On March 17th, singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked took the stage in San Francisco for a counter-cultural performance designed to challenge her audience’s assumptions. San Francisco crowds love that sort of thing, but last Sunday they got more than they bargained for. It turns out that while Ms. Shocked is still reliably left-wing on economics (her 2012 tour was titled ‘Roccupy!’, in sympathy with the fizzling ‘occupy’ movement), she has also become a born-again, fundamentalist Christian. She now strongly supports Proposition 8 in California, which maintains the traditional definition of marriage, and on March 17th she chose to share this opinion with her audience. Her exact words were “when they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back,” followed up by “you can go on Twitter and say, ‘Michelle Shocked says God hates fags.'”
Michelle Shocked informing a group of San Francisco fans that gay marriage will be the downfall of civilization is like Colonel Sanders telling the American Poultry Association that meat is murder. They were not amused, and it didn’t take long for the promoter to literally pull the plug on the show and send everyone home. Three days later every other venue on her itinerary had done the same, effectively cancelling her planned tour.
With one exception: the small-ish Harmony Bar, on the east side of Madison Wisconsin, has still not cancelled Michelle Shocked’s planned May 4th show. Evidently the reason is that the owner of the Harmony is on vacation, and he just hasn’t gotten around to it. Madison being the kind of place it is, a debate is raging about whether Ms. Shocked should be allowed to play and, somewhat surprisingly, Madison residents are saying she should. An online poll by the Capital Times (perhaps the most liberal daily paper in America) currently shows people voting three to one in favor of letting Michelle play.
I hope the owner of the Harmony respects the wishes of Madison residents, stands up to the professional protest community, and lets the show go on. Doing so would be a victory for free speech and real diversity. I personally find her statement that “God hates fags” to be repulsive, but support for traditional marriage is far from a minority or extremist position.
If the show does go on, I will be there. I have enjoyed many shows at the Harmony (including an epic concert in the 1990s by guitar legend Hubert Sumlin), but this one will be special. You don’t get many chances to see a left-wing icon swim upstream against the progressive tide, especially in politically-charged Madison at the one remaining show from a boycotted tour. Whatever happens, it would be a seismic cultural event, in more ways than one.
Update (3/22, 10:14 a.m. EDT): The show at the Harmony Bar in Madison is still on schedule, but only because the owner of the venue is in Mexico on vacation and hasn’t checked in with the tavern’s staff. The indications are that he will cancel like the rest of the PC crowd that had booked shows for Shocked, but no one really knows at this point.