Be Careful What You Vote For! Be Very Careful

by Sherman Yellen Sherman Yellen is screenwriter, playwright, and lyricist, was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the musical, The Rothschilds. Sherman's plays includeStrangers, a biographical drama about Sinclair Lewis which was produced on Broadway, and most recently the drama December Fools, produced by the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex in New York in January-March '06. His new musical, Josephine Tonight!, tracing the early life of Josephine Baker from Jim Crow America to Paris in the twenties, was produced in Chicago in February '06, and praised by the Chicago Sun-Times: with its "pure musical comedy style, and its funny, sexy, exuberant score, it has hit written all over it."Sherman's screenwriting has won him two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his drama John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America. His Beauty and the Beast with George C. Scott was nominated for an Emmy and won the Christopher Award. Yellen received a lifetime achievement award in Arts and Letters from Bard College.Growing up in New York under FDR, Sherman has watched with great sadness the Bush administration's dismantling of social programs and social progress in this country. He has been appalled by the heartlessness and greed that now passes for government policy. As an observer of contemporary American life, Sherman believes it is the obligation of artists to speak out against the erosion of our democracy during these troubling times. 27.08.2012

This is a warning/prophecy by an old guy. Having reached the biblical age where I am allowed to offer blessings, spit out curses, and issue wild-eyed prophecies, I have decided to get them all over with in this one all-purpose blog.

I don't think of myself as aged (I was just as cranky at thirty and I still get around pretty good) and my wife hates for me to use that ugly three-letter word -- OLD -- we are both chronic age deniers - but to deny my age at 80 would be like denying global warming during this fetid, never-ending New York summer. It's hot and getting hotter, and I'm old and getting older. I am more than worried, but not about the aging process. I accept the inevitable as I see my friends and contemporaries leave the scene, but what I cannot so easily accept is the inevitability of the Romney/Ryan election. I find that this is the scariest, most dangerous election that America has faced in my lifetime, and I've been around long enough to experience quite a few frightening ones.

Since I have a fair record of losing at the ballot box I have come to understand that my losses were not irreparable. That is until this election. I cast my first vote for Adlai Stevenson who lost to Dwight Eisenhower. As a kid growing up during WWII, I admired Eisenhower as a war hero, but as a young adult I didn't believe that war heroes were the best men to usher in peace and prosperity, and I was charmed by Stevenson's literacy and golden tongue. Frankly, I did not like Ike. Eisenhower proved me wrong. He helped to rebuild the country, proved himself a more than decent president despite his caution during the McCarthy era and surrounding himself with the smear monger Nixon and a few sleazy characters in vicuna coats, he warned about the military industrial complex, and helped in his own slow, cautious way to calm the Cold Wa, made some small progress with Civil Rights, and built a highway system that helped shape this country into a great postwar power. And after Ike I kept losing more than winning at the ballot box. I lost in my second vote against Richard Nixon. I lost in my vote against Ronald Reagan, and I lost and lost and lost again in my vote against George Bush senior and junior. And both the country and me survived our losses. Arguably, not so well after W: Indeed, disastrously so, still we were able to pick ourselves up as best we could, scrape off some of the dirt, smear on some anti-biotic salve, put on a clean bandage, and vote his party out of office.

We now live in a different time since Bush's Supreme Court left us with Citizens United, Carl Rove's political fundraisers, and the Tea Party. Quite simply these people aided by the Koch Industries' billions will try to buy the coming presidential election. And they may well succeed. The polls are close enough to cause a progressive like myself to worry a lot. And people are desperate in these hard economic times resulting from the last Republican recession to forget who caused their troubles, and to seek relief in a new set of rouges with a new set of promises. This time I fear it will be different. Indeed, I know it will be different.

