The days are growing short.
Remember reading Antigone in high school? Antigone was always presented as a heroine, a woman of true integrity. It was never one of my favorite plays, though. It was something I had to read for school. Then in 1990 I was living in San Francisco when the first Gulf War was set off by the first President Bush. Late one night as demonstrations raged outside, I was in a donated hall on folding chairs with a huge collection of theater artists, all wondering what our response as artists should be. “Antigone!” this old guy kept screaming. “This is the moment for Antigone! Resist! What is the message of Antigone? Resist!” It was a popular show that fall, following the August invasion of Kuwait.
Have you heard of this guy Art Sisneros, the Texas Elector who has resigned rather than vote for Trump? I imagine he likes Antigone. I imagine he thinks he is Antigone: “Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector. The people will get their vote. I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions. I will also mourn the loss of our republic.”
Oh that’s just got Antigone all over it.
I find myself less and less impressed by people who hold to their personal convictions no matter what, who cannot be budged come what may, whose pride in their own principles overrides every other consideration. This guy, one of a mere 538 people who will decide the fate of this country, would rather not be sullied by this trashy, foul, unfair, “sinful” process. He’s going to stay clean and untroubled and go home to sleep and mourn the loss of our republic.
On stage, it is easy to be the good guy, the unbending, the hero. Antigone dies, but the actress playing her gets to go out for dinner after the show with her friends. On stage, you can tear families apart, destroy nations, ruin businesses, wage war, and then clean up and do it again tomorrow. It’s easy to write a play that dramatizes a clear and simple moral choice. It’s easy to play the good guy. And it’s easy to sit in the audience and identify. But we’re all going to be in the muck now: as citizens and artists, we’re going to live this wild ride. And I’d rather not have Antigone on my team, really.