Started the day by meeting some very opinionated Brits at Speaker’s Corner. The policeman who I asked for directions to this loud area had it right: “it’s right over there, where all the nutters are.” Basically, the concept is that this is the area in London for those who have something to say. This morning, that included a populist, long-haired, economist wannabe railing against the excesses of investment banking, several sporting the latest in “Jesus Is God” jeans, loud people quite angry at America but reluctant to debate, and others best described as nutters.
One evangelist was definitely dangerously close to having a heart attack. A middle-aged man with an advanced gut, he stood on a step ladder, shouting about any who would listen. His point seemed to be basically that we’re damned to hell and he’s not. No real reasoning behind our damnation was provided, other than some vague references to Hollywood. Likewise, he simply knew he was bound for heaven: “I have been born again! I HAVE been born again!” Regardless, he needs to cut down on the church potlucks or the stressful sermons unless he wants to heart attack his way right up to heaven sometime soon.
Next came some old guy, holding up ripped crinkled sheets of newspaper and very upset. Judging by the half of the rant that I caught, his ire resulted from America being, in his opinion, pretty much the cause of all the world’s problems. I argued with him a little, especially when he told me to turn off the video camera. My claim that he was making so many good points that I wanted to preserve them for posterity didn’t go over so well, it wasn’t my camera, and some of his friends were getting pretty passionate about turning it off, so I conceded. It was definitely strange that one audience member who supported the speaker told both Joe and Mike “don’t worry, nobody will steal your video camera. Anyways, they’re pretty cheap to buy now.” Yeah, we checked to make sure that it hadn’t disappeared multiple times.
Next to bash all things American was a young, African-American guy who started by mentioning that he attended school in Washington, D.C. and then lamenting the poor treatment of minorities in America. Obviously, he’s been treated extremely poorly: attending school and so poor that he can travel internationally. He made me pretty mad as I argued with him, labeling me a “stupid American” while telling me to “shut up when the black man’s talking.” Definitely seemed hypocritical to me that he rails against discrimination based on skin color in one breath and then discriminates against me because of my nationality the next. That was one thing, but I got really pissed when he joked about his desire to be a suicide bomber and asked how America can persecute bin Laden when there’s American terrorism killing Palestinians. Rebutting his points was somewhat futile: he had a pedestal and would scream “fucking Americans” if he didn’t like the direction of a conversation. Interesting to see, but definitely a little disheartening to see the large amount of applause this jerk received.
As a younger man sporting a fedora, beard, and long hair who stood atop a pedestal labeled “Socialist’s Party” explained, Speaker’s Corner used to be where dissenters were hung. Those who rebelled against the government and were sentenced to death were fed gin by the crowds waiting to see their execution as they made their way to a tree on the corner. With death definite and intoxication substantial, they were given a final opportunity to speak their minds. Following in that tradition, many of these speakers were fairly incoherent but definitely passionate. Almost wish the drawing and quartering was still there for the suicide bomber guy…