Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

What, Me Worry? | What? Me Worry!

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 23, 2016 @ 9:13 am PDT

userpic=trumpMy 57th year starts concurrently with the term of President Trump? Should I be worried? Here is some news chum related to the subject:

  • The Power of the President. There are some out there worried that Trump may attempt to abuse his power. But what power does the President have, in reality. Just ask President Obama. A Vox article reports that he didn’t realize how limited the Presidency was until he became President. The article notes that, on a great many issues, the president isn’t the policy-wonk-in-chief, he’s the coalition-builder-in-chief. And without a strong enough coalition, he can’t get his way. This is true on issue after issue — from gun control to the cap-and-trade bill to immigration reform. In terms of actually getting things done — and especially in terms of creating large shifts in policy — the path will be slow. Of course, there’s always Twitter, where Trump is a master of creating problems. Just ask Lockheed Martin.
  • The Power of the Courts. There’s another roadblock in the way of Trump’s excesses: The court system. The LA Times has an interesting article on how the court system will serve to restrain Trump. Georgetown law professor David Cole, who in January will become the ACLU’s national legal director, said he is “optimistic the courts will stand up against abuses of power” in the Trump era, citing the courts’ moderating impact on “war on terror” following the 9/11 attacks. For many executive orders, the courts have limited their application or applicability (even under Obama). Further, the courts tend to preserve constitutional rights once granted, and tend to hold with precedence.
  • The Power of the Shul. One thing many people didn’t realize was that no matter who won the election, Clinton or Trump, there would be a Jewish In-Law in the White House. In this case, it is Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump — and the two of them are shul shopping. Once we get past the point that, no, this isn’t shoe shopping :-), there is a serious question. Many Jews supported Clinton; more overall than Trump. Can politics be left at the shul door? This is something I often face — we have many Trump conservatives in our Synagogue’s Men’s Club (in fact, we’ve had a similar political chain: I (a Clinton/Obama Liberal) termed out as MoTAS President, and my replacement is a strongly Conservative (who I think supports Trump). Yet we’re able to set aside politics and be friends. Will this be possible for Jared and Ivanka, and will their new spiritual leader be able to provide any influence to the new administration.
  • The Power of 4Chan. On the other side of the potential limiting factors of the above is the rise of “4 Chan Politics”. 4Chan politics, according to TechCrunch, is the rise of the people “emboldened by the seeming anonymity of the Internet and the ability for things that happen there to have real-world consequences – that have hijacked national discourse. They are the hackers who sway elections, who break civil contracts, who leak pictures of us naked. They are the eggs and Tumblr-posters who call each other – and others – the worst of slurs. They are the ones who sit behind their keyboards and rail at the world or, worse, pull the strings to which they have access from their secret places. […] They are people who have been given a megaphone and prefer to burp and curse and shout into it rather than help. They are the ones who yell “Jump” to the man on the bridge because of his implied weakness.” Donald Trump is clearly a 4Chan politician, given his use of Twitter. The article is a really interesting read. It talks about how these folks threaten free speech — for when they are called on their idiocy, they tend to attack the “free speech warriors” with DDOS attacks and such.

Of course, one can ignore it all, stick one’s head in the sand, and wonder all day instead what your testicles do when you are just sitting there. You know you wanted to know.


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How To Be Smarter Than a Democrat?

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Dec 19, 2016 @ 6:14 pm PDT

Well, sorry to say (from my point of view), but it looks like Donald Trump has won the electoral college vote. We won’t know for sure until the votes are counted by the House in January, but I’m sure that election won’t be hacked.

Yup, sure.

Unlike, say, how the election that got us Trump was hacked. We may never know whether what the Russians did was sufficient to change votes, but we know how they did it, and some of the ways the influence occured. So, let’s see if you can be smarter than a Democrat. Note that I’m not saying “Democrats” in general, but some specific Democrats in Hillary’s organization.

How did they basically do it? Social engineering. Read the New York Times account of the hack. Podesta was phished, and the starting place was a purported message from Google indicating an account had been hacked, and a password needed to be changed.  That, combined with a warning message that mistyped “illegitimate” as “legitimate”, and the damage was done.

