Thursday, March 25, 2010


Beyond any opinions over the state of American healthcare—some of us believe that the availability of good, affordable healthcare is the responsibility of a successful society, others of us . . . don’t—there is a principal tenant of any democracy: that after all are polled and a choice is made, we pull together with a sense of civility and a recognition that due process went into the decision.  We expect our elected officials to behave responsibly, with respect for colleagues regardless of differences of opinion.  We exhort many countries to model themselves on American principles of democracy and supposedly are willing to fight for a system that allows for different opinions, beliefs, and religions.  Common sense and decency is supposed to be our guiding light.

It is appalling the degree of poor behavior that has occurred in the wake of the healthcare debate.  Visible conservative pundits, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, have come out encouraging violent attacks against anyone who thinks differently than they do.  Active targeting for violence has occurred and even encouraged.  And their critique of the plan, as passed, is not a clear, point-by-point attack of the dangers of the bill but rather a personal attack on those who passed it—treating them as dreaded enemies versus colleagues who worked as hard as they did to arrive at SOME kind of improvement.

What is squandered here is opportunity—and valuable currency of opinion.  While I am admittedly of a liberal leaning, I am devoted to the idea of intelligent discussion and wanted very much to learn what was in the bill and what it would mean to me, pro and con.  There were lists posted citing the so-called merits of the bill, and in President Obama’s speech, he listed features (such as not being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions) that sounded merely rational.  I would have greatly welcomed learning about opposing points of view, the downsides of the bill, and the ramifications of certain points—especially those that were not being highlighted (liberals and democrats not having any particular stranglehold on the high road).  I wanted some real discourse, presented responsibility and intelligently.

What we got was personal name calling, brick throwing and exhortations for personal attack.  Much of the rhetoric was “We will defeat HIM” and "THEY should be run out of town".  Even the few items thrown out as parts of the bill were parts long-removed, keeping people misinformed with incendiary topics that were no longer at issue.  (“Public option” and “abortion funding” were items absent weeks ago, yet certain pundits kept waving the flag to keep folks riled up.  And claims that Medicaid and Medicare were bankrupt from poor government management were simply false and untrue—and not part of the bill being passed.)  All comments seemed about personally winning over an opponent, a grab and demonstration of power over service of the constituency.  Ego, bruised and out for vengeance.

In the old days, it was known as being a poor loser.

What supposedly sets democracy apart as a better form of government than that old demon socialism is our civility and good sportsmanship.  Instead, the behavior of the Republican Conservatives has descended into a "mob-rule" mentality.  And the fact that few leading conservatives (or Republicans) have condemned or called a halt to this immature behavior is enormously disappointing.

Leadership should be about leading with intelligence and decorum, setting an example for the constituency.  If brick-throwing, death threats, false accusations and name-calling are to be the paradigm of their leadership, then clearly we as a society have to be very cautious giving any more power to those who would so clearly abuse it.  Yes, perhaps the citizens will respond negatively to the bill itself, which will be reflected in upcoming elections.  But so too will the quality and behavior of our representatives be reflected in said election.  It is time to choose those who do not let self-interest overtake sound judgment and behavior lead--and to banish those whose antics bring shame not only to themselves but to the system of democracy and a country they supposedly love.  When opponents of the legislation scream "Throw out the scoundrels!", they should be aware that they just may get what they wished for--but not in the way they meant it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thomas Lanier Williams, better known as one of our greatest American playwrights, Tennessee Williams, would be 99 if he were with us this coming March 26th.   Like most great talents, he was a man of enormous appetites and passions and lived life to extremes.  His wild and crazy journey found expression in some of the most remarkable plays and poetry of the 20th Century.

Interesting that the "outsider as artist" should be such an American icon--in an age where the conservative right would have you believe that we must all be the same with the same values, the love of Williams work speaks more directly to the American spirit of individualism, free speech, and yes, God forbid, self-criticism.  Williams wrote of those who survived the tide of moral and mental mediocrity, and his characters always chose passion over convention.  Convention was to be mistrusted and questioned thoroughly, for underneath lay hidden violations more cruel than any foibles exhibited by those on the margins of our society.  He championed survivors, those who fought for their belief in life and love even in the face of evidence that proved the world was often a cruel and inhumane place.

Having said THAT mouthful, it is my pleasure to tell you that I will be taking part in a celebration on March 21st in advance of Mr.Williams' upcoming birthday.  (Though not here to celebrate himself, certainly we can do a splendid job for him--it's the least we can do!)

In celebration of his 99th birthday, Blue Roses Productions will present readings of The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, a jewel of a short play by Williams, in addition to four contemporary short pieces by Richard Cottrell, Craig Pospisil, Gary Giovannetti and yours truly – all inspired by Mr. Williams. Conceived and directed by the company’s Artistic Director, Erma Duricko, Blue Roses has been celebrating the birthday of Mr. Williams in New York City for the past ten years. A benefit for Blue Roses, the evening will feature stars Tandy Cronyn, Brandon Victor Dixon, Jeremy Lawrence, Joel Vig and other very special guests. The evening will also feature Tennessee Williams Scholar Annette Saddik along with Blue Roses company members Timothy Brown, Kara Corthron, Marissa Danielle Duricko, Karen Eterovich, Gary Giovannetti, Jennifer Graves, Michael Graves, Heather Lee Harper, Jim Ireland, Sarah Ireland, Donna LaStella, David Ojala, Blair Sams, George Sheffey, Megan Smith, Tom Matthew Wolfe and John Yearley.  Birthday cake and cocktails will be enjoyed at a party to follow the reading.

The benefit is scheduled to take place Sunday, March 21st at 7:30 pm at the St. Clements Parrish Hall, 423 W 46th St, NYC. Tickets for the Blue Roses benefit are available for a suggested donation of $15.00, available at the door or by calling 212-252-4915 for reservations.

(Blue Roses Productions is a national production company dedicated to presenting the works of Tennessee Williams, as well as nurturing and producing works by new American playwrights that champion the human spirit. Blue Roses Productions strives to create an artistic haven where established and emerging artists can challenge themselves while developing their craft.)

Here's hoping you can come and do your part to celebrate the birthday of a most remarkable artist--and do a bit of celebration of yourself as well!