Our democracy is dying. There are too many of us to engage in a face to face debate that elevates rather than stupefies.
At the March on Washington in 1968 I walked, not marched, down Pennsylvania Avenue arm-in-arm with my fellow citizens under the watchful eyes of the FBI snipers atop the government buildings. I felt like the million people there were fired up for the spectacle — the guerilla theater troupes, the flags, the costumes, the drugs — not the underlying reason. Maybe it’s the same for those attending a Trump rally. But looking back on the march it was the thirty thousand mothers of dead sons and the thirty thousand more waiting in the wings that knew that the spectacle didn’t matter. It was the heartbreaking subtext in the script that the stage lights should have been trained on.
So now we’ve got The Trumpster, a perfect foil for our distaste in our political tastebuds. He’s a master at committing to an untruth that the great unwashed accepts as a fact that must be embraced and defended. “Make America Great Again” is the baloney in a baloney sandwich. “Make America White Again,” a code phrase, is what’s being said, but we already knew that. Could such a notion really exist in our collective American heart? Can we accept that half of us don’t share our progressive world leading attitude?
The “others” that didn’t vote the way we expected are just angry at Washington, but who isn’t. Everybody knows that Washington is a monumental cesspool of ego. So we blindly selected a seasoned political hack, who’s also a woman with four years as Secretary of State. Let us not worry. She’ll surely win the day and we can go on thinking that what we think of ourselves is all that matters. Perhaps Trump is just a very savvy business man who knows his customers will believe anything and buy everything. Couple that with his opponent — an exhausted non-political politician gasping for one last round of attention even if that attention was the kind we give the nice grandmother next door who secretly annoys us.
And the war continued for another five years.
The tv network’s campaign reporting, as usual, was dreadful. Their so called “balanced and fair” coverage laughable. Every time I checked on CNN there was the Trump word hitched with some earth shaking blather of his that required wall-to-wall, gavel-to-gavel trivia spoken by overpaid, over dressed head nodding mannequins.
Are we citizens or viewers? Is it apathy or stupidity or plain old head-in-the-sand comfort that leads us to accept the avarice, chicanery and arrogance of the political insiders. They, the bureaucrats that proclaimed that they never were, never could be, are all burning the midnight oil of influence peddling. “But Trump isn’t a politician,” cried his supporters. “He’ll free us from the colored liars who shoot cops and give money to the Arabs and the poor alike.”
Could racism be alive and well in America? Studying it with words wrapped up in doctoral theses ain’t gonna git it done. Maybe being different is always going to be different or maybe curiosity about those differences voiced loudly will lead to some kind of understanding about the us that’s in them.
I don’t know.
The Trumpster is about to stuff the various agencies and departments with white guy billionaires. Do we hope that their long lunches get longer, the wine glasses bigger, and the afternoon naps deeper? Or do we trade in our apathy for the messy, confusing art of self-government? Do we stop emulating the rationalizations of the people who work for the tobacco companies? Do we continue to suspect that the government, whoever they are, secretly wants to take away our guns? Do we accept that we are all grown-up living on a planet that is revolving in space and that planet can easily sicken and die? Do we realize that nuclear war can happen?
Or do we demand of ourselves a future of artful expression, opportunity, self-discipline and love?
I don’t know…
And is my “I don’t know” a code phrase for I don’t want to think about it?
A playwright, actor and director, A.W. (Al) Brown is best know for Back to Back, which premiered at the Empty Space in Seattle, was produced in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, and London, and received a NEWSDAY nomination for Best New Play of 1982, as well as Los Angeles DramaLogue and Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards. He has twice been invited to the Sundance Institute and has received commissions from the Mark Taper Forum and the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville. Residencies include the Seattle Repertory Theatre, CenterStage in Baltimore, Denver Center Theatre, and the Cricket Theatre in Minneapolis. While in the Twin Cities, Al received a McKnight Advancement Grant as well as winning the Dudley Riggs Comedy Theatre’s Sketch Writing Competition. Al was also chosen for the 1997/98 National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Playwright Residency Award of $25,000 for a new work which was developed at the Salt Lake Acting Company. He’s written three yet to be published novels, and has spent his thirty years with me making me laugh out loud every day.