See, what people forget is that the weakest link in the security chain is the human link. It is incredibly easy to do a social engineering attack. Our nature is such that we want to be helpful, and we fall for it. Here’s an example: During our recent security conference, one of the banquet staff found a USB drive that someone left behind, and he asked us to return it to its owner. We promptly tossed it. What would you do? Many people would put it in their computer to find the owner — and potentially be hacked. Or they would just announce it and hand it to the owner, letting them be hacked. One never knows what changes were made to that drive when it was out of your sight (this, by the way, is a good reason to use encrypted USB drives).

What about other attacks? Those ads you see on webpages? They can insert malware into your router without you knowing it. They could bring in ransomware? My malware dectector has frequently intercepted malicious ads on non-malicious sites. Sites you go to every day. These sites often don’t have control of their ad networks.

By the way, you do have regular backups, right? Not always connected to your computer? Not in the cloud? Could you survive the sudden loss of your data?

As they say, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and…. well, we’ve just seen the fool get elected. Let’s not be fooled again.

P.S.: And what should you do about the fool? The answer is not to use your computer to sign a petition or send an email. The answer is to take time and write your congresscritters and senators, and as many other congressional people as you can, a hand-written letter. Legibly. This shows that the issue is important for you to take the time. Send it to their local office, or call. Insist that Congress hold Trump to the exact same standards of ethics, no conflicts of interest, and highest quality of minimally-partisan appointments to which they held Obama. Different Presidents should not have different standards. And, just like with Obama and Bill Clinton, they should investigate the littlest impropriety or questionable action by the President or any member of his administration. All Presidents and his staff should be held to the same standards.

PS: And if you don’t hold with that position, then please explain why Trump should not be held to the same standard. Party shouldn’t make a difference in how we expect the President to behave, so you must have some other reason. Our President should be the role model for the country, someone that our children can look up to see how a leader behaves.


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Facebook Annoyances

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 15, 2016 @ 7:28 pm PDT

This is a rant that has been brewing for a couple of weeks, about some real annoyances, in the political realm, that I’ve been seeing on Facebook. And — before you go there — this isn’t necessarily about specific people.

Annoyance The First: Petitions

How often do you see posts shared along the lines of “Prosecute Trump for Some Egregious Activity — Sign the Petition”? I see them all the time. Well, I have news for people: Petitions — especially online petitions — are meaningless. Although many believe we have a democracy, we don’t. If we did, Hillary would be President, as just like Al Gore before her. We have a representative government. Further, at the Federal level, there are no initiatives, no petitions, nothing that can force the government to do anything. So stop it with the petitions already. They are a waste of effort, and not worth the paper they aren’t printed on.

Do you want to use your voice to effect change with the incoming government. Write a letter. Make a phone call. In particular, if you have a Republican representative, write (you know, with that thing called a pen) or call and let them know they need to push back against the more egregious behavior of the incoming President. There’s no problem with Republican appointments, but they should be the best and brightest Republicans, not Republicans loaded with conflicts of interest working against the interests of the majority of the people. Remind them of the upcoming elections in two years, and let them know that if Trump damages America, they will be blamed for not doing the constitutional job of Congress.

Annoyance the Second: “Bet They Didn’t Expect This”

I’m tired of seeing news articles citing some exaggerated story, and then going “bet they didn’t expect this.” Guess what. They don’t care. They are going to do whatever they think they need to do to get ahead, and the thing they didn’t expect — well, it probably won’t happen.

Don’t waste your time spreading sensationalized news and getting your hopes up. Things are not going to be suddenly overturned, electors are not going to meet and elect Hillary. This mess — which we created through flawed candidates, flawed campaigning, and false hope — isn’t going to be fixed easily. We’re going to be in for a very bumpy ride.

