spring, actors, and eugenics

It's been a wonderful space of time in Pensacola.  New beginnings, spring is approaching, and its just warm enough to drop the boat in the water with a sweater or jacket.  A couple of thoughts on this cool March morning, as has become customary.

1.  I spent several days in Sarasota with friends a couple of weeks ago.  Among the things we did, I was able to observe an acting class at the Venice Theatre. I was expecting a largely technical experience, i.e., inflect your voice this way, and stand that way.  Move your body in such and such a way.  It was just about anything but this.  Some of the most well known trial advocacy experts, Gerry Spence among them, pound into the heads of lawyers the need to connect emotionally with juries.  I was intrigued by the similarities in the manner in which the acting students were told they had to connect with audiences.  I never expected to hear the class being instructed on trust.  The most fascinating exercise involved having students face each other and repeat the following phrase, "I could be hurt by you."  I was overwhelmed with the recognition that this is so often what we are too guarded to really say to one another.  How often is it that lovers, family members, social factions, find it nearly impossible to articulate what they'd say if they could; "I am afraid," or "I could be hurt by you."  We are perhaps most authentic when we can let our guard down and say what is below the surface of polite conversation. 

All of this has been in the backdrop of working through Along the Way, by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  Among a variety of discussions, the book masterfully depicts the role of emotional intelligence in interpersonal relations and the curious and unique vocation of acting.  It's been a well timed exploration for me.

2.  I listened to an eyeopening podcast this morning on the American eugenics experience, which largely focused on the incredible U.S. Supreme Court case of Buck vs. Bell.  Though I was familiar with the case, I was stunned to learn that it had been cited by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals as binding authority on sterilization due process as recently as 2001.

Accomplished jurists bear no immunity to the fear of the "other."  It seems evident that the present battle cry of certain conservative pockets ("us vs. them") is reminiscent of the same forces behind the American eugenics movement.  Most shameful perhaps being our recent collective knee jerk reflex in this country to Syrian refugees, which certainly seems to resemble our dismal response to Jews seeking to flee Europe around the time of the Second World War.

3.    I'll leave you with some fitting words from Robert Frost.

An ant on the tablecloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn't with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch,
And was off on his duty run.
Yet if he encountered one
Of the hive's enquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He would put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn't given a moment's arrest-
Seems not even impressed.
But he no doubt reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher-up at court.
Then word goes forth in Formic:
"Death's come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.
Embalm him with ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen."
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician;
And taking formal position,
With feelers calmly atwiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair
It couldn't be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental


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