Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grabbing The God-mike

Grabbing The God-mike

There is a wonderful theatre-tech term, the God-mike—the microphone that the sound engineer (or, occasionally, the director) uses to talk back to the performers.  The God-mike isn’t some marvel of fidelity—it is in no way like those tiny miracles that they tape to the star's faces to allow them to soar over chorus and orchestra with perfect pitch.  It's purpose is to communicate. The God-mike doesn't mess around-it booms over every other sound in hall, cuts through the chaos, and commands attention, and obedience.   

We could use a little attention and obedience right now.  A group of lunatic amateur murderers, apparently armed by a cold-blooded professional murderer, blew nearly 300 innocent people out of the sky.  The Arabs and the Israelis are at it again, for the 871st time.  There are thousands of kids barely qualified for middle school pouring over our borders.  Congress is about to go on a restful and relaxing vacation, having punted on every single piece of legislation imaginable, including even a highway bill that pretty much everyone agrees we need (but won't vote for.)

And the world is supine, stunned by the ferocity of events, unable to come up with a thoughtful response other than ritual denunciations.  The horrified Europeans (who are, let’s admit, a lot closer to the Bear than we are) are acutely aware... of the economic damage that being beastly to the Russians might cause back home.  So, while its positively dreadful to see, a few (ok, a few hundred) corpses are one thing, but profits are entirely another.  Hence the struggle.  Some choice, but diplomatic words should do the trick. Back here, the only person who is being criticized more than Putin is Mr. Obama, who seems to have been personally responsible for pushing the button on the anti-aircraft weapon.  Except, of course, that he’s too weak and unmanly to do anything like that so he invited the separatists to do it.  

Down at the border, Mr. Obama isn’t a very popular figure either.  The GOP has been floating a “blood is on his hands” trope.  The story goes that he took time out from a fundraiser (or golf, or lawlessness) to create a holographic image of himself, translated into Spanish, inviting all those children to come to a party with piñatas, ice-cream and free cell-phones.  Various luminaries, some packing heat, have visited the border to see for themselves (sounds bold, doesn't it?) and Rick Perry (not out of any Presidential ambition, mind you, but just because he cares) has strapped on his own sidearm and called out the Texas National Guard. 

Back in Congress, absolutely nothing anyone proposes is getting any traction.  Mr. Obama’s $3.7 Billion plan to shore up border security is being slammed because it spends money (um, yes, that’s what it will do, so Speaker Boehner calls it a “blank check”.) It also doesn’t include a giant transporter from Star Trek to beam up all the undesirables, and doesn't repeal a Bush-era statute designed to protect children from trafficking by gangs and other criminals. That law, passed in 2008, set up a system to help provide humanitarian relief and possible asylum for children who can demonstrate they are victims of trafficking and who would face continuing threats if they returned home.  Interestingly enough, even then Congress feared Mexican children above others, and made an exception for them (allowing Border Patrol agents to just turn them around.)  But kids from Central America were given more of an opportunity.  Therein, says Republican Senator John Cornyn, lies the problem, and he wants to eliminate the distinction, treating Central American children the same kindly way Mexican children are treated.  Frisk them and shoo them. The good Senator (and he has a Democratic co-sponsor in the House, Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar) calls his legislation the “Humane Act.” 

Moving our attention briefly to the Middle East, Hamas and the Israelis are trading shots, missiles, kidnappings, and casualties.  If anything demonstrates the absolute vapidity of absolutely everyone’s approach, it’s the Israeli-Palestinian situation.  Hamas specializes in provocation without care for the value of human life (anyone’s life.) The Israelis excel at over-reaction. The Europeans see an occupation and want the Israelis to follow their fine example when they were occupying powers, with courtesy, and culture, and a genteel empathy. The French are particularly insistent,  having demonstrated such kindness in Algeria. That’s why they are behind an international boycott and divesture movement.  We Americans are better intended, we try for more balance, but just equally inept.  We can't help ourselves stop the persistent but futile efforts at restarting the peace process when the parties just aren't ready to make peace.  Let’s face it; if the sepulchral demeanor of John Kerry doesn’t frighten the parties into it,  this is a fire that has to burn itself out.

Depressing, isn’t it?  Right now, you just want to grab the God-mike and yell:  Hamas and Bibi—knock it off, you are only making your collective lives more dangerous and less tolerable.  Wouldn’t some imperfect peace be better than this? Vladimir—stop playing dress-up in Czar’s clothing and call off your murderers (um, dogs.)  Barack—get out of your pity party, forget the showcase oratory without substantive action, and start being a President again.  Republicans—remember you have a loyalty greater than to your own ambitions and the next election cycle.  Try something, anything, beyond ritual criticism. Ideas actually matter.

And yet, ideas, particularly fresh ones, are valued least.  We have the greatest leadership deficit since the 1920’s, and I don’t see anyone stepping up to the plate. It’s just easier blaming others. 

Which leads me to one more theatre-tech phrase: “Luchtklampen”, or, in English, air clamps.  Air clamps are what you use to rig a truss to any structure where there’s nothing to grab on to.   In case you don’t have any at home, try your neighborhood hardware store.  They might direct you to Congress.

Luchtklampen.  Can you think of a better metaphor?  I’d get them in several sizes.  You never know when you will need one.

June 22, 2014

Michael Liss (Moderate Moderator)

Questions or comments? Email us.