So what do you do about it? See what I said above. Write letters and call your congress and senate critters to insist they hold Trump to the same standards they insisted for Obama and Clinton. No conflicts of interest. No illegal activities. No skirting the law. No appointing unqualified people or shills for a particular position. Our standards should not change because we have a reality TV star as President. Insist that Congress do their job: ensuring the President governs for all the people and not himself, and that he is a shining example of how to do things right, not how to get away with wrong. Do this by sitting down with pen and paper, and especially write to Republican leadership. Emails and online petitions are meaningless.



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Counting the Days

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 29, 2016 @ 11:10 am PDT





Ever since #ThanksgivingThursday, the days this week have been relentlessly programmed to separate people from their hard-earned funds in a rampant display of capitalism or guilt-driven charity. Getting up early to go shopping at the stores on #BlackFriday (you should have seen the crowds when we drove past the Citadel Outlets late Friday night). Encouraging people to support small local businesses instead of global conglomerates on #SmallBusinessSaturday. Cajoling people to spend time at work on #CyberMonday to do their holiday shopping under their employer’s noses. And for those guilty from all that excessive consumerism, you can donate to your favorite charities on #GivingTuesday.

Lord knows what they have planned for tomorrow. Perhaps #WelfareWednesday anyone?

All of this, of course, is part of the global machinery to encourage excessive spending on Christmas, which is where most retailers make their money for the year, combined with the typical year-end exhortations to encourage people to donate so you can deduct in the current tax year.  We have turned holidays that have religious significance — Christmas celebrating the start of Christianity, Chanukkah demonstrating a win in the battle against assimilation, and Kwanzaa celebrating… well, I’m not sure what it celebrates — into events designed to line pocketbooks and purses.

That seems wrong, at least to me.

At our house, we operate on the philosophy that we get goodies for ourselves and our families when we can afford them, and when we need them. We don’t wait until the holidays. We also patronize retailers that offer good prices all year round — not retailers that mark things up over the year for everyone so they can offer deep discounts to a few on #BlackFriday or #CyberMonday. We make a point of always patronizing the small local business first. These are our practices — we don’t need marketed days to remind us.

We also determine the charities and organizations we support at the beginning of the year, and support them year round as best we are able: either through donations or spreading the word about them to others.

We need to start pushing back against this commercialization of the week after Thanksgiving. The holiday season is not about sales and spending. It is about family, and reminding us on what our values should be. It is not wondering if the 3 wise men stopped at a #BlackFriday sale to pick up the frankincense, myrrh, and spices they brought to Baby Jesus, or if the Maccabees took advantage of #CyberMonday to order their oil and menorahs at a bargain price.


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Do We Rejoice at the Death of an Enemy?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 27, 2016 @ 7:45 am PDT

userpic=hugsI was reading Facebook this morning (as I do when I get up), when I saw a post from a politically-conservative roadgeek friend of mine related to the death of Fidel Castro. It showed a picture of President Obama in Cuba, and said:

Why wouldn’t this piece of work send condolences for his departed hero? We already know what he’s about. There’s plenty of room in Hell for every damn one of them.

I stopped and I looked at it. I stared and thought. I wasn’t surprised to see this from this friend — he’s part of a group of very conservative folk who are still filled with hatred — burning hatred — for President Obama, and who have been gleeful at the death of Castro. But what I was thinking — and what triggered this post — was that the stone cold hatred that our partisan political atmosphere has engendered over the past 24 years (since the election of President Clinton), has burned out human compassion.

I’m not Christian, but my understanding from my Christian friends is that Christ taught compassion — he taught us to see the humanity even in those we hate. He preached love and caring, not hatred and war. In Christian theology, who is it that practices a philosophy of hatred, who wants to foment war, who wants to advance Armageddon, to wants to turn men against their neighbors? Who, on the other hand, preaches that we need to treat our neighbors as we would want to be treated? To care about the sick and the hurt and those in pain? When we, as humans, give into all consuming hatred of anyone (and that includes our political opponents), who are we letting win the war?

