Sunday, March 4, 2012

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Wherein Miss O' Takes on Rush Limbaugh by Way of Acting

So, You Act. What’s Your Day Job?

Years and years and years ago, when Miss O’ was between teaching gigs, she talked at length one day with a successful professional actor she knew slightly about the possibility of returning to acting. Here is what he said: “If you can imagine yourself doing anything other than acting, and being happy doing it, you’re not an actor.”

Miss O’, being a Taurus, believed him. It sounds right: Actors have to spend a lot of money they do not have on clothes, hair stylists, accessories, professional training, gym memberships, agents, and transportation, all in the service of walking through the gray lobbies of a string of nameless buildings to stand in long lines with others who look exactly like them, in order to walk into bare-walled studios to stand before some folding table behind which sit three people they do not know, for two minutes of a monologue and talking, only then to be told, “Thanks.” Maybe. And do the same tomorrow, all in the hopes of landing a 6-week stint in a show that pays a few hundred a week, all in the hopes of someone seeing said show, who will spot them so they can be the next Lindsay Lohan or Dame Judy Dench or George Clooney. Or Rush Limbaugh.

And so Miss O’ went back to teaching.

But the above long paragraph is by no stretch of the imagination the whole story of any life. Look at it again. What job isn’t that job? If that were the whole story of working, everyone would walk into the nearest garage and turn on the engine. Where are my car keys? Screw the keys, where is my car?

There are a lot of jobs you can do and hate the job. It’s really about finding joy in the work. You act, in other words. My dad, Bernie, was a meat cutter for 42 years for Safeway stores. He did not love his job, though he loved the people he worked with, and loved what his union job was able to give his kids, his wife, and his quality of life compared to the poverty he had known as a child. The routine and brutality of the job took a toll: He has spent every night of his retirement cutting meat in his sleep. 

It’s a funny thing about the dream world, and I do think it’s important to think about your dreams. After all, as poet Joy Harjo points out, you spend a third of your entire life asleep. In the five years I worked as a cashier during every college break, I spent every night of my dream life ringing up customers. Why? Because while I was grateful for the job (my supervisor gave me 39 and a half hours a week—“but don’t tell the other cashiers”—thus giving me the money I needed for books, food, and art supplies without having to buy new clothes or pay for transportation because I could walk to work), I hated it. I did it with joy, however, because my dad taught me how to do that: Be the best one, set the tone, have a sense of humor, hustle, hustle, hustle.  Keep your hands and eyes and feet moving. Know your job. You act. That’s how you get the clock to tick down.

But when you dream about your work at night, I’m convinced it’s because you do not love the work you do. I hardly ever had teaching dreams—because I loved teaching. I might have anxiety dreams at stressful times, but I could count on one hand the number of teaching dreams I'd have during the school year.

What We Do for Love

I think now that what the successful actor told me back there was a load of bunk. It was a pretentious, mystical sort of answer, elevating the job of artist above the job of meat cutter or cashier (and thereby diminishing me for being a person of varied interests). I don’t like that. I think artists are important, and I also know that I eat steak and that I buy it from a store. All jobs deserve to be valued.

I also know that my dad’s life has been enriched by art: He’s a huge fan of the movies (as is my mom), and knows the name of every actor from 1933 on. He and my mom see every movie that comes out, even South Park. That’s right. (“Geez, the stuff that came out of those kids’ mouths…,” he said, chuckling.) My dad, though smart, hated school, and I think that if there had been such a thing as film courses in 1950, he might have stayed and finished his education. I really think so.

My own life, too, has been enriched by art. The more I know, the more I have to give to my art. The healthier I am, the more I have to give to my art. And the more art that feeds my soul, the more I have to give to my life, including whatever job I happen to be doing.

This is what knowledge is about. And I use that knowledge in any number of surprising ways each and every day, whether in writing or editing or acting or surviving on the subway system, or watching Rush Limbaugh rant, or reading my fucking Facebook home page.

We Interrupt this Reverie to Argue with a Moron about Sex

Rush Limbaugh no doubt loves the "work" he does. He sits and screams into a microphone. He denigrates women. He puts on a show of being an ignorant blowhard, which isn't acting, really, because he is an ignorant blowhard. (As Rachel Maddow pointed out, Mr. Rush seems to think that every time a woman has sex, she must take a contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy. When I taught in rural Virginia, a teacher of Family Life told me that a female student had said, "Those pills don't work. I took a pill, and my boyfriend took a pill, and I still got pregnant." She might have been Rush's child.)

