Since Last Time...

By The Editors / January / February 1999
November 21st, 2007
When pulitzer prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner delivered a President's Lecture titled "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures" in mid-November, he began by admitting that he had no intention of talking about sex. "The last eleven months of listening to Ken Starr talk about sex has made me swear off the stuff," he told his Salomon Center audience. Kushner said he wanted to talk about socialism, a term he proceeded to define a dozen different ways during an hour-long torrent of words.

In rapid, breathless, and occasionally exhausting sentences, Kushner, whose two-part play, Angels in America, won a Pulitzer in 1993, quoted liberally from such leftist thinkers as Walter Benjamin, Raymond Williams, and Louis Althusser - once stopping to call Williams' grammar "perfect, but a little twisty." He spoke less as a playwright than as a preacher bearing his own gospel: "Oh God of the free market, whose bible is the Wall Street Journal and whose dwelling place is the University of Chicago, hear our complaint!" he exclaimed with grammar that was, well, a little twisty. "Look at what we are expected to put up with. The balanced budget signals in advance the end of environmental control, decent public education, any hope for health care, funding for the arts, and the whole phalanx of miseries the gleaning of any daily paper will pile up."

Socialism to Kushner is not so much a system as the belief in a more appealing version of humanity. "Seeing people as good, forced to behave badly," Kushner said, "is a salutary and invigorating exercise, which, even if it turns out to be a mistaken faith, helps one to see how much evil is visited undeservedly on people."

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January / February 1999