I do know that in Jewish tradition, compassion is a key part of our tradition. During the Passover ceremony, where we remember our escape from the tyranny of Egypt and from Pharaoh, we read:

Though we descend from those redeemed from brutal Egypt,
and have ourselves rejoiced to see oppressors overcome,
yet our triumph is diminished
by the slaughter of the foe,

We remember the Talmudic teaching: “When the Egyptian armies were drowning in the sea, the Heavenly Hosts broke out in songs of jubilation.  God silenced them and said, “My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises?””

So, to the question at hand:

Why wouldn’t this piece of work send condolences for his departed hero?

Why would you not send condolences when someone dies — even someone you hate. There are commonalities for every human: we rejoice with a family at a safe birth, and we mourn with a family when someone they love has passed way. This is human compassion. Condolence aren’t about the person who died — they are about the family and loved ones left behind. Even if a person was pure evil, they had mothers and fathers who, at least at some point in their life, loved them. They had people that, at some point in their life, cared about them. What does it cost us to show human compassion to those left behind? We might not feel sorry; we might not be able to say, “I feel sorry for your loss.” But we should be able to say, “I understand the pain and sorry you feel at your loss.”

Further, little gestures of compassion can go a long way. Responding to hate with compassion demonstrates the people that we are. It shows that beneath the rhetoric, we see that our foes are people to. They have parents that love them; they love and care about their children. They have close friends who will miss them when they are gone. Even the Grinch and Scrooge, deep inside, had a spark of humanity, and had someone who cared about them. Even for an evil person, showing compassion to their loved ones can rebuild and mend bridges.

In the case of Fidel Castro, it is a great thing for Cuba and the Americas that he is gone. We can share in the joy that one more brutal dictator has passed away. But we must temper that joy with the realization that Castro still had family that loved him, and that there are many people in Cuba in mourning at his passing. What does it hurt us to offer condolences to them? What can’t we have empathy for their loss, even though we are glad that the man is gone?

To my friends who feel this white hot political hatred, whether it is directed at the Democratic leaders (Obama, Clinton) or the Republicans (Trump, Pence) — I say: “remember compassion.”. If Hillary Clinton dropped dead of a heart attack, and all you would think is “Ding dong the bitch is dead” — and not have any compassion for those the loved her and were left behind — then you are the problem. And to those on my side, if the same were to happen to Donald Trump, and if you were to gloat instead of feeling compassion for his wife, children, and friends — you are also the problem.

Fidel Castro’s death is a test for us. Have we given in to the hatred around us and allowed the evil inclination to win, or do we still have our humanity and compassion? Can we see that we all started out as God’s children, and that God mourned even at the death of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh’s first born?


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Disturbing Trends

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 25, 2016 @ 10:13 am PDT

userpic=headlinesToday’s collection of news chum serve to highlight some disturbing historical and societal trends:

  •  Fake and Satirical News Sites. If this election has demonstrated anything, it is that they will believe a headline as long as a friend shares it on Facebook. The impact of fake news and satirical news has been potentially significant, as is the blurring line between journalism and opinion pieces (I’m looking at you, Borowitz). If it sounds too good to be true — if it confirms your biases — then check it before sharing. Here’s a great start at that: a list of BS, fake, or biased news sites.
  • Manipulating Historical Images. Lehrhaus has a very interesting article on the trend of photoshopping historical photos. The example they use are some historical images of Orthodox girls photoshopped to reflect current modesty norms in the community, but the actual concern is much larger. The manipulation of history — the notion is that history is what I say it is, not what the historical record proves — was, so to speak, yuge, in this election. With photoshop, we can change that historical record. Did you know there were four shooters at JFK’s assassination?
  • I Can Fix That. When I was growing up, if something broke, you would fix it. Ovens, washers, TVs, and all sorts of things — even toasters — were such that when they went bad, you took them to a repair shop where they were fixed for a reasonable cost — certainly, less than buying new. Our oven failed earlier this week, and the bad part along was almost $600 — had it been in stock. That’s half the price of a new oven. Our disposable society wastes resources, and creates waste that often will never degrade. The latest example: The new MacBook Pro. The new MacBook Pro, like its earlier Retina designs, has a glued down battery and has RAM that is soldered into the computer’s logic board. Unless you’re an expert microsolderer, the specs of the computer you buy are the specs you’ll have until the end of its life. Kiss those repair shop jobs goodbye. Here’s what the article says about that: “Apple has little incentive to help them, and arguably has little obligation to build computers that can be repaired and resold on the secondary market. That said, a computer that can be salvaged from the scrap heap and used for several more years is many times more environmentally friendly than one that has to be shredded into a million tiny pieces because it has a bad stick of RAM or because you can’t buy an affordable replacement SSD.”
  • Shopping Shopping Everywhere. An abandoned sanitarium in La Crescenta is becoming commercial space: Gangi Design LED Build will renovate 14 buildings from the 1920s-era institution and convert them to “retail and nonprofit use.”  A friend of mine recently complained about the loss of manufacturing and manufacturing jobs, and here’s why: we’ve shipped those jobs overseas because we didn’t want the polluting factories, or labor was cheaper even after the tariffs, [ETA: or automation has replaced those jobs] and we’re left with more shops trying to sell overpriced imported crap to people who no longer have the jobs to pay for them. I’d say this sounds crazy and those proposing the idea should go into a sanitarium, but we’ve been closing the sanitariums.



