I looked at the front page of The Times a few days ago and felt like blowing my brains out. Or, to put it differently, it felt as if my heart was breaking. Breaking for our nation, breaking because of an awful Present and what could be an even more awful Future, breaking for our planet Earth, breaking for the future of our children, for all children, breaking for the lost beauties of Utah. The guns, the insane assassinations, the homeless on the streets as the Dow tops twenty-four thousand, the fires in Los Angeles, Puerto Rico thrown some paper towels to help it out of its misery, a pervert in the White House backing a pervert for the Senate, and so on and so on and so on. I don’t need to tell you. It feels like such an angry, frightening, amoral, and grim time we are living through. Whatever happened to our nation? How could we go from Obama to this in such a short time? Can we ever restore this country to what it was before, even if what it was wasn’t always so great? But it was nothing like this. We are walking through a sewer like deer caught in headlights. But behind the wheel of the car whose lights are blinding us is a tyrant, a bully, not a President, not a President, a greedy thug who molests women and the planet and us. Let’s not fool ourselves. This is really, really bad.
This heartless and indifferent swine is now attacking the Middle East by making Jerusalem the capital of Israel. What might he do in Korea? A dear friend keeps asking me for advice: “what can we do?” I wish I knew. And I find it very dispiriting day after awful day to have no idea of what to do. I know we must not go to sleep. We must stay awake. Awake to the horror. We must look at what is happening, look at it realistically in the face, and say NO in any way we can; in the voting booth and in the streets and, if necessary, in open rebellion. I don’t like violence but if violence comes, count me in. As the days grow darker, literally and figuratively, I remember that Chanukah and Christmas are both celebrations of the tiny light in the great darkness. Join me in stoking that flame, in keeping that little light alive, in being kinder and more generous to the homeless, treasuring our friendships, being thankful for the precious lives we have been given, keeping our eyes OPEN to how awful it really is and getting worse each day, but with the strange and irrational hope that it may still get better. It may. If we don’t go to sleep. In the Vietnam times there was a saying: “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Whatever it takes. There is great and grave reason for despair, but as Arundhati Roy said as we were about to invade Iraq: “we can not afford the luxury of despair.”
Once, when I was in Poland I was introduced to a young man who said with a Slavic twinkle : “I look into your eyes and see the saddest optimist I’ve ever met.” So, as we enter the “holidays” , this saddest of optimists wishes you and and all of us a happier New Year.
Andre Gregory is a visionary theatre director, filmmaker, writer, actor, artist and activist. His film, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE is a now classic.