A Maskless Proposal

The following may or may not be inspired by a renowned yet these days too seldom read 1729 essay, A Modest Proposal, by the late, great Dr. Jonathon Swift.

Thanksgiving 2020 is upon us and even the most virtuous in American society would have to admit this year has been… memorable.

Pretty much sums it up

The way I see it, we are standing at a precipice.  We can continue on as we have, squibbling and squabbling for the last gasps of healthy air, hair dye, and toilet tissue at our local markets as the weather turns cruel and we are forced inside.

Or we can take matters into our own hands.

We Americans have never been ones to back away from a fight to be EXACTLY who we are and get WHAT we want, WHEN we want it by challenging WHOMEVER we want in order to defend our freedoms to do so.

Through the generations this has meant standing up for our rights, taking to the streets and, well, even bearing arms if necessary in order to defend our TRUTHS that we PERSONALLY hold SELF-EVIDENT, no matter what anyone else says.

We’ll take small victories whenever we can #2020

It is the American way.  It has thus always been and always will be.

In the 1800s a number of us grabbed our whips, chains and gunpowder, holding firm to the grounds of our towns in order to preserve one of the then enduring traditions upon which our country was founded – SLAVERY. 

A very dedicated, very bold, very self-proclaimed group of PATRIOTS had the courage to put their muskets where their mouths were and fight to the death in order preserve their inalienable rights to make a living and feed their families on the backs of anyone deemed 3/5 human.

They dedicated their lives so their future generations could continue to live free and thus pass down whatever property, human or otherwise, they had managed to support, cultivate and grow through the years so their namesakes could continue to live well on what their ancestors had both literally and figuratively wrought.

Where are you going with this Chairy? #keepreading

This same inborn national verve translated to the early 1900s when any number of American men, and even women, did their damnedest in order to ensure that females could NEVER have the right to vote.  The patriarchy was being challenged and, though arguments were vociferous, those patriots upheld this tradition for almost 150 years from the day on which our country was founded.

No matter how you slice it, that’s quite a long winning-streak and just goes to show what can happen in these United States when one side believes in the rightness of their position on an issue and in both the inferiority and made up fake logic coming from the other side.

I can’t look!

Using this line of thought, Americans have continued to stand up for all kinds of rights, particularly from the 1960s on. 

Speaking of which, who could forget the crusaders who, with the support of law enforcement, took to their local bridge in order to beat back the invasion of those who didn’t sport their same pigment at THEIR neighborhood lunch counters, schools or local watering hole?

That is not to negate those who several decades later stormed the Capitol to ensure only members of the same sex could legally marry.   Having years before lost the fight to deprive people of different pigments of that right, those naysayers still managed to hold the line with solely traditional opposite-sex marriage for more than two centuries.

Valid

Particularly impressive was their ability to do so through a murderous, worldwide pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s that they cleverly employed to prove their point of the moral unworthiness of many of those new potential same-sex spouses to respectably enter into our country’s version of legally enshrined, wholly American wedlock.

It is then, that now, in the midst of yet another, albeit different global pandemic, a new but no less patriotic group of Americans are standing up in much the same tradition of those that came before them.

Let them hence be known as THE MASKLESS.

Also these idiots #COVERYOURNOSE

This is not their official title but for clarity’s sake it embodies the right for which they fight.  This fearless group among us CHOOSE to fight the new (though now seemingly old) 2020 virus that has murdered more than 1.4 million worldwide, almost 20% of them American, armed only with good, old-fashioned American GRIT.

Eschewing prevailing societal and medical sentiment and guidelines on public health, the latter of which they consider as freedom suppressing, fake and phony as any expert testimony in our recent history, the MASKLESS have proclaimed to any of us that will listen that this Thanksgiving they are taking to the streets, and the airports, and their houses of worship and any other local establishment or relatives’ home that is open to them.

They will do so in as LARGE NUMBERS as THEY choose because enshrined in our Constitution since the beginning of our time has been their RIGHT to assembly.

Maybe more my speed

They will do so because they say to NOT do so, will mean the DESTRUCTION of the ECONOMY they and their loved ones have built.   Its destruction would mean an equally awful END to all of us, death by a thousand cuts to their businesses, savings and 401Ks, instead of death by some silly, overblown medical condition. 

If it means sacrificing the oldest or sickest of the herd, so be it.  Those citizens should be proud to go down as human collateral damage in order for our society to live on and thrive as it always has.

Dowager energy in 2020

Given the rampant and ongoing polarization in these supposedly United States, and in the spirit of American grit and self-determination, the street would seem a good place to play out this issue that divides, though in their view clearly does NOT plague us, this holiday season.

We certainly don’t want to silence the Maskless, that would be un-American.  But nor do we want to discount the overwhelming majority opinion of professional medical advice and adhere to minority, fringe theory in order to get through god knows what else remains for the rest of this year.

