SFR: Why are you back in Santa Fe?
JFW: This town has problems that are as deep and heavy as Newark, LA, the Bronx. Why be away fighting when I could be at home fighting? We’re in an apartheid situation: We have upper-class whites living up toward Canyon Road, at the top of the hill, and we have lower-class Latinos living where they’ve always lived. Santa Fe calls itself the City Different, but it’s really an extremely American city.
How do you fix that?
I think you agitate. Santa Fe can’t be treated like some crappy little Prozac vacation spot; people actually have to engage the community and worry about other people.
Even the tourists?
The tourists could dress better. If you’re coming to a place for sophistication and art, at least make some kind of effort. Don’t walk around in a North Carolina State sweatshirt.
Would you hold fashion classes?
Internment camps, actually.
Rich people are a common target of yours. How rich are you?
I’m broke. But you make a choice to be rich. That’s why there’s a difference, when you’re a lawyer, between representing a Wall Street investment banker who had every option on the planet [and] still decided to screw people and a poor guy who had to steal some bread.
And you’re choosing clients based on that difference?
Yeah. And hopefully they can pay me along the way. That’s why I’m so broke.
You also have beef with America. Why?
It’s a greedy country of apathetic people. Mass media and corporatism have been the coup de grâce.
You’ve participated in the mass media; is that a conflict of interest?
[Sigh] Yeah, there’s probably a degree of conflict of interest. I have tried to use it to get people to question authority.
You once flew to El Salvador just because it was dangerous. Where’s the danger in Santa Fe?
Anytime you puncture the insulation in American society, these really rough and nasty things exist right under the surface, so it can get edgy and interesting and dangerous really quickly.
How would you ‘puncture the insulation’ here?
Agitation, creative resistance—disturbing the comfortable, comforting the disturbed. What do people still talk about all the time here? Reies López Tijerina, [who] stormed the [Tierra Amarilla] courthouse in the ’60s. That kind of agitation has its place.
You once said the average American is a selfish prick on a cell phone. Still true?
Ha-ha! Yeah, totally. Totally.