I have never voted in my life so today is a day where I need to stay away from many of my friends. The sentiment and non-action known as “Get out the vote” annoys me but maybe it’s a sign of my maturity that I no longer pick fights with my friends over it.
Unlike me, many of the theatre bloggers seem to be voting today. Angry White Guy’s message is short but sweet “No fucking around. Find the time and go vote.” The YouTube thing “King George II” he linked to is a nice piece of anti-Bush propaganda. On similar note Matthew Freeman also wants you to consider George Bush’s resume in today’s election. Chris Durang thinks someone will be Hacking Democracy. James “Rabble-Rouser” Comtois is rousing rabbles with his alliterations. Parabasis adds an expletive to the single word command “vote, damnit.” Jason Grote is not a crime but Jason Grote is a vote. Mr. Excitement links to Mr. Schwartz and The Couch Potato’s Guide to Election Night. Someday Obscene Jester wants to be in a band named Offending Loo so he might ROCK THE VOTE. George Hunka wants to somehow vote for art today while Ian Hill is still dreaming at the voting booth this morning about his hobnob with that famous Statesman Artist from overseas. TheaterBoy likes it when Cheney makes faces.
Actually Lucas’ suggestion “Vote Early, Vote Often” intrigued me as a plan for a second but the map he puts up says Fuggeddaboudit! We are way beyond the Red/Blue state thing now; it’s even too late for exile to Canada.
On Election Day I usually reread Thoreau’s essay so that the different drummer in my head finds at least some harmony in thought with my brother man on this day.
All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. –from Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
Not that I do not venture out into the field on Election Day. I hated fascist Giuliani’s first term Zero Tolerance bullshit so much that Election Day in 1997 I didn’t vote but I did campaign for his opponent Ruth Messinger. She’s a decent person so I campaigned for her only because I knew she couldn’t win. I knew my help wouldn’t hurt her.
I was working the lines of cars stopped at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge costumed as Squeegee Elvis (second cousin of Homeless Elvis) passing out homemade “Ruth the Truth” stickers and such. All the other squeegee guys had been jailed during the Mayor’s first term, but I was fairly sure this was the one day the cops wouldn’t arrest me.
Just a couple months before this election the Mayor’s jackboots had stuck a toliet plunger handle up citizen Abner Louima’s rectum. The subsequent civil suit against the city resulted in a settlement of $8.75 million, the largest police brutality settlement in New York City history. So of course I was afraid to be arrested for my squeegee routine but I figured it would have been bad PR for newly re-elected Rudy to have had some of his goon squad arrest an opponent’s campaign worker on Election Day.
But I wasn’t just afraid of the cop’s brutality; I didn’t really want to go to jail either. It’s hard enough being one of the only white guys locked in that shithole Tombs (in 1991 I was illegally kept there 36 hours without arraingment) but to be dressed as Elvis on top of that would have really been fucked.
Elvis’ cousins are legion and I’ve lived many of their lives. I had a megaphone so I would often attack the public as Incumbent Elvis at election time shouting lines from Dick Zigun‘s The Three-Minute Manifesto for an Uncle Sam on Stilts. And after I learned to walk on stilts my favorite of Elvis’ cousins soon became the country gangsta rapper Long Tall Elvis performing a version of Blue Suede Shoes. “I’m Long Tall Elvis and I walk like I talk.”
I eventually did Dick’s piece the way he wrote it as The Three-Minute Manifesto for an Uncle Sam on Stilts as part of Thieves Theatre’s production Say Uncle. Here’s a version I recorded today in my attempt to help GetOutTheVote.