Join us in June(mostly)
Watching the president elect’s inaugural address last Friday I was struck by two things; one: that this was a remarkably coherent speech, and two: that bits of the address were eerily and disturbingly familiar.
The coherence was not expected as the President’s streams of consciousness, ramped up by contempt and vitriol, are rarely focused or logically ordered. A recent speech at CIA headquarters supports this opinion.
The president started off well. His respectful tone towards Chief Justice Roberts, Presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush, and Carter were appropriate and dignified. His exclusion of Mrs. Clinton was perhaps not nice, but one wonders if ‘President’ Clinton would have mentioned Trump or Bernie Saunders. Trump then got to the meat of his discourse. In a movie-trailer worthy synopsis, he pointed out the perceived problems with the ‘carnage’ happening in the United States.
He proceeded to isolate the USA, on the way to making it great again. ‘From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.’
The familiar echoes were the ‘giving power back to the people’ and ‘building with American hands’. And then there was the Charlie Sheen moment, when ‘America will start winning again, winning like never before.’ The echoes of Bane, of John Frederick Paxton, and oddly of Bernie Sanders, seem at odds with a speaker, who rarely evokes anyone but himself.
The imagery of an American heartland littered with broken people, rusting dreams, and crumbling infrastructure is not altogether untrue. Coming from the newest resident of the White House, the statements seem a tad disingenuous. To be fair, the image of the 45th president striving mightily to protect people, and using every breath in his body to change the course of mighty rivers may fill some with hope.
Now comes the big moment. ‘Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who ‘are all talk’ and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it.’ I am reminded of the scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian where the talk is all of ‘not just talking’.
‘The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.’ As if the point needed to be underscored.
That this individual, so long divisive, so long derisive and so often disinterested in anyone but himself, could talk of healing, of racial harmony, of a shared creator. That he could speak of caring what happens to a child in Detroit or Nebraska under whatever sheltering skies he may see in his mind’s eye. These statements can only bring back the impassioned question of Joseph Nye Welch, “Have You Left No Sense of Decency?”.
CSR: Good morning. Pay Now Fly Whenever Airlines
Customer: Oh yes. Good morning.
CSR: Can I help you?
Customer: I’d like to …. I need to reschedule my flight.
CSR: When is it?
Customer: At 5:30.
CSR: Where are you going?
Customer: I’m going to Jamaica.
CSR: What airline are you traveling with?
Customer: Jamaica Air.
CSR: When do you want to reschedule for?
Customer: For later this afternoon, if that’s possible?
CSR: Okay do you have your ticket?
Customer: Yes, Ah here it is.
CSR: Okay …. That’s Jamaica Air from New York. Uh oh …Okay. No flights this afternoon.
Customer: No flights?
CSR: Not until Tuesday.
Customer: My vacation isn’t that long.
CSR: That’ll be two thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars.
CSR: Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars for a return ticket.
Customer: What. I only paid One thousand, four hundred for the package.
CSR: Ah, you had a package.
CSR: Well then …nothing I can do.
Customer: What do you mean?
CSR: You need to call your travel agent.
Customer: Aren’t you a travel agent?
CSR: We wholesale tickets. The agent is listed at the bottom of your ticket.
Customer: Hmmm, yes. Now I see it. Dodgy Destinations. Wow … how did I not see that name?
CSR: Call them and they should be able to reschedule things.
Customer: Oh, did I wake you?
Mechanic: Did you wake me? Who is this?
Customer: You’re fixing my car.
Mechanic: Do you know what time it is?
Customer: It’s late
Mechanic: Or early – depending on how you look at it.
Customer: I’m sorry. I didn’t know …
Mechanic: Okay. What do you want?
Customer: I’m at the airport and I don’t have a passport.
Customer: It’s in my car.
Customer: My passport. I left it in my car.
Mechanic: And …
Customer: I need it. Can you bring it to me?
Mechanic: Are you insane? I’m a mechanic, not a courier.
Customer: Could you have it sent here?
Mechanic: What time does your flight leave?
Customer: At 5:30.
Mechanic: It’s – it’s 4:40. I don’t have enough time to get to the garage and get your passport to the airport.
Customer: But I’ll miss my flight.
Mechanic: Why don’t you take a later flight?
Customer: I don’t know? …
Mechanic: You’re not going to make it. It’s too far.
Customer: Why is it too far?
Mechanic: First I have to get to the garage; then I have to open up, and then I have to find your passport in your car. Next, I have to call a courier and wait for him to arrive. Finally, the courier has to get to the airport. The fastest that’s going to happen is two hours.
Customer: Two hours?
Mechanic: I think we’re really looking at three or four hours …even if I can find a 24-hour courier.
Customer: What should I do?
Mechanic: I think you should reschedule your flight.
Customer: Reschedule? … for when?
Mechanic: If I were you I’d reschedule for later in the afternoon.
This is a good chance to try an activity on intent and inflection. Call a student aside and tell them to be happy when they read, tell the other to be angry. Next time try one sad and one happy. Try energetic and really tired. Ask the audience to judge how effectively the speakers communicated. Don’t let the audience in on what the subtext is all about. With time, they can identify things for themselves.