Saturday, November 12, 2016

The great nations of Europe, coming through

Manifest / Destiny, Act II
Photo: John Lamb
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Through tomorrow the West End Players Guild is presenting the first fully staged production of Manifest / Destiny by physicist and playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky. The play tells the story of European immigration to and then across the American continent in a series of rapidly-changing scenes displaying dozens of characters played by just four versatile actors designated by letters A through D.

It's a rich, intelligent script that reminds us of the things our ancestors came here to escape (poverty, bigotry, fascism) as well as the challenges they faced when they got here.

That is: poverty, bigotry, and fascism.

Because it sometimes takes fiction to tell the truth, I present you with two quotes. The first is from a character in Zelevinsky's script, the second from a real person. In the wake of our recent presidential election, I leave you to contemplate the truth expressed in both.

"The most useful people are: homosexuals. No, really. Each is like a canary in the coal mine of society. Anything goes wrong, and they are the first to feel it. Next, the poor; next, the folks who dress different and don't cut their beards the way you do; but in front of the line, it's them, always bravely first into the breach. Look, Hitler becomes a Chancellor and guess who gets outlawed first? This is, like, a great calling card: hi, my name is Hitler and I hate homosexuals! So, yeah, they were first. You know, I have no idea why I'm talking about homosexuals. They have nothing to do with my story. Only this: they were first. And next it's Communists, and then – well – us." - "A" in Manifest / Destiny, Act I

"When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church — and there was nobody left to be concerned." - Pastor Martin Niemöller, quoted in The Congressional Record, 14 October 1968, page 31636

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