Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Shakespeare Room at the Sylvia Beach

(Disclaimer:  The post has nothing to do with the awesomeness of the Sylvia Beach Hotel)
 The Super Bowl was a crystallizing moment for me.  As Tom Brady was solidifying himself as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, leading New England to an incredible win in overtime, a friend texted me that the Patriots won the Electoral College, but the Falcons won the Popular Vote.  That sealed it.  Everything is now politicized.   
 Look no further than the halftime commercials and performance.  Corporations selling you patriotism and partisan ideology.  Do I really need to see an immigrant Adolphus Busch on a canoe with what… a free slave? Lady Gaga selling me Woody Guthrie then… dropping the mic before catching a football and disappearing under the stage before a bevy of billion dollar advertisements explode on my screen.  The shameless irony is appalling.
 I remember hearing someone say when George W. Bush became president… well, at least punk music won’t suck anymore.  And I’m all for the lathering of satire on a society.  But it’s more than just the resurgence of Saturday Night Live’s importance with Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy, isn’t it?  Are people actually thinking…. or is it merely a controlled response of laughter?
 The year’s biggest movie and musical also could not escape politicalization.  Could you watch Rogue One without comparing it to a possible evil Trump Empire?  Could the cast of Hamilton resist shaming a high-profile audience member for just buying a ticket?  Even the viewing of upcoming artistic achievements such as a new album from A Tribe Called Quest or the HBO series Westworld and The Young Pope couldn’t just be enjoyed on their own merit or humor or aesthetic, but must be discussed through the lens or our current political climate.  Is this wrong?  Is this even real?  Will we look back years from now and say this was the beginning of a new understanding of our world?  Will the fact that copies of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell’s 1984 are flying off the shelves mean anything?  To what new level of political consciousness will this lead?
 I find myself wondering: Will my church paster bring up politics this week?  Should I cringe at Sean Spicer to a coworker or keep it simply about the weather?  Should I joke about Kellyanne Conway to a fellow school parent or nod and agree about bargain snacks at Costco?  What do any of my neighbors from India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and Sudan think of these events on the news?  Should I bring it up casually while we're talking on the sidewalk about lawn care secrets and soccer car pools and garbage pick up schedules?  Is that even appropriate?  

It’s just another reason why literature is so important.  Before the election, I found myself so upset at people.  What do you mean you can’t understand Trump's popularity?  Have you never read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?  Do you not know of Machiavelli’s The Prince?  These are two of the most famous books in history!  Do you actually not know Shakespeare’s MacbethKing LearRichard the Freaking Third?  The A-holes in these plays teach you everything you need to know about power and people.  Shakespeare has been sitting on the shelves for years just WAITING FOR YOU!  But then after the election, I was more angry at myself…for being angry at Mr. Joe Six Pack voter/consumer.  Of course he doesn’t know these things… of course!  Why would he?  Do you know how hard it is to get a 16-year-old kid to read 1984 or Lord of the Flies or Animal Farm?  To pull and pry their eyes off of Instagram and Snapchat for just a few minutes to explain how history repeats itself over and over again because people are so completely banal and pitiful they can’t learn from the past.  I have zero faith that this new era of political observation will amount to anything.  The rich will continue to get rich and oppress.  The poor will continue to suffer from ignorance and cyclical miseducation.  A year from now New England will be heading for another championship but on the eve of the Super Bowl, Jimmy Garoppolo will stab out the eyes of Tom Brady with the Lombardi Trophy and take over the quarterback position and for a moment people will be outraged… but then he’ll appear shirtless in a Gillette commercial carrying a bag of Doritos, eating a Subway footlong, and wiping his mouth with the American Flag, while Beyonce sings the National Anthem and everyone will say…. it was tremendous!  What a great leader!  He really showed what we’re all made of.  Huge victory!  Huge.  And that will be that.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps work in a little HL Mencken into the reading schedule?