I guess it’s good to be prepared

That would be like applying leeches to a bad bruise you received at a 21st century freedom march that is now suddenly festering with infection.

Therefore, rather than endure years of continued argument and litigation where both sides will get heard but no one will really listen, an immediate 21st century compromise is very much in order. 

And it is this:

Those who want to shelter in place in single, twos or fours during this holiday season should immediately do so and remain SILENT.  Eat turkeys or whatever else you choose with or without masks – in the privacy of your own homes.

Will do!

Of course, it’s unlikely the latter could happen under this plan.

Because given their history and acknowledging their predilection towards street fighting for absolute freedom at the absolute cost of anything that inconveniences their traditional ways of life as THEY know it, the Maskless shall henceforth be awarded their own designated section in every suburb, city and Town Square across the country for public and private assembly.

These areas will be walled off and offer unlimited free food, shelter and even lavish restrooms, during the Thanksgiving and, eventually Christmas 2020 Holidays.  There will be NO MASKS, NO SOCIAL DISTANCING and NO CHARGE for anything.  In fact, those outside the walls will shoulder the ENTIRE cost to keep THEM INSIDE and among themselves in a generous reach of across-the-aisle patriotism.

Ca Ching

There will be a limited but sufficient medical staff comprised of those health professionals who adhere to the same way of thinking as the Maskless.  And these people will have access to every medical treatment available to the rest of us WITH THE NOTABLE EXCEPTION OF ALL MEDICINES AND/OR EQUIPMENT NEEDED TO TREAT COVID-19.

These treatments will remain outside, on the other side of the wall, where the rest of the citizenry now live in constant, though perhaps irrational, fear supplies will run out in the coming winter months. 

Since the Maskless have NO such FEARS, or believe the virus causes nothing more than benign or medium range flu with the usual and very treatable symptoms that can concurrently be resolved with the said medicines available to them, this decision should not be controversial. 

Oh Chairy #nailedit

Thus, rather than be made to eat their words, the Maskless can instead eat their yams, their string beans and their sweet potato casseroles, in addition to their turkeys.  The can do so in peace, without the ranting and ravings from friends, relatives and other unknown or perhaps even illegal American citizens seeking to limit their rights.

In turn, those friends, relatives and unknown/illegal citizens, will  concurrently and finally be able to relax for their remaining  and likely dreaded weeks of 2020.  Crazy, hateful and freedom-hating as THEY… okay WE  – okay I –  might be – we will all also finally feel SAFE and SANE or the first time in almost, well, FOUR YEARS.

Keep Calm and Joe/Kamala on

And hopeful that the Maskless that are no longer among us will finally EAT THEMSELVES alive with the unlimited sides of ALL of the freedoms they feel they so richly deserve.

It’s their right and their choice.  Right???

The All-American Rejects – “Gives You Hell”

Sorkin Says

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.58.19 AM

There was a time not so long ago when I thought being a teacher in the creative arts signified some sort of failing.

After all, as Woody Allen’s doppelgänger, Alvy Singer, once famously quipped in Annie Hall:

Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.

Many views, Woody, as it turns out, are not as clever as we once thought they were.

As it also turns out, the not so long ago I refer to in my own thought processes was the eighties. Which, given what’s going on in politics at the moment, feels like it was yesterday. To refresh all of our memories – it was a time when the homeless (nee poor) were vilified and money was viewed as the god and goddess of all things as exemplified by one of the most popular movie anti-heroes of the time, Wall Street’s financial baron, Gordon Gekko. In case you don’t remember, he once famously quipped Greed is good. Which pretty much sums up the callousness of thought through most of the decade for those who weren’t there. Or, as I prefer to think of it: the anti-Reagan reality.

At least the cell phones got better

At least the cell phones got better

In any case, this was all brought to mind by none other than Aaron Sorkin when he spoke this week at a panel of this year’s Writers Guild of America award-nominated screenwriters.

At one point towards the end of the evening the entire group of eleven nominees were asked by a young screenwriter, who was now attending UCLA on a military scholarship, how he could possibly proceed with the third act of an in-progress screenplay he clearly hoped to one day sell, that he felt required him to move his story into trans-racial characterizations he feared the world was not ready for.

He's listening

He’s listening

Clearly sensing the real pain and terror in this young man’s voice, it was the famous and most acclaimed of all the writers on the panel who eagerly jumped into the deafening silence and told him:

Don’t ever NOT write something because you think we’re not ready.

Hmmm. It seems that at least one who can do clearly CAN teach. Imagine that.

