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


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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

fuckingtrump

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.

 

Just say no?

Monday, December 5th, 2016

For eight years, since the moment President Barack Obama took office, the Republican party has just said no.

No to a health care plan based on one of their own.

No to a stimulus plan even though the economy was on the precipice of disaster.

No to education reforms that they had previously championed.

No to raising the debt ceiling, which led to a national credit downgrade, which roiled the markets and threw the economy back into jitters.

No to giving a hearing, just a hearing, to the President’s Supreme Court nominee — one they had previously liked — under the ridiculous pretense that it needed to wait until after the presidential election despite all history to the contrary, as well as something called the United States Constitution, which they had sworn to uphold.

No even to basic respect, as they challenged the President’s birthplace, refused even to be photographed him, told bald-faced lies about him, insinuated or directly stated that he’s a Muslim (which he is not — but which, it should be said, is not against the law), and even went so far as to interrupt the State of the Union with the hurled imprecation, “You lie!”

And the price they have paid for all this is… nothing.

As Politico relates in painful detail, they have been rewarded with the full monty:  the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and, soon, the Supreme Court.

Their intransigence isn’t even ideological. Many of the things they’ve objected to were proposals that they originated. No, it was 100% pure party politics. Their goal was to put their party before the country.

But saying no is easy when it isn’t your hand on every lever. Now they’re going to want to do things.

I wonder if the Democrats will say no.

How last night felt for most of us

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Everything’s still here — but it’s been moved around, like a burglar came in while we were out at the movies. It makes for an uncomfortable scene in your own home.

Stephen Colbert had a similar sort of night, it turns out, but his was televised.

Silver linings

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
  1. Now we’ll have a First Lady we can see naked on the internet if we want.
  2. No excuses for GOP now.
  3. Now that there’s no opposition to drop bombs on, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc., soon out of business?
  4. Won’t have to ever hear from Hillary Clinton again.
  5. Good material for comedians for at least four years.
  6. Good daily reminder of principles I don’t share. Keeps me strong.

After the burial

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

The election was called about three hours ago, but the result was obvious almost from the start, when the first returns started to come in.

Hats off to my friend Doug. Months ago, he called it. He pointed at the Brexit and gasped, and then he closely tracked what was coming, with mounting alarm. I owe him dinner. I wish I could feel good about his winning the point. (He doesn’t feel good about it either.)

I’m already over my anger and my sadness. Life goes on tomorrow. If we’re going to have a global recession because of this, as is the hot topic at the moment, I refuse to contribute to it. I’m going to get up tomorrow and fight for my little corner of the economy just like every other day.

I also won’t root against President-elect Trump. Yes, it’s hard to even write the title; I loathe him. But what I did like was his victory speech. It was completely unexpected in tone, being  generous of spirit, and just what we needed, in calling for people to come together. I hope we’ll see more of that. I will oppose him and his positions when I disagree, which will be almost all the time, but I have to hope for him to succeed. You see, I live with him. So do you. So does everyone else on the planet. So we must hope for the best.

What little anger I have left, after this long and exhausting and disgusting national contest, is directed at the media who made billions of dollars off the Trump campaign before finally approaching it as a serious candidacy, and, especially, at many of the elders in the Democratic party. Two years ago, I said to many of those people, “Ready for Hillary?!?!? NO, I’m not ready for Hillary. I want an actual contest with actual primaries.”  But party elders worked to clear the field for her — and here we are. Eight years ago, she was beaten by an inexperienced and (let me say it) black man, against all odds — and then this year was almost beaten by an elderly, socialist, Jewish Senator from Vermont with almost zero track record of success. And tonight she was beaten by a misogynistic, profiteering tyro with no understanding of the job requirements. So you know who I’m blaming right now? The Democrats who actively discouraged an actual contest and pushed the nomination of an unpopular candidate with a history of blowing a lead.

But the dirt is already on that coffin. And after the burial, life goes on.

Goodbye, 538; I guess you couldn’t count

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

badprediction

I’m sharing this, from FiveThirtyEight.com — back from yesterday, which now seems like a millennium ago, back when 538 still had a relevant business model. As of 2 minutes ago, they’re the new Pets.com.