Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Prior Excursion Into Stupid

I've had a lot of friends on Facebook recently losing their minds at the prospect of a Trump presidency, and while I understand the disappointment and maybe even the anger, what bothers me more than anything is the perception that, somehow, this is sui generis. That somehow, this transition is historically fraught with difficulty and that the result of the election is illegitimate. I have news for you: we've been here before a lot, and as recently as 2001. And speaking personally, the 1980 election was an interesting exercise in losing friends.

At that time, I worked locally for the Reagan campaign, stuffing envelopes, moving boxes, randomly handing out signs and bumper stickers. Really small time stuff, but I wanted to be a part of the effort because another four of President Carter genuinely scared me, and I thought that Reagan was right on the big things, like the USSR and the economy.

I was doing a play at that time, and while the nature of it doesn't matter (it was original, quite bad, and I had a lead, which was worse), the fact that I had become friends with the director did. Good friends. We spent a lot of time talking about theatre, quaffing adult beverages, and talking about the future. And then, one evening about a week from opening, we lurched into electoral politics, and my friend ventured a remark about the backward nature of Idaho electoral results. I mildly noted that we had a Democratic governor, a Democratic legislature more often than not, and that Pocatello (where we were) had been known for a strong union presence due to the Union Pacific yards and Bucyrus Erie, which fell off in the late 70s/early 80s recession. He waved that aside, and expressed his fears that a Carter loss would result in the End of Western Civilization as We Knew It, and looked to me, sure of my swift confirmation of that obvious fact. I mildly replied that I had a problem with Carter, that his loss might change things for the better, and even if I knew they would stay about the same, I still couldn't support him. He asked if I was supporting John Anderson, the third party candidate that year. I shook my head and said I was supporting Reagan, and that I was, in fact, working for him.

The conversation died down and we talked of other things. In retrospect, I realize he was experiencing some cognitive dissonance, but since I knew what I knew and suspected what his politics were before, I was fine with it.

Fast forward to Monday's rehearsal. He was business-like but basically non-communicative otherwise. After rehearsal, unlike his previous behavior where he was talkative and sought conversation, he simply left. Tuesday was the same, if even more terse. Wednesday, things blew up, and the excuse was a belt.

I was supposed to be wearing a sword for this show, which was ridiculous, but there we are. We did not HAVE swords yet, and I did not normally wear a belt. He had asked me to bring one to use in rehearsal, but I had forgotten it because I had no use for it as yet. In the middle of the first act, he stopped the show and asked where my belt was. I replied that I had left it home, but would bring it the following night. He flew into a rage, saying that if that was the level of professionalism I was going to bring to the production, perhaps he should have thought better about casting me in the first place. My reply was something like "It would have been easier to remember if we had the swords to work with, seeing that we open on Saturday, but I'll bring it tomorrow." He wound up from there, saying the swords were on the way and telling me to stop changing the subject. I told him to get his panties out of his butt crack and calm down (or something similar), and in an instant, he was in my face, threatening to kick my ass. I told him he could try, which is where he threw a right that missed and I followed with a right that didn't and a left that knocked him backwards. Other castmates ran between us, and he screamed at me that I was fired from the show, and to get out. I screamed back that I wasn't being paid so I COULDN'T get fired, but that I could quit and did, so he could take his show, roll it up, and park it where things weren't quite so shiny. He kept screaming at me as I walked out the door and onto the parking lot.

It was snowing, and I started making snowballs and pelting his car. I was joined by two of the ladies in the show, who asked me to reconsider because the show opened in  a couple of days and there was no way to make it work otherwise because I had the most lines, etc. I said I'd consider it for their sake, but that if the director said anything to me other than please, thank you, and cross from there to there, I would be gone. One of them walked back in and I kept throwing snowballs, but at other things as well. About ten minutes later, she came back out and said he agreed the show Must Go On (in retrospect, the arts would have survived the shock), and that he would talk to me through her for the remainder of the production.

And that's how that went, until the show closed. The director did not come to the cast party, and I never saw him again. Which is sad, actually, since we had LOTS in common...until we started talking politics. And then, from his perspective, it was over. I had stepped Beyond the Pale, and that was that.

For myself, I resolved from that point that I would never let politics be the sole determinant of whether I liked someone - or would talk to someone - or not. And I have tried to let that guide my behavior.

During this election cycle, I've been attacked, disrespectfully contradicted, and directly abused by "friends," one of whom I defriended. One wonders how things might have gone had I advocated for either Clinton or Trump instead of the Libertarian. Probably not a lot differently. 

The point is that is actually quite easy to disagree without being disagreeable. I recommend it highly. It can make your life...and your online experience...much more enjoyable and far less stressful.

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