Every night for months I would wait in the wings watching and listening to the cast of characters spinning the plot of the play “To Gillian on her 37th Birthday”. I played Gillian, (a ghost) – the dead wife of the lead character “David Lewis”.
I would wait for my cue each night to involve myself in the action and yet being a ghost unable to be heard or seen by the majority of characters, no matter how creative, my impact only fell on the one who was “open” to the presence.
“Am I speaking in a vacuum” the line delivered to the sea winds and gulls spelled out Lewis’ frustration with his lot and being unable to make himself heard to those around him. The only person “listening ” was a ghost who was unable to reach out and make the difference in his situation.
I wrote those words three years ago as they pertained to the “politics” of dance. But like Gillian they come back to haunt .
As the Co-Chair of Charleston Village, and the person who has the ability to attend day time meetings, it has fallen to me to be the representative of our organization at most – “not another brilliant idea, Ollie” meetings. Some pulled me in, some as a ”watcher”, some as “this is a complete waste of time” – but like a good co-chair and citizen I have been attending.
Ah youth! I remember thinking I could change the world, that “right was might” and it was the fault of the complacent and apathetic public why our world or little part of our world was the way it was and is.
“Get involved in your community”
came the cry of the media,
“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”
came the cry from a President.
“Come and Join Us – make a difference – Your voice counts”
came the cry of the activists. (I think they must all be young)
Alright – I answered the call, polished up my “tilting at windmills armor” and rode off on my “off to save the day steed”
I have realized a lot of things as I grow older and one realization (especially in the past two years) has become painfully apparent to me. We “the apathetic public” chastized for our ”lack of participation in our nation” aren’t really expected to be involved unless it suits the “powers that be”.
In the ideal political world we would, like holiday decorations, be trotted out when needed and then packed away for the next time we are needed. We are needed to pack council chambers and answer the call when the votes are needed to be swayed “my group of supporters is bigger than your group of supporters” political ploy. Our letters to the editor only the “needed” letters published, any other time we are cranks and crackpots.
Ironically, it seems for reasons I cannot fathom, it helps when private grants and governmental grants have grass roots or letters of support from the public. So we are useful then. We are useful when it comes to getting signatures, we are useful for turning out to vote for political parties, they beat the drums to get us involved. (Although it seems “independent “ voters are NOT that useful)
Once we have served our purpose then “back to life” comes the “should be seen and not heard and speak only when spoken to“ scenario. Any other time and you are a nuisance should you dare to have a differing opinion or heaven forbid start asking “questions”.
The media has a lot of power, we are needed for opposing opinions – controversy pulls in the ratings. We are needed to attend task force meetings to show the media and voters (especiallly in an election year) ”we are doing our jobs” or to show that there ”was a public meeting on this issue” just to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed in case one of us actually is ”involved enough and able to” hire an attorney.
As the ghost I sit and watch ”the process of politics”, the nodding in agreement of the talking heads – the “act” of listening, the
“tch tch tch yes dreadful what you are experiencing”
“this is all very emotional “
Ah the dreaded “emotional” tag word which sends a message to the higher ups and to the general public who read – the message we “Emotionally involved worry the powers that be”
“observations by the panel of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. “Two types of property owner the one that is the economic holdout and the one that is the emotional holdout.” It seems the emotional holdout worries the – powers that be – the most “you get some 90 year old lady wanting to die in her home, this can cause greater difficulty than the economic holdout”. The Cato Institute stated “Kelo’s (The recent supreme court ruling) SYMBOLIC significance is probably more damaging than its practical application”
so they go back to the rest of the public and to the upper echelon and denigate the differing opinion with
“we have – you ”know” (nudge nudge wink wink) people thinking with their emotions not their heads, message ….so just smile pat them on the head and move on message”,
like dealing with a sobbing child – The “big We ares and I am’s” sit patiently through the “tantrum” (because they are paid to do so – part of the job) let the emotionally involved have their moment of “we tried – they listened meeting” before the forgone conclusion of they will do what they were going to do anyway. Wait long enough and another “emotional issue will take precedent .
Emotion has become a dirty word and all encompassing – it “explains” why someone speaks out! They (the naysayers) are ”emotionally” (left unsaid they must then also be unstable) involved. The word left unsaid, but understood, gives logical reasoning for the dissent.
Sometimes we are given a crust when the “ghost of public opinion” manages to make the transition, for a brief moment, across the political and financial veil. And it looks like we have some power and have made a difference we can rest easy once more but don’t you believe it! The dead idea may also be resurrected in the shadow world of politics and it too will come back to haunt.
The actors in this particular production of ”Tales of the Inner Circle” know the script and the audience of the general public are just there to applaude on cue. The ghost in the wings watches, tired of trying to be heard fades away and new characters take her place, apathy and cynicism.