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Politics, Political Theater and My So-Called Reality:

If you’re flying on a commercial airliner and the cockpit door swings open and you see clearly that Curly from The Three Stooges is flying the plane, your issue with that situation is not “political.” There’s nothing Republican, Democrat or Independent about your fear that someone incompetent has your life and the life of the other passengers in his hands. You just don’t want Curly in the pilot’s seat.

Because a man with no real experience relevant to anything became president of the most powerful nation on earth, we’ve somehow stretched that canopy to cover such things as Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California. Those against such devaluations of leadership are not being “political”; they’re concerned about their safety.

So last week when Schwarzenegger was apologizing again for talking straight out of his Id in reference to Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s ethnic identity – characterizing her as hot blooded – there was nothing political about either the initial event or the apology. And by now, apologies from Schwarzenegger are a regular event, so there was almost nothing about it…period.

Yet the apology played like it had something to do with politics, because it was presented as political theater with Garcia herself standing next to Arnold and smiling. She later insisted the apology had not been necessary. But it was staged anyhow. So let’s call that political theater of the scheduled, scripted sound bite.

Then last week Phil Angelides was appearing with Antonio Villaraigosa at a school. The script was meant to show the Mayor throwing his arms around Angelides. But instead, a 12-year-old female student fainted on stage. The Mayor grabbed the girl and carried her in his arms to…well, would it be unkind to say cheering fans in the end zone? Let’s call that political theater with improvisation.

The Mayor taking over the schools, that’s political. Schwarzenegger positioning himself as “green” because his handlers think Angelides’ record as a developer makes him vulnerable, that’s political. Rigging national elections from the state of Florida, that’s really political. But these incidents last week only underscore that we’ve opened ourselves up to a definition of politics that quite simply allows for too much non-event coverage, especially in wartime.

I got some emotional e-mails concerning ABC TV’s 9/11 miniseries, and they came from high and low. Big PAC’s got into it, media writers got into it, hell, the Democrats got into it. Maybe the responses were based on a new vigilance in America resulting from the WMD deceptions. But part of me wonders if a TV movie feels like something you can successfully shout down after you’ve been unable to shout down a war and two suspicious national elections.

Still, the resistance to rewritten history felt healthy and right, organic and real. About a month ago, I was stopped at a light behind a Toyota Prius. In the very center of the car’s rear panel, exactly at eye level, was a Schwarzenegger campaign sticker. It was colored green. Was the Prius a prop for the sticker? If so, how many other set-ups like this were out there, and how dumb am I supposed to be?

My so-called reality (“reality” and “awesome” are endangered as meaningful words) is that Curly is still flying the plane. The period of reform that we are about to enter come November must not be fabricated of media feints and moments; it has to be political. Yet, a lot of what we are feeling right now is not political. It’s fatigue from incompetent management of our governments, state and national. Personally, I’m saving my strength to campaign and vote, which means I’ll have way less time for theater.

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