So in all this week's media screaming about birth control, this is what sent me over the edge: A female former student of mine posted on Facebook yesterday a “poster” from a “group” calling itself, “Impeach Nancy Pelosi.” The poster says: “Hypocrisy is asking the government to stay out of your womb and your bedroom and then expecting them to pay for your contraception and abortions.”

Oh, dear GOD, where to start?

The “group” that created this poster and the young woman who in turn celebrates it are so tragically ignorant about the issue at hand that it pains me to be bothered to set up the counterpoint. And yet I will take it on, because I am a woman, and I am smart, and I can write, and this writing is the only way I sleep at night.

1.     What the fuck does Nancy Pelosi’s lawmaking stance have to do with anything here? I disagree with every Republican sitting in the House and Senate, but if they were fairly elected by their constituents, that’s life in a democracy. They don’t need to be impeached. Fry in a Hell I don’t personally believe in, sure, but impeached because I disagree with them? That’s stupid.
2.     And so is the “message” on that poster, but the layers of stupidity are so deep, it will take a while to unearth them. Here we go, in baby steps.
a.     Contraception—the responsible, adult alternative to unwanted pregnancy—is a health issue and an insurance issue. Let’s talk about two types of contraception for women and what they mean:
i.       The Pill, which prevents pregnancy by taking a hormone pill once a day each day of your life, is a miracle drug. Not only does it prevent unwanted pregnancy, it is often a hormone treatment that helps women mitigate debilitating menstrual cycles and reduce ovarian cysts. Most women take it to prevent unwanted pregnancy, the way men get vasectomies or use condoms, except that the actual baby-formation takes places inside a woman's actual body.  
ii.     IUDs, or inter-uterine devices, are another form of contraception, but I know at least two women who got pregnant while using these, and had abortions, partly out of concern for what the removal of the device would do to the fetus.
b.     The issue of insurance is another factor. Should insurance cover contraception? Or should we, in the 21st Century, with safe medications at our disposal, be made to “let go and let God”? I would ask, “Should insurance cover insulin?” I mean, if God had intended for your pancreas to work, wouldn’t it work? I do think it amounts to the same thing.
c.      It really does. Because this debate is not about insurance coverage: It’s about DECIDING, and who gets to do it. Do women, as voters and insurance clients, have a say in their medication needs, or not? Rush Limbaugh’s Oxycontin is covered, but not a woman’s contraception? Rush Limbaugh’s Viagra is covered, but not a woman’s contraception?
d.     While condoms are not covered by insurance, vasectomies are, and so is Viagra, the boner pill. Exactly what is a boner pill for, if not creating a newfound capacity (since God has failed) for impregnating women? SO WHICH IS IT? Contraceptive freedom or spreading fertile seed? Apparently MEN don’t have to be told; they get to DECIDE. (Masturbating is a true waste of seed. The government might want to look into that. Maybe Monsanto will want to modify and patent it.)
e.     And now for something completely different: God bless Monty Python:
f.      People like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly are frighteningly convincing when they declare that any woman who has sex when she does not want to get pregnant is a slut, and that giving her birth control is essentially subsidizing her sex life. You never hear them say, of their own reproductive life, that every time their own sperm leaves the gate they want to or should produce a child, but the implied ring is that if they could produce a child with every spill of seed, they would, which is not to say they would support the child. As a result, they each would have about 80,000 kids. At least. And so would every other man. And that just makes SO much sense on a planet of limited size with limited resources that every man should produce 80,000 kids a piece by the time he’s 60 or so. Too bad gestation takes nine months (and in the obliging non-slut's body). Dammit!
g.     That any woman is complicit in the idea that a woman should get pregnant any and every time she engages in sexual intercourse (and I happen to know that a good many of the women I’m arguing with on this subject were sexually active, while (gasp?) unwed and in high school, and (for the fun of contrast) I, the pagan progressive Liberal was NOT, and several of those gals chose to get abortions, yes they did, which is, in point of fact, actual hypocrisy, if we are still thinking about that stupid poster) is beyond heartbreaking. Why not making love for its own sake? Why not for love?
h.     Why are we even having this conversation? Is it about, as is so often the argument Conservatives toss in, “the sanctity of life”? No, it is not. This is about Money. The poster in question is about money. And that is really what makes me sick about it. It’s not about morality, or love, or the well-being of children: It’s about tax money. So let me meet her where she lives, my poster woman, in her wallet: How much cost-analysis research has the poster post-er done? I suspect NONE. Here’s a place to start your research about the costs of birth control:
i.        For the record, from the Planned Parenthood Website: Birth control pills may be purchased with a prescription at a drugstore or clinic. They cost about $15–$50 a month.  Just the same as the monthly cost of raising a child to adulthood. Right?
j.       Money, money, money. Have you no sense of decency? No sense of love or morality or caring? Apparently for you and Rush and Bill it’s all about your precious tax dollars, very few dollars of which really even go to the birth control you are so desperate to end.  Here’s where your tax money goes, should you care to actually research it (about 40% goes to Defense, and less than 1% to Welfare and the Arts, to start): Office of Management and Budget website:
k.     And what you really need to be worried about is the food supply: The lack of government regulation in FOOD is what may truly kill us. That, and needless wars that send our children off to die, so that we may protect the freedom of Rush Limbaugh to make $25 million a year.
l.       Finally, love. Work on love. Why not have a real adventure, get out of my womb, and crawl out of your own gold-filled navel? There is more to life than money. There really, really is. For the Christians out there, it’s even in the Bible:


