Tuesday, November 07, 2006

As I drove up Lakeshore Ave. last night the banner wavers were out in force, with their placards and pom poms. Election Day. So much hangs in the balance and I feel so out of it, headachey and fat and groggy. Yes, I voted for Angelides. No, I don't think he'll win. The one bright spot was getting to vote for my hero, Barbara Lee, as I do every time the opportunity arises. I am so proud to be from her district. She will go down in history as the only one in Congress with balls enough to vote against the madness in Iraq before it became fashionable.

I also voted for my friend, Rebecca "Reb" Kaplan, who will probably run for governor or and be very famous and powerful someday...

I remember when I was a little girl, I was so excited by the whole electoral process. I'd stay up election eve with my dad and together we'd fill in the boxes for all the electoral votes on the graph that the Boston Globe printed just for that purpose. We'd count up how many states went Democratic, how many Republican.

I remember my first political discussion; it was in the back seat of a car. I was sitting next to my friend, both us so young our little legs stuck straight out in the wide, '60s station wagon backseat.

"Who are you voting for?" I asked her.

"I'm voting for Goldwater because he has a pretty name. I think Gold Water sounds pretty."

"Oh, that's not a good reason to vote for him! I'm voting for Johnson because my daddy is voting for Johnson."

It was 1964 I was five.

The first presidential election I voted in was '76. Jimmy Carter. I was dubious as I voted for him, because he was a born-again Christian, and from the South, and I didn't know him, but he was the Democratic candidate. Turns out to be the best vote I ever cast (aside from all these votes for Barbara Lee.)

I came to love Jimmy Carter, and the years have only deepened my respect. I think he's been the best, most under-rated president we ever had. I think he was hoodwinked, blindsided, muzzled and tricked by Congress and a bunch of people playing dirty in Washington. Nevertheless, he kept his dignity, brokered the Camp David accords, maintained complte integrity in and out of office, and has done more good for the world than the rest of the jokers combined.

I talk like someone who is passionate about politics. I'm not, anymore. The zing went out of it for me when the 2000 election was stolen. Ever since then I have felt more like a bewildered passenger on a sinking ship of state than a citizen. I was always childishly attached to the idea that my vote counted for something. That everyone's vote counted. And now? I believe cynicism is just laziness using a more sophisticated vocabulary. Nevertheless, I have to admit, I feel deeply cynical about voting and elections in general.

Yes, I show up at the polls, clutching my Green Party brochure explaining all the measures and propositions that will lie ahead of me. And I put my ballot in the machine and I get my little sticker. And I don't trust anymore if the votes will be counted correctly across the nation, and I know no great leader is going to arise and save us.

I like Obama but I almost don't want him to run in '08 because I like him. He's so young and I can't even bear to think of what could happen to him. And Hillary Clinton doesn't strike me as electable--and I'm not sure I like her. I want to like her, because she's a woman. Is it important to like your leaders? Oh well, Massachusetts has its first Democratic African American governor--there's something to celebrate.


Yesterday was full--Wing It! rehearsal, then tea with Megan, then dinner with coke, then Running with Scissors with David McCauley.

At practice, Elizabeth told me brightly, "My out-of-town friends loved you in the show Saturday night!"

Immediately I thought to myself that her friends must not have seen much improv and were too easily impressed, because I hadn't been sure that the poem I made up was good at all. It's funny/painful to see how quickly I can dismantle a compliment.

I remember my grandmother, who was striking in old age, with snow-white hair and large blue eyes. Whenever people told her she was beautiful--which they did quite often, in my remembrance, she would retort, "You need to get your eyes checked!"

Take that!

After some play, we sat around and Phil led a discussion about what our "intentions" are when we perform. Susan said, "To make people laugh." Masankho said, "To create peace." Cynthia said (I'm paraphrasing badly) "To commune with other dimensions of reality."I said, "To make people laugh and subvert the dominant culture."

All (twelve) of us talked about it for a while. There's being present, and then there's Being Present. because of its riskiness, because the artist is creating on the spot, improvisation offers an opportunity for Presence, real Presence with a capital P to show up. (Regular performances offer that too, of course. In fact, the opportunity for Presence is always with us. It's just hard to remember that.)

Because improv artists are "on the spot," because everyone fears making a fool out of themselves in public, failing in front of others, the stakes are raised, and adrenaline starts flowing. This heightened awareness is the basis for spiritual practice (if one seizes it and uses it for that.)

At dinner, Coke confessed to feeling disappointed because her show had turned out so differently than she imagined. But I, in the audience, with no preconceived ideas of how it should have looked, saw how beautiful and powerful and vulnerable it was. I told her that, and at the same time I remember friends and relatives trying to console me after the performance of my play in NYC, when the lead actors kept forgetting and messing up their lines.

"I liked that," my cousin Jill insisted. "It was like real life, when people say um...er..."

"Oh, Jill, you're a doll, don't ever change--but it sucked!" was my response.

How easy it is to dish out forgiveness for imperfection, and how hard it is to take it.


Annette Bening is a very brave woman. She allows herself to look bad--really really bad--bad from the inside out, bad--to show us the absolute horror and pity of narcissism.

And she's my age and in this film, Running With Scissors, she looks really really old.

"Do I look that old?" I thought narcissistically in the dark, leaning next to David, both of us enjoying the 70s soundtrack (the soundtrack is worth the price of admission.)

Who's to say?


Theresa Williams said...

Well, Ohio delivered, I'm happy to say (unlike in 2004, to my profound embarrassment). Sherrod Brown is going to serve us well in the Senate, I think: good-bye Dewine! We've also elected our first Dem. governor in 16 years, and picked up a house seat for the dems. also. Well done, Ohio.

I agree with your assessment of Hillary. She's very capable and steady and sincere and a hard-worker. But I'm afraid she won't be electable because as much as I really WANT to like her, I really don't very much at this point. I guess I don't feel like I know her: I mean *know* her, you know? Who is Hillary? Deep down, who is she? I've liked Obama very much since seeing him at the Dem. convention, but I wonder if he's ready. I really like his rational stance on issues and his charisma, also his passion for diplomacy. He seems to have the right balance of heart and head and seems ever so sincere. I fear his lack of experience could be a downfall, though. We'll see what happens in the next two years!

Alison said...

Yeah, thank God, thank God, thank God. This past election restores a modicum of my faith in our electoral system. Have you done the math yet? Are there enough votes in the House and Senate to impeach? And when do we begin?


Theresa Williams said...

Oh, that occurred to me today, also. I wonder how aggressive the Dems. are going to be? There was oh so much electricity in the hallways at my university today. We were all running out of our offices every time we got news over our Internet, we were dancing and hugging and sighing relief: Montana called for Tester! Rumsfeld resigns! Lookin' good in Virginia! It's all just a wonderful surprise, and, yes, it does restore some faith in voting. I am still bamboozled as to how the election could have swung for the Republicans in 2004; when it happened I was absolutely STUNNED. But oh so happy today. Now, I hope this country can get back on the right track.