. Sadly, he only codifies them. In every office, school, home and facebook group someone is being terrorized. It’s just a matter of scale.
I began this triptych seven years ago. The statements that accompany each piece are slightly edited versions of the originals that appeared with the pieces when they were first exhibited. TERROR!ST was first presented in 2012. TERRORI$T followed in 2016. TERRORISt, the final installation of the series, I completed in 2018.
All three pieces are entirely hand stitched; by my estimation that’s over 113,000 stitches.
I enjoy the slow, meditative quality of hand stitching cloth. It gives me time to think.
I sometimes sew in silence; just me and my dog, Dash snoring softly at my feet. Sometimes I listen to music. I’ve probably sung the entire score from “Grease” twenty times while stitching (Dash would not have stuck around for that). Mostly I listen to podcasts. My favourites are “Our Miss Brooks”, “You Must Remember This”, “Savage Lovecast”, and “Ear Hustle”. However, since the election of Donald Trump, I have been tuning in to far too many podcasts focused on American politics. A caution: be careful using sharp objects while listening to Rachel Maddow.
These textiles quite literally hold my blood, sweat and tears.
I’ll do just about anything if I’m wearing a mask. Anonymity can be very liberating. Just ask anyone who’s encountered a glory hole (or a confessional). Masks can come in many forms: balaclavas, beards, burkhas, hairpieces, harnesses, hoodies, robes, rhetoric, religion.
The “War on Terror” may have abated, but the war on sexuality continues under the guise of “morality”. What motivates most oppressors is their own fear. Ironically, it’s their favourite tool with which to oppress. The righteous, when fully engorged, can cast a long shadow.
In 2011, David Kato, a Ugandan teacher and LGBTQ activist was murdered because of his sexual orientation. A Ugandan newspaper had printed a photo of him and a number of other queer activists along with their addresses under the headline: “Hang Them”. In October, 2012, 15 year old Jamie Hubley, from Ottawa, committed suicide after years of relentless bullying. Also in 2012, the Ontario Catholic School Board tried to deny students the right to use the term “Gay/Straight Alliance” for LGBTQ support groups in their schools. The students won.
“TERROR!ST” is a rainbow missive to the masses: “Rise up against the demonization of sex!”
The love of money is the root of all evil.
– The Bible
The point is, you can never be too greedy.
– Donald Trump
Two things used to terrorize people around the world are: power and poverty. Money buys power. Does that make power evil? Power buys government. Does that make government evil?
In Canada every elected Member of Parliament, both federal and provincial, must fundraise for their party while in office. That’s to ensure that they have a “war chest” ready for the next election. So we pretty much pay them to keep themselves in a job. That’s evil on a pretty sophomoric level. I’m not saying Canadian politicians are lily white (though most of them actually are lily white, as well as old, straight and male) but they could learn a thing or two from the pros.
Take the Republican Party (also mostly white, old, straight men). Across the U.S., states like North Carolina (R) and Mississippi (R) are passing draconian laws that vilify and discriminate against the LGBT community. These so called “religious liberty” bills allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to queers citing religious objections. Now that’s evil on an impressive, appalling scale.
And speaking of appalling, Donald Trump decided he wanted to be president and all he had to do was dig his tiny hands into his big greasy wallet. He has bought one of the biggest platforms on the planet from which he tweets his tyrannical, lame-ass tantrums. Trump really raises the bar when it comes to evil. We’re talking Evil Olympics here. The dictionary defines “terrorist” as, “a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims”. Well Trump has promised a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, while calling Mexicans “killers and rapists”. He has vowed to bar all Muslims from entering the country, saying “Islam hates us”. Trump has said that Syrian refugees should be sent back to their war ravaged homeland. He’s also threatened punishment for women who obtain abortions and he opposes marriage equality. Hell, Trump actually advocated roughing up people who came to his rallies simply to express themselves - a right guaranteed by the United States Bill of Rights.
Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy power. And a really bad haircut.
Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.
– Jon Stewart
A few weeks after my birth, I was baptized in the Anglican church. That pretty much encapsulates the breadth of my relationship with “the Church”. I didn’t even enjoy the drag (I was wearing the Hare family baptismal gown, which was sadly lacking in sequins and taffeta). I’m sure the minister was sincere as he talked about sin and hell and all that, but jeez louise, I’d only just landed on the planet, and the first thing they do (after pinching my foreskin, another barbaric practice rooted in religion, thanks for nothing) is start lecturing me on good and evil? And never stop? Puh-lease!
Religion as a tool of terror is extremely effective. Having an invisible, all powerful and strangely vengeful being on your roster really tilts the field in your favour. Why was slavery pervasive across the world for millennia? Ask God. Why are men superior to women? God says so. Why should queers be cursed with eternal damnation? ‘Cause, “God hates fags”. Why do innocent children have their genitals mutilated today? It’s a covenant with you know who.
(And, yes, I’m still bitter.)
Of course, threatening people with hellfire and damnation is not just the province of Christians.
All organized religions have done their best to manipulate, oppress and generally instill fear in people the world over. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Magdalene laundries, residential schools, the Moral Majority, Sharia, the Religious Right, Jihad, IS; the list of bloody campaigns executed in the name of religion is long and harrowing.
“Terrorism” is defined as, “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Circumcision, church-condoned pedophilia, attempts to eradicate indigenous peoples, the relentless oppression of women, blatant homophobia; these are just a sampling of the arsenal that religions use to keep the attention of their devotees. And hey! There’s always that chance at eternal glory (if you’ll just pony up the cash). Sounds like “violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” to me.
From a very young age we are taught that at the heart of all religions is love. As we grow older and wiser it becomes increasingly difficult to remember that. James Baldwin said, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within”. I agree. Our salvation depends on it.