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Thanksgiving, America, and Antisemitism

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 24, 2016 @ 5:27 pm PDT

userpic=schmuckToday is Thanksgiving day — a day when, in America, we share what we are thankful for. One thing I am thankful for in this country is the freedom to practice my religion, as well as the freedom to not have others force their religion on me. I hope that, in years to come, I can continue to be thankful for such things.

However, what has happened in 2016 has given me some reasons to doubt. Today’s news chum brings together a collection of articles I’ve seen related to this doubt. Part of me said, “Don’t post this on Thanksgiving”. Another part of me said that it was important to do so, precisely because being thankful for something doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it. We have numerous freedoms in this country for which we are all thankful. We must fight for these freedoms every day; the forces that want to take them away make it a constant struggle. So let’s fight, so that we can continue to be thankful for what we have (and not be remembering what we have lost).

Let’s start with a post by Mayim Bialik, who wrote a letter to her haters. This was in response to her posting “a very disturbing article reporting that the New York City Memorial of Beastie Boys frontman Adam Yauch had been desecrated. All of the Beastie Boys were Jewish, and Yauch’s memorial had swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti scrawled all over it.” In it, she writes:

I’m going to state this very plainly, America: many people in this country are racists. Many people think that the Nazi party was correct and they are part of organized organizations that seek to continue the pledges of the Nazi party for white supremacy and the elimination of minorities. Is it 50% of this country? Absolutely not. Is it enough that we should be concerned? Absolutely.

She goes on:

Don’t you think it’s time we stop pretending, America? We have problems. If you are not one of the problems, that’s great. And I’m going to keep posting about things like this to as many people as I can. Not because I’m a celebrity. But because I’m a citizen of this country. I’m the granddaughter of immigrants. I am a Jew. And I am offended and disgusted that people are doing things like this while so many of us don’t want to believe it’s really happening.

But that’s just one example. A few days ago, CNN actually reported a debate on the question “Are Jews people?”. Here’s what Boing Boing said:

Here’s us, suggesting that media people stop using the cutesy term “alt right” to describe Sieg Heiling white supremacists. But they’re already moving onto panel discussions on whether Jews are people.

Would you ever think such a discussion would be on CNN? But it’s there, because Trump’s election has emboldened the white supremecists who make up the euphemistically-titled “alt-right” — and Trump has gone so far as to appoint someone they see as a leader, Steve Bannon, to be a chief advisor.

The Forward explored the question in a different way. There, they looked at the reaction that ensued when Mike Pence was addressed by the actors of Hamilton, reading a statement from the producers, writer, and actors. They asked: “What if this had happened at Fiddler on the Roof?”:

Picture this: It’s a lovely evening at the Broadway Theater and “Fiddler on the Roof” is nearing its finale. Soon, the little village of Anatevka — beset by pogroms and the disruption of tradition — will be little more than a memory. Some will try to adhere to the old ways, others will try their luck with America and assimilation.

