Why Politics and Purity Don't Mix


| July / August 2004


An interview with playwright and radical gadfly Tony Kushner

Forget throwing paint at Starbucks. If you want to be a real revolutionary, try (gasp!) attending a political meeting. That's just one bit of controversial advice Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner doles out in this passionate interview from Heeb magazine. How do we survive the 21st century? According to Kushner -- who believes we are living in "absolutely the worst, most dangerous moment the human race has ever faced" -- the answer lies not in Ralph Nader or in the Green Party (or in the type of protest he describes as "performance art"), but in that most venerable -- and to some, stale -- of all institutions: the Democratic Party. -- The Editors

Tony Kushner hustles into his office clasping a cell phone in his left hand and shuffling a manuscript in his right. The nylon backpack hanging from one shoulder bears a pin reading "Preemptive War IS Terrorism." He's talking on his phone with author Grace Paley, discussing her contribution to an anthology about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he's editing. "I think it's magnificent. I wouldn't change a thing," he gushes, mouthing sorry to his assistant and just one more minute to the writer and photographer who have been awaiting his arrival. "Except there's this part where you say, 'And the American Jewish community says it's okay.' But it's not simply that we're saying the Israeli occupation is okay; we're paying for it! That seems relevant to me. You don't have to change it if you don't want to, but it's something that occurred to me."