Sunday, October 21, 2012
Imagine a world without the Viet Nam war. Where idealism is stronger than cynicism. Where decency trumps lying and cheating. Imagine a government that nurtures those values. Imagine a world where no one is hungry, where the only war we are waging is on poverty. Imagine a world with less pollution, fewer gas-guzzling cars, and efficient railroad systems connecting commuters to their jobs. Imagine a world with less strife in the Middle East. Imagine a compassionate government, a thriving educational system with equal opportunity for all, and an environment not doomed by climate change and a myriad of other pending disasters. Imagine a world where the word, "Watergate" refers only to a complex of buildings on the Potomac River. Imagine a world where George McGovern won the 1972 presidential election.
George McGovern was my choice in my first presidential election. It wasn't until this evening when I finally brought my iPad downstairs so my mom could read the paper while I began to prepare dinner that I learned he had died. "I want to read that," she said pointing to the headline announcing McGovern's death. She scrolled through the article slowly then shook her head. "The world needs more like him," she said.
While I pondered an alternate history for the past few decades, a play I saw some years back came to mind. "Bunbury," by the wonderful L.A. playwright, Tom Jacobsen, is subtitled as a "trivial play for serious people," and seems like lighthearted meta fun for most of its playing time. Bunbury brings to the stage characters that merit only a mention but never appear in a number of famous theatricals. Rosaline, Romeo's love prior to Juliet, the young husband of Blanche Dubois--as well as characters that were, like Bunbury himself, mere theatrical fictions--characters that were made-up by the "real" characters to suit their needs. These never seen creations unite in Jacobsen's play and change theatrical history. I can't quite remember how the playwright transitions us from the world of theatre to real life, but near the end of the play, after being well-entertained with all of these alternative theatrical histories, I believe there's a scene where perhaps Algernon and Bunbury are watching TV, and we hear Robert Kennedy being inaugurated as president. There was the collective gasp that makes going to the theatre so worthwhile. As I recall, that was pretty much the end of the play. There we were, an audience spun around from laughter to tears just as the lights are coming up.
For George McGovern, the lights have gone to black. A lot of different things would have had to line up to fulfill McGovern's hopes and dreams, and no doubt not everything he envisioned would have come to fruition even if he'd been president. But it's something to imagine.
Apologies to Tom Jacobsen if my memory of "Bunbury" is flawed.