The lights go down, then come back up. Applause clatters through the theater, then Danny Burstein, the actor playing Tevye, steps forward and tells the audience that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is in the house. Burstein silences the boos, then reads from a prepared statement:

“We, sir, we are the diverse America, who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir,” Burstein says. “But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

What would the reaction have been?

Would the actors had been booed? Would there be demands for an apology? Hamilton was a target because it has “the efftrontery to present unapologetically a vision of a wholly diverse America. It’s an America where founding fathers engage in rap battles, and employ the sort of language that the president uses in the locker room but finds filthy when others use it, particularly those who come from different backgrounds and have different visions of America than he does. “Hamilton” represents what America truly looks and sounds like today”. Trump voters want it back where it was in 1964. The Forward continues:

What if there really was a #BoycottFiddler movement? What if Breitbart News declared the “Fiddler” cast to be “whiny Jews?”

A new sense of fear would right now be coursing specifically through the Jewish community, the same way it is coursing through African-American, immigrant and LGBTQ communities; it would be the same fear that is both chilling and galvanizing artistic communities throughout the country as we see grim portents arising from a president-elect who demands safe spaces for himself and his followers and none for anyone else.

Given the reaction of Trump followers, should we be worried about safe spaces for Jews?

By the way, if you think you can leave the US to be safe, think again. The Jewish Journal is reporting that Francois Fillon, a leading contender in the upcoming French presidential election, suggested Jews do not respect French law. He talked about how the French are fighting Muslim sectarianism, and “We fought against a form of Catholic sectarianism or like we fought the desire of Jews to live in a community that does not respect the laws of the French Republic.” If they come to register and restrict the rights of Muslims, what religion is next?

Let us be vigilant about increased antisemitism — and more importantly, remember that we are in a common battle: that racist attacks on any group for a religious, racial, gender, or sexual characteristic is an attack on us all. An opinion piece in the Washington Post from over a year ago opines:

America is unique in Jewish history because the social construct of power and oppression in this society came to be based more on skin color than on religion or ethnic identity. Because of that, along with the best of American values and our own hard work, we now find ourselves as another privileged white ethnicity. Despite our only good intentions, we are — all of us — full participants and beneficiaries of the American evil known as racism.

The brilliance of being Jewish, though, is that we stubbornly refuse to fit into any social construct of power or oppression. We are simply Ivri’im, people from “somewhere else,” people who struggle with God and justice, who demand that the rest of the world does, too, and see every human life as sacred because we are all in the image of God. And the truth is, we have never belonged to one race alone. The Torah tells us that we left Egypt with the “erev rav,” with a mixed multitude of peoples. Around the world there are Jews of color, Asian Jews, Jews of all kinds. The idea that Jews are white is not only ridiculous, it’s offensive to who we really are! Yes, societies like America come along sometimes and give us privileges and powerful labels like “white.” In America’s racist social construct, Jews are very much white people, but we must never again think of ourselves that way — it’s time for us to opt out of that racist paradigm, because we are Jews.

Imagine what we and our children could be like if we associate our Jewishness with an essential statement against racism and discrimination. Even though we and our children have benefited from the best schools and jobs and housing that whiteness affords, we can be the ones to challenge the system from within. We can be the ones who change business practices, housing codes, policing, correctional facilities, social policies, unequal schools — motivated by our values and our Jewish historical experience. Indeed, so many progressive leaders in this country have been Jews (including some Jewish founders of the NAACP), motivated exactly by this vision. But so many more of us need to own our real power, which is not our whiteness, but our Jewishness, our Torah and our tradition that motivates us to remember the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt; that calls on us to lift up the cause of all those who are oppressed.

We must all work together to ensure that what we are thankful for this year is not taken away in the coming year: the freedom to practice our religion, the freedom from other religions and their values being imposed on us by the government, the freedom to marry who we want, the freedom to control our bodies and our minds, the freedom to speak against power when we see injustice, and the freedom to fight for justice. We need to make it so next year we can be equally thankful.



