Buzz off, Bubbles

This is what’s gotten the most attention in last week’s Vice Presidential debate, though you already know because, well, it’s gotten the most attention.

It was the moment when that fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and stayed there for a full TWO MINUTES, during which time he did absolutely NOTHING.

Like, he didn’t even flinch.  Could you imagine doing that?  What a circus trick.

Same, fly, same.

I kept thinking of that scene in the movie Ordinary People where Conrad, the emotionally repressed, suicidal teen played by Timothy Hutton, bemoaned in therapy how much effort it takes for him to actually feel something.

To which his spirited Jewish psychiatrist, played by Judd Hirsch, replies, and I’m paraphrasing:

Do you know how much effort it takes NOT to feel something?

This is harder, and more delicious.

This seemed the perfect analysis to me of Pence, the religious conservative former governor of Indiana and current Vice President. The man who is said to not eat alone with another woman or be in a place that serves alcohol unless his wife is present. 

The man who, for decades, has also been simultaneously dogged by rumors that he’s a repressed homosexual, with stories from the past claiming that as a kid even his own father once gave him the nickname of Bubbles on a car ride with the family because he was so, um, effervescent. 

Don’t act like you didn’t giggle #bubbles4ever

Well, all I can say is I would’ve preferred Bubbles compared to the things said about my own queer self at various times growing up.

Though never by my father.  At least to my face. 

That, in itself, could explain a lot about the differences between us.  I watch the debate alone with my husband of 32 years (Note: Well, technically only 5 years of marriage but 32 years together.   We weren’t able to legally marry for the other 27 and, if Pence had his way, we never have been able to) and together we root for the woman of color positioned 12 feet away from him beside that thick shield of Plexiglas.

Yes, you are Senator Harris.

Meanwhile, Pence sits up on the stage purposefully and unapologetically interrupting her as the running mate and chief cheerleader of the first openly white supremacist POTUS in modern times.

Pence and I may be close to the same age but as far as I know, that’s where the similarities end.  Unless you believe the now disavowed comments a college roommate of his once made that Pence used to like looking at muscle magazines back in the day.

Okay yes, I will admit to occasionally being tempted by a publication or two like that in my youth.  But I got over that phase once I realized that revering a man who appears muscular on the outside is not necessarily as desirable as it seems.

Though it can be.

It often feels this ridiculous #YESILIFTBRO

Nor is it a representation of who he is on the inside.  Though certainly it could be.

But you never learn any of that stuff when you stiffly refuse to feel the various stimulations on and in your head that almost everyone else watching you can so easily see.

When you are so pursed and controlled that you can’t even admit there’s a fly on your head, or perhaps worse yet, can’t even feel it, God knows what else you’re missing.  Or choosing to miss.

How much hairspray? Seriously

Or, well, allowing to happen so as not to face the reality of who you are, what you’ve become and, most importantly, what you now represent.

And what people are truly seeing when they look at you.

Idina Menzel – “Let It Go”

This is Us

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-2-41-14-pm

One of the most popular shows of the new television season is This Is Us, a series that follows three generations of an American family back and forth in time. Though it primarily focuses on three grown “triplets” in their thirties, the hallmark of the story is that it flows easily through the decades as if they are continuous scenes on our screens – much the way we surf everyday on our desktops to follow variations of the same news story or subject matter. The latter is purposeful and is a large part of what makes This Is Us so timely and relatable.

This is... a hit

This is… a hit

The focus of the show is about being seen and heard. The brilliant African American kid from drug addicted parents who was adopted but never quite fits in; the fat girl who grows up into an obese women and has trouble letting people see the real her beneath what they view of her exterior, assuming they’d ever care to; and the hot TV actor who was once the least noticed in the bunch who now hides behind his looks and success because he can’t face the pain of always knowing that inside he really is and always was second rate. And these are just the triplets!

This is Us echoes a popular show from my past, thirtysomething, which pulled off a similar feat in the 80s but with the focus on a contemporary group of friends of a certain age who had indeed become each other’s family. However, while This Is Us moves constantly through past and present, thirtysomething dwelled primarily in the present with only occasional echoes of the past.

There was a limit to how willing we were to look backwards for answers in the “Greed is Good” eighties. These days, perhaps presciently, This Is Usfocus is on searching the past in desperate hope for answers about who we are today. Each psychological and actual crisis seems to rest in a series of past incidents – though after seven episodes they provide mostly brief insights and few satisfactory answers or solutions to changing actual behaviors. Perhaps it will go more fully down that road as it continues and takes notes from network execs. But right now, its characters seem to be desperately exploring. They know they’ve suddenly woken up in crisis and are willing to do almost anything to either NOT feel the pain or to somehow begin to forge a new way in which to live on.

