Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Actual, not alternative, fact

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Clearly, California is falling apart. How else to explain that it just surpassed France as the world’s 6th largest economy, even though it’s only one out of 50 states? Sad.


No shame

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

There’s an awful lot of reprehensible behavior in the world.

But targeting the parents of a murdered little boy represents a subterranean low. Even for the friends and allies of our president.

What to say?

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

What is there to say about the past eight days that hasn’t already been said elsewhere and better? Nothing, except to say that I’m honestly terrified — by what has already happened to my country, and what the immediate future undoubtedly holds.

Every day I’ve been taking some sort of action in opposition. I marched in the women’s march (and, yes, there were 750,000 of us crammed into downtown Los Angeles in a remarkably friendly, peaceful, thoughtful, considerate protest). I’ve been doing emails and phone calls (and we’ll see if they have any impact). I agreed to help out with the endorsement meeting for Congressman Xavier Becerra’s replacement next Sunday. (Becerra is our new state attorney general, so there’s an opening.) I signed up to help swing a district near me from red to blue.

And, importantly, every day I’m looking for some comfort that, maybe, the reign of terror won’t be permanent. Here are some that I’ve found:

  • On Thursday, I went to a local Democratic club meeting. Normally, it’s hard to get eight people out for this thing. Thirty-eight people showed up — the vast majority of them new to political engagement, and eager to take on Trump.
  • I have many Republican friends — conservative, patriotic, Republican friends who consider Trump a radical and not a conservative, and also a traitor. Some of my well-connected Republican friends have reassured me that we haven’t lost the Republic (yet?) and that we’ll bounce back from this. This piece in The Atlantic, from an actual conservative Republican, supports this line of thought.
  • The ACLU won some victories against the immigration ban.
  • Three million people showed up to march against Trump last Saturday. That’s a lot of people. Assuming that we have elections in two years, that could make quite a difference.
  • Finally, even Dick Cheney says Trump’s immigration ban is un-American: “Well, I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from.”

I have no idea what’s going to happen with all this, and neither does anyone else. Except I’m sure it’s going to get worse. In the meantime, we need to do our best to enjoy the day, be grateful for what we’ve got, and fight for what we believe in.

Advice for today and every day

Friday, January 20th, 2017


Don’t hope for the best.

Work for the best.

Where Obama is going in retirement

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

It’s not where you think.

Party politics

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

I went to a party tonight co-hosted by an actress friend who I’ve been doing theatre with for almost 15 years now. She’s been in a few of my plays, we actually acted in a play together (yes, I’ve acted in two plays in the past 30 years), she’s done readings from my workshop and the private dramaturgy I do sometimes, and she’s my friend. (None of that is in order of importance. I think I’d put “friend” first.) Incredibly, over that 15 years she’s somehow gotten more youthful and even more beautiful. How that’s possible I don’t know, but she should bottle it and sell it.

She makes her living in acting-related work:  production work and video and so forth.

Her boyfriend — a great guy who is an audiophile — is a partner in a start-up company that offers test prepping.

I also saw a friend who is a voiceover actress who I’m not sure I ever actually met before — neither of us was sure — but we know each other through Facebook.

I saw the husband and wife who run a long-running (20 years!) improv troupe.

And my adored good friend who is a nurse. And her new husband who is a teacher.

And others.

And I went there not — not — wanting to discuss politics or the horror that faces us starting next Friday — but it was there instantly. I was the second guest to arrive, and immediately the discussion veered onto Trump. Donald J. Trump. Soon to be President Donald J. Trump.

This is a low moment for America. Or perhaps the nadir. And maybe the sunset, or the total eclipse.

The discussion went on for hours, and no matter where someone tried to steer it — it came back to Trump. Which I know would just make him more gleeful. He loves being discussed, and part of him even loves being attacked. To quote Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Trump personifies this ideal. The majority of we who voted aren’t upset because we “lost” an election; we’re upset because a knave and a scoundrel, a person who personifies the lowest of the low, a person completely devoid of integrity or character, is now going to be occupying our highest office and representing us to the nation and the world.