As with having sex for the sake of love: What is so wrong about taking a subject for its own sake? Why not study acting, or filmmaking, or photography, or painting, or music, or Latin, or building trades just because it’s interesting? And surely my previous posts on the expectations of Theater Production have shown what really valuable thinking an arts course can teach. So why do schools and school boards resist the arts and languages and the trades? Why must every such course always be sacrificed to feed the corporate test beast?

Money:  1) Corporations that produce testing materials lobby hard for standardized testing in order to push the products that they sell at huge profits. 2) No school system wants to pay a teacher a salary for even part of a school day for teaching what amounts to something (this shows the limits of systemic thinking) that she loves and her students love. (Because if you aren’t in agony, you cannot be doing anything useful, and ergo are not serving the corporate interest God. Unless you are Rush Limbaugh.)

We are a Puritan nation. And a prurient nation. We are simultaneously a nation of Fun Police and Secret Policemen Having Other Balls. It plays out in our political discourse: Contraception and the rights of women and Education and its evil teachers (mostly women) being the hot-button issues (as it were), over, say, issues such as the Earth and Jobs and War and Cancer (and the fact that the U.S. has the highest rates of cancer of any nation in the world).

I don’t think it’s an accident at all that both issues feature women at the center. We as a nation blame the skirts. We blame women. Women do it, too. ("Impeach Nancy Pelosi." Nancy Pelosi?)

All About EVE

The world is full of sex and its consequences, and we blame the women. It’s as old as Eve, and it has to stop. It really, really does. Boys have penises. Women have vaginas. Semen from the penis ejaculated into a woman’s vagina can cause pregnancy. This can be prevented, should we wish to, because we know how.

The world is full of fascinating things about which we are curious, and the blame and guilt that attend this curiosity remain. It’s as old as Eve, and it has to stop. It really, really does. The world is full of Gardens. Some are natural and some are manmade. We can insert ourselves into the Gardens, should we wish to, because we can know.  

We have our own wills. It’s awesome, and terrifying, and IS, and ever was. We have to own that. And move on.

As a wonderful Bread Loaf professor pointed out to me, all good teaching is subversive, but sanctioned or otherwise, Miss O' will go ahead and spell out today's lessons:  1) You can do any job you want, whether you love it or not, because you have to, as long as you can find joy in it and have a good movie to watch when day is done. 2) If you can do a job you love, so much the better. 3) Being a curious, interested person does not preclude you from being an actor or anything else. (Seriously, the actor who told me that was a limited person. And a bad actor.) 4) Being ignorant is stupid. 5) Governments and corporations do not own your body or your mind or your art, unless you let them. That includes Nancy Pelosi.

So that about wraps up another sexless Sunday morning—another in a string of many, many such sexless Sunday mornings in which childless Miss O’ writes to defend the right of all women to have safe, healthy sex and enjoy full reproductive control, and manages somehow to connect all this to the need for arts education. I’m nothing if not subversive.

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