You... You're good! #seewhatyoudidthere

You… You’re good! #seewhatyoudidthere

Perhaps some of you might see where I’m going with this. Though I’ll bet half of you don’t… which could be my fault but is probably indicative of the fact that I dwell in deep blue state America. Did you think you’d get a break from it all here? Rest assured there will be little escape for at least the next two four years. Though we’re probably not headed in the direction that you think. In either place.

The Electoral College election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence to President and Vice-President – despite the fact that they will have lost the popular vote by close to TWO MILLION people by the time the final tallies are counted – is currently wreaking havoc on the American family. Yet how we see our present via our past seem to greatly differ, depending on what side of the ideological fence we stand on.

Let’s take the example of what happened when Mike Pence attended the Friday night performance of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton in New York City, a deep blue state renowned for its multi-ethnic population, some of whom work in what is renowned as its sexually diverse theatre community (Note: Meaning, there are a ton of us gays employed on Broadway, and 99.999% of the straights are among our staunchest allies).

...said no one

SURPRISE! …said no one

If you haven’t heard, upon entrance to the theatre, the veepee elect was spontaneously booed among small bits of applause. Sort of like what would happen in an alternative universe if president elect Hillary wandered into a Chick Fill A in Mississippi a week after voting ended.

We've been down this road before #stopandsmellthechicken

We’ve been down this road before #stopandsmellthechicken

Being that Hamilton specifically tells the story of an IMMIGRANT’s rise in American history it is unsurprising the audience cheered at various pro-references to immigration nor is it shocking that upon Mr. VP’s re-entrance to the theatre in the second act a specific line about just how much we immigrants (Note: Yes, my grandparents came from Russia, Poland and Hungary – though not all of them – some were killed by the Nazis) can accomplish if given the chance drew thunderous applause.

That was seemingly about it until after the curtain call, when one of the lead actors read a statement (partially written by Hamilton creator-turned-cultural-icon Lin-Manuel Miranda) as the audience filed out. It read exactly thus:

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-54-20-pm

To which that night our 2016 President Elect who will lose the popular vote by TWO MILLION (Note: It’s sort of like an asterisk to a home run record), sent out TWO THREE TWEETS via Twitter. They read exactly thus:

So much for the land of dissent – at least in theory. As for practice, well, that’s still up in the air until AFTER January 20th.

But let’s not stray too much from the subject at hand, which would be looking back at our lives and our families in order to provide information, insights and answers about who we are, how we can heal and in what fashion we will move on.

Since Make America Great Again is THE SLOGAN that won Trump-Pence the electoral college vote, many non-T/P voters found themselves recoiling from their anti-immigrant, often racist, sexist and xenophobic campaign rhetoric; their embrace by white nationalists; and rallies where hysteria to Lock Her Up (Yes, you know which “her”) was the war call of both supporters and candidate.

The thinking:

Wait, aren’t we mostly a nation of people who mostly came from other countries? Wasn’t civil rights for Blacks and other non-whites a given, at least on paper, after a checkered racial history culminating with eight years of our first Black president? Isn’t a large part of what makes America great the fact that we don’t en masse scream for the incarceration of an individual until they are proven guilty, or at least until they have been formally charged with a crime?

No friends, THIS is us. #dontleave

No friends, THIS is us. #dontleave

On the same, token, numerous T/P voters and supporters clearly don’t feel great. The discernible issues cited seem to be not enough jobs in the white working class, our country’s benchmark welcoming policy towards immigrants in an age of global terrorism and a general disgust with the status quo in Washington, DC, but more particularly with the liberal coastal elites.

Wait, you fixed the economy for yourself but not us; you don’t care that many of our American factories closed; we were attacked by non-whites on 9/11 and you’ve never faced it; our government is going bankrupt and all you want to do is spend, spend, spend??? Well, there are no free rides anymore, buster (and busterettes).

All of these issues, every one of them, are valid issues for a family to discuss. And what is our country, or any country, after all, if not a family of people???

Just don't bring this up to Aunt Nan at Thanksgiving #shestouchy

Just don’t bring this up to Aunt Nan at Thanksgiving #shestouchy

The question to be answered is how do we, as a family, settle our real differences? Do we look back into our past – one that included slavery, a Civil War, the fight for women to simply VOTE, two World Wars and any number of others, our coming together as a people and landing on the moon, our rise to becoming one of the most financially and socially admired places on Earth? All of the above?

Meaning, What are the PRINCIPLES and ACTIONS that actually made AMERICA GREAT? And if you don’t believe we ARE great, which clearly the majority of the Electoral College voters do not, HOW DO WE BECOME GREAT AGAIN?

If past is prologue it won’t be about limiting freedoms, closing borders, or judging people by their personalities and lifestyle choices. On either side. At least, that’s what our newest, most beloved television characters are beginning to realize. (Note: Thanks, NBC!)

On the other hand, real life America is certainly not lived in via the reality of ONE hit television series, is it?   Or…is it?