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Theatre Is Never a Safe Space — If It Was, It Wouldn’t Be Doing It’s Job

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Nov 21, 2016 @ 11:07 am PDT

userpic=dramamasksThe big news over the last weekend was that the Vice-President-Elect, Mike Pence, attended the musical Hamilton. The news wasn’t that he somehow got seats at the last minute, but that at the end of the show, the actors pleaded with him to protect diversity. This elicited a response from the President-Elect that the comment was wrong, and that theatre should be a “safe space”. The President-Elect has continued his war with the musical, calling for a boycott thereof. Broadway is not backing down. Nor should it.

Mr. President-Elect, study your history. The theatre has never been a safe space. From an active shooter making a commentary on the Presidency in 1865 (the last active shooter in a theatre — what? too soon?), to annual collections for Equity Fights Aids, actors have always been passionate about the ideas in which they believe. Further, theatre has never been a space devoid of “dangerous ideas” — in fact, theatre often provides a space to explore those ideas — especially in times of turmoil in our nation. (Vox also has a nice summary on this point)

Don’t believe me. Perhaps this will refresh your memory.

  • Showboat, in 1927 during the “roaring 20s” was a commentary on the tragedy of race relations and mixed marriages. It was a theme revisited again by Hammerstein in South Pacific, when we learned that racism and hatred had to be carefully taught.
  • Sound of Music may have seemed light, but it was a commentary on the rise of Hitler. Hitler was also explored in Caberet, which also touched on the themes of antisemitism even more explicitly. Another musical exploring antisemitism in society was Fiddler on the Roof.
  • Finians Rainbow was far from a love story — it was a hard hitting commentary on race relations. Similary, Lil Abner was a commentary on nuclear proliferation and the automation of society.
  • Hair, of course, was an anti-war musical — again, a commentary on the politics of this country. Coming out in 1967 as the war was picking up steam, it also commented on the free love era and the impact on race relations there.
  • Chicago, a long running hit, was a commentary as well — a commentary on our media driven celebrity driven society — a commentary on how Razzle Dazzle can distract from what was really going on.
  • Rent, of course, was a commentary on the AIDS epidemic and its impact on society, as well as a commentary on redevelopment.
  • Avenue Q, developed during the Bush administration, was a commentary on how society was hurting economically; how trickle down hadn’t worked, even for gay Republicans.
  • Wicked — you know, that popular musical — isn’t just the Wizard of Oz. Listen to author Greg Maguire — it is a commentary on the rising power of an evil leader (something that becomes clearer in his second book, which was intended as a direct commentary on the Iraq war torture). The dangers of evil meglomanic leaders is a popular topic, from Lion King to Hamlet (which it was based upon).
  • Fun Home explores growing up lesbian in a closeted household, and the dangers of being closeted.
  • The Book of Mormon confronts the issue of what is behind faith.
  • Spring Awakening confronts the issue of teen sexuality and its impacts.
  • Allegiance was a reminder of the wrongs of the Japanese Internment.
  • Hamilton, of course, is a celebration of the impact on America from immigrants and diversity. “Immigrants — We get the job done!”

These are just musicals. Commentary in plays is even more, from Death of a Salesman to Angels in America to The Laramie Project to…. I, of course, could go on and on. Theatre has long reflected the concerns and worries about society, and actors have long spoken their feelings. That is the beauty of America — that such feelings can be expressed without fear of reprisal or jail. That’s often not true in other countries, where actors risk their lives to express opinions from the stage.

So, Mr. President-Elect, please kindly shut up about the theatre insulting you, or TV insulting you. You are a better man than that; free speech cannot hurt you. Do your job — be a president for all America, even the greater-than -half that didn’t vote for you. Make wise selections for your advisors — advisors that are respected by all, not just rewards for those in your inner circle. Simply put: You want to avoid criticism? Then govern in a manner that does not invite it from large segments of the people you govern.

P.S.: I did hear a rumor that Mr. Trump was so upset, he vowed to build a fourth wall in all theatres, and to make the actors pay for it. Like that will ever happen.



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