Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Playwright notes: Bill Clinton Hercules

This play accurately recounts President Clinton’s early childhood as gleaned from his autobiography My Life. He really did memorize the I Have A Dream speech, he really did shake JFK’s hand, his first memory really is his mother on the train platform. His daddy died before Bill was born and his mama had a bust of Elvis in the kitchen.
The events during the Presidency and governorship actually happened except there is no evidence that the Chinese navy went to Los Angeles to take out the cast of Friends.  There is an eleven-foot statue of him in Kosovo.  President Carter did send the Cubans to Arkansas (but a great unsung hero of his administration, Gene Eisenberg, spoke to Clinton). There was a trashed hotel suite in Iowa after President Clinton had a phone call with Senator Kennedy in 2008.  There really was a bearded hippy Bill who gave a heartfelt speech.  The events of the 1996 shutdown/snowstorm are condensed except it really was one week between President Clinton going Odysseus and the shutdown being over.
He is close with George Bush Sr.  He does not to my knowledge have a problem with Leon Panetta and Alan Greenspan.  He has never said in public that he would do anything else but support Hillary utterly in her political ambitions.  He did say some very encouraging things about Occupy when asked by reporters. 
He re-reads Seamus Heaney’s Cure at Troy every year.  Why does he read it every year? What does he find there? How does it feed him? I think it is the joyful ending when the world is a better place.  The miracle of changing people’s minds.
The dream at the end of the play is mine. I dreamed at the beginning of the Arab Spring, asleep in Washington.  I took it to Occupy and my dangerous sign that got me kettled in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral said Justice Is Possible.
I was just picking salad in the garden when the thunder rumbled. Look to the world stage. A storm is coming. Governments collapse (Iraq, Syria). Cities fall into desolation (Detroit, Mosul, Gaza City). Fascism looms in Europe. A Taliban arises in America,  armed with corporate  religious beliefs out of the reach of the rule of law. A despot dismantles the NHS.  Police states replace democracy.  Wars rage. No one speaks for peace.
Except Bill Clinton Hercules.  This character – this play – is a creation that merges Clinton’s best self with Rachel weeping for her children.  He speaks for peace and freedom.   His grasping for life can be yours too. The heroism of Hercules is your heroism.   You are like Bill Clinton who is like Hercules started:  a human with a mother.

I quote Thomas Paine, the man from Lewes who wrote Common Sense. “When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.” Now is the time to make real the promises of our democracy.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Oranges

Oranges by Gary Soto 

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickle in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickle from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.

Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The 1992 Bill Clinton Stump Speech


What has changed since then? Twenty-two years later ... 



SCENE  : CAMPAIGN SPEECH

EARLY JANUARY 1992 [EDITED TRANSCRIPT STUMP SPEECH GIVEN in HOUSTON, TEXAS OF YOUTUBE CLIP POSTED BY MICHAEL BERGERON]
    
SOUND EFFECT OF A LOUD COCKTAIL PARTY. THE NOISE COMPETES WITH CLINTON. HE IS JUST STANDING IN SHIRTSLEEVES AND A TIE SPEAKING  INTO A LECTERN – PERHAPS IMPROVISED HOTEL FURNITURE. THE LIGHTING IS COCKTAIL PARTY DIM. GLASSES CLINK. THIS CLINTON IS PLUMPER AND MORE MIDMANAGEMENT THAN HIS LATER YEARS.

Ten years ago we had the highest wages in the world and now we’re ten. Ten years ago of the 22 richest countries in the world, we were eighth in the equality of our income distribution and now we’re dead last.

THE NOISE OF THE COCKTAIL PARTY IS SO LOUD THAT HE HAS TO REPEAT HIMSELF OVER THE NOISE.

Middle class people have worked harder for lower wages, spent less time with their children and spent more for health care, housing, education and taxes only to get less far.  Poverty has exploded and how could it not? Where could can poor people go when there is no middle class to work into?

George Bush says this can’t be the federal government’s concern. This is for the local government. This is for the thousand points of light.

Well, a friend of mine said it’s kind of hard to be one of the thousand points of light if you can’t pay your electric bill.

DELIGHTED LAUGHTER, FOLLOWED BY A DROP IN BACKGROUND NOISE.

We can’t go on like this. If you vote for me this is what I am going to do.

          NO BACKGROUND NOISE.

I will give you growth. I will give you prosperity. We will double highway spending, put some people to work. We’ll give dignity back to the working poor. We will change the banking system in this country . . . [DROWN OUT BY APPLAUSE]

Let’s look to other countries. There are places with universal healthcare, a four week paid vacation every year and shorter hours and sick leave for people and for their children. Maternity leave.

We are talking about a politics of empowerment here where we enable people to do things they never thought they could do and then require them to do it. We are talking about spending more money for childcare and healthcare. We are talking about asking managers to stop raising their pay by four times as much as their workers pay goes up and instead by making their profits the old-fashioned way.

We are asking the politicians to show courage to change and come together.

This is the longest lasting democracy on the face of the earth because at every critical juncture in our history we came together and we had the courage to change.

If you are sick and tired of the politics of division and you don’t want a president who will do anything it takes to win but a president who will do anything it takes to help you win, then I ask you to vote for me.