Let me point out that while everyone admitted and agreed that we couldn’t personally relate to the economic plight of unemployed or underemployed people in Ohio, or Minnesota, or Pennsylvania — we’re all nevertheless middle class. No one at the party was in the 1%, or the 1/10 of 1% — nobody, in other words, would have been eligible for service in the Trump cabinet — but we were appalled, outraged, saddened by the idea that this mendacious sociopath is going to become the president of the United States next Friday.

In the face of this, there was really nothing else to talk about. The reality of it was like the dead body in the room. In the Ionesco play “Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It,” a married couple  try to ignore  a continually growing corpse in the other room. Finally, as it sprouts mushrooms and begins to exhaust their living space (Act Two begins with just two giant legs thrust onstage, the corpse having grown to Brobdignagian size), they resolve to deal with it. This giant dead body, like the presence of death, has taken over their lives — much like the looming threat of Trump is occupying all the space around us.

Much as I didn’t want to address politics — much, in fact, as I hadn’t wanted to address it this same morning in my playwriting workshop — it’s everywhere. It’s unavoidable. It keeps coming up because it’s always there. Somehow we’ve awoken in the banana republic predicted by Wallace Shawn in “The Dedicated Mourner” — a scenario I’d previously rejected as too outlandish, but which now seems all too possible. (One hallmark of banana republics:  the installation of near relatives in senior positions — as we’re seeing with Trump’s two sons, his daughter, and his son-in-law.) I find myself wondering if I’m witnessing the death of America.

Faced with the nightmare of an incalculably ill-suited president elected partly through the ministrations of a foreign government, I’ve done a little something every day to register my opposition and arm my fellows. After a two-decade lapse, I’ve rejoined the ACLU. At least, my thinking goes, maybe they can tie some of this up in court. I’ve participated in very local elections that resulted in whole skeins of activist youth joining the state Democratic Party. On Thursday, I’ll be participating with my theatre company Moving Arts in The Ghostlight Poject, a national event where theatre artists publicly commit themselves to what most of us would recognize as the ideals of the nation. And given that I’ve spent the last 12 years volunteering, serving as a delegate, knocking on doors, raising money, making calls, and canvassing in-state and out-of state, I’m sure I’ll be doing even more with my anger and my upset. Because I’ll have to, or I’ll feel complicit by default.

But what felt best tonight, and this morning, was being surrounded with people who share in my alarm, and just getting to vent my very real fears and voice my desperate uncertainty about how we’ve lost our nation, and so suddenly, and how we might be able to get it back.

Exit, stage-left

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

One benefit of safe, secure service in academia is that it removes you from any accountability, while enabling you to pursue your career in the game of entertainment outrage. Hence Cornel West (and Newt Gingrich) and hence West’s latest ludicrous tissue of fabrication, which you can find here. What we have here is, once again, West’s litany of unhappiness with Obama, newly stapled onto the baseless accusation that Obama’s faults led to Trump’s election. To many of us, this would more properly serve as a reminder of Hillary Clinton’s faults, but that wouldn’t serve West’s prevailing need to debase and deny Obama, as he has done for nine years now.

Now that Obama has said farewell, I wonder what new target West will find to stay in the news. It can’t be Trump — that’s too obvious, given that everybody else in West’s camp is already aiming there.

Trump joke of the day

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

This latest revelation lends new meaning to the term “news leak.”

Free comic cheer

Monday, December 19th, 2016

On a day when Donald J. Trump officially gets elected president of the United States, and the Russian ambassador is assassinated in Turkey, I think we all need to look at the 50 comic books that are going to be available to you for free on Free Comic Book Day next May 6.

So here they are. Enjoy.

Deconstructing Time

Friday, December 9th, 2016


Here’s why, being more than just a photograph of the (shudder) President-elect, Time’s “Person of the Year” cover makes a subtle statement about power, conspiracy, and impending crisis.