And Sorkin knows something about writing a character we’re not ready for #unicorns

Well, of course I’m leading with the best example of the evening. The world of mentorship is not a yellow brick road of rosy results and Emerald City glitz and glamour. Amid all the intellectual thought, encouragement and new potential roads of inspiration, there are too many others who are either ill equipped or whose methods are steeped in the art of the teardown and pretentious self-involvement. Every one of us has met at least one of them. The tough love gurus who secretly revel in telling you outwardly or implying to you all too unsubtly that your work sucks. This is usually done through a loop of lecturing where they relate a rating system of all the famous and/or commercially successful people in the field who are really lesser-than hacks you should be not only be absolutely unimpressed by but revile. That is if want your new god-like mentor to secretly continue to bestow upon you their pearls of wisdom.

ahem

ahem

This type of story was bestowed on said WGA audience by none other than panelist and current Oscar/WGA nominated screenwriter of Carol, Phyllis Nagy. It seems as a younger person, Ms. Nagy became a protégé of Patricia Highsmith, on whose seminal novel, The Price of Salt, Ms. Nagy’s screenplay was based. Ms. Nagy, then a copy editor at the NY Times, recalled a 30-minute limousine ride she took with the quite prickly Ms. Highsmith at their first ever meeting in the 1970s during which the novelist spoke only once every ten minutes to ask her a mere three questions. 

The first question was: What do you think of Eugene O’Neill?

Ms. Nagy’s reply: Not much.

To which Ms. Highsmith gave a very encouraging nod of approval.

well aren't you fancy

well aren’t you fancy

Okay, stop right there I thought from the audience. Eugene O’Neill. Really? The guy who wrote Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh and well, you get the picture. I don’t care how damn talented or famous she was – really? What does that get you? Or anyone?

Yet it seemed this was exactly the right answer because here we are all these decades later where this once young writer has gotten all of this 2015-16 attention for adapting the older writer’s 1950s story she eventually received the rights to. Or perhaps it was Ms. Nagy’s answer to Ms. Highsmith’s second question:

What do you think of Tennessee Williams?

Because this time Ms. Nagy managed to give the seal of approval to Mr. Williams – an acknowledgement she claims Ms. Highsmith quite heartily endorsed at the time.

Phew.

Tell me again how great I am.

Tell me again how great I am.

I don’t know Ms. Nagy but one hopes this is not the kind of attitude that gets passed on from one generation to the next. Yet I know it frequently does – not necessarily in Ms. Nagy’s case (Note: As I said, I don’t know her) but to other non-famous or more famous instructors and artists of all kinds my students have told me about and I myself have encountered or read about through the years.

Well, like any experience in life, you take the good with the morally questionable and try to balance it all out with your own actions. This is not unlike writing your own stories or living out the actions of your own life. Call me corny or crazy, and I’ve certainly been justifiably referred to as both, but I much prefer the conversation and mentorship I had in the eighties with Bo Goldman – who I don’t consider so much a mentor but an off-the-cuff Sorkin-like teacher I was fortunate enough to encounter during the course of a day.

Mr. Nice Guy

Mr. Nice Guy

As a young writer I met Mr. Goldman, the two-time Oscar winning screenwriter of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Melvin and Howard who had yet to write big studio movies like The Perfect Storm and Scent of A Woman. His agent was a new friend of mine and generously told him I was a talented young writer (Note: Who had only written one semi well-received screenplay at the time) working on a new script. I will never forget Mr. Goldman probably seeing the forlorn terror in my eyes after he asked me about what I was working on and listening patiently as I tried to explain it. But more importantly, I will also always remember him smiling generously at me and saying: Don’t force it, don’t beat yourself up, it’ll come.

He then went on to share several stories of difficulties from his own life, always putting himself and me on equal status as writers.

The reason I can’t remember the stories is not that they weren’t memorable but that Mr. Goldman’s largesse to even include me in the same sentence with him when it came to the craft that he was so lauded for at the time was both shocking and humbling. But he didn’t see the world, as some in the commercial arts do, as a competitive playing field where one is trying to best the next person nipping at your heels behind you; or attempting to put down another more renowned and lauded than you.

Plus, this is the only living creature I prefer to have nipping at my heels

Plus, this is the only living creature I prefer to have nipping at my heels

Instead it was important for him to hear my story and reach out a hand of reassurance, as no doubt someone had done for him – or not done for him – confident that in doing so he was risking nothing of his own status and perhaps enhancing it. After all, what artist doesn’t want to spend a moment or two sharing the pain and/or difficulty of the journey, hoping in some way it dissipates its affect on the psyche. Of course, on the other hand, he could have just been being nice. I suspect it was both.

This is what teaching is about and what true mentorship is. It’s also what being a human being is about. And it feels equally good to both receive and give it – no matter what anyone writes or says about it.

Needless to say, Mr. Goldman was a welcome exception to the eighties. But it’s often the exceptional we remember – no matter where we are or regardless of the times.