Elections are the best tool we have for gaining a representative government. But they can also be the beginning of an end for the democratic process. Whoever believes that the Muslim Brotherhood will be voted out of power in Egypt should they prove too extreme and bring in a radical Sharia law is hopelessly naïve. Not all totalitarian regimes are brought in by military coups. Some are voted in. Germany in 1932 brought in fascism by electing it (with a little help from the SS murderer/bullies).

And now we have the possibility of a Mitt Romney presidency. I am not one of your fair-minded liberals who will give any points to Romney for his past business acumen, his alleged charities, or his former progressivism as Governor of Massachusetts. I find Romney to be a totally new political creature -- the sociopath as a square. He learned nothing from tethering his poor dog to the top of his car and riding full speed ahead to Canada -- and it is America whom he will now tether to his presidency, and the ride will be horrendous for young and old. No bathroom stops while Daddy Mitt is driving. I think he is probably the most dangerous man to run for the presidency in my lifetime, and that includes Nixon. He has lied time and again, distorting his own record while dissembling about the president's Medicare reforms, denying the public the right to examine his taxes and past business practices, and promising to help the elderly and the poor by destroying the very safety net that they are clinging to. Moreover, he is determined to win by hook or crook, forget the hook, there is enough crook in new Voter ID regulations to turn some of the swing states in his directions by denying the vote to minorities. Having no core of his own, the emptiness inside him can and will be filled by those who have bought him his presidency.

The prosperity he promises to the country is the prosperity we now have -- belonging only to that notorious 1%. And the liberties he promises to usher in will be freedom from the very taxes that support a civil society, freedom from Social Security which only spoils the elderly, freedom from Medicare and Medicaid, freedom from pollution controls, freedom from freedom itself in the case of women's bodies and minority rights. These amazing vouchers he so loves that promise to replace everything from SS, Medicare, Public Education, are a gift that will not stop giving -- to insurance cronies and educational profiteers. All of it is clear and out there, nothing is hidden from view, and to deny it and pretend that the etch-a-sketch will move him towards the center while the Koch brothers and the far right wing control that Romney toy is preposterous. This is the man who mocks President Obama for stating the obvious, that nobody succeeds on their own without the help of a functioning government. Perhaps he is one of the few who can say that because he did not need the government, all he needed was his rich father's success to start him on the road to a good education (with time out for a little gay bashing as he cut off the hair of a kid he held down). The lesson then as now, "Conform or we will force you to do so." Inside every bully is that totalitarian instinct waiting to take power.

Having voted Romney/Ryan into office with their disastrous foreign policy moves (trust me that war with Iran and Syria is going to happen under Romney -- so sayeth the Prophet) and with the country thrown into a greater poverty with the total destruction of trade unions and the outsourcing of any decent jobs, and with women's rights and gay rights rescinded, it should seem easy to vote Romney out in four more years with an energized, enraged populace. No way. He will be a war president who can and will assume war powers. That little thing called martial law can make civil liberties disappear in a nano-second. Immigrants will be regarded as a national security danger, and all protestors will be called traitors during the never-ending war. Forget your voting ID. Every citizen will need a national ID card that carries with it their political allegiance and enough information to control their lives. The freedom that is promised is the freedom from freedom.

The drone society that we see in that old Fritz Lang movie Metropolis, a German film that preceded the rise of fascism and WWII, is a warning of what can happen here. Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis famously wrote in the 1930s that when fascism came to America it would not be wearing jackboots but would come in a very American shape. He was referring to the demagoguery of a Huey Long, not the Babbitry of a Mitt Romney, but Lewis knew that the denial of our rights would emanate from the ordinary, not the ranting, raging, dictator.

I will probably not be around to know if my prophecy of a Romney-ruled dystopian America will come true. I hope it is only my fantasy caused by my fear and loathing for these men with their shape-shifting characters and indecent policies. But I have a seven-year-old granddaughter, and a pair of four-year-old twin grandchildren who will be here. I love them beyond anything in my life -- save my wife of sixty years -- and for their sakes I do not believe that we can risk the Romney/Ryan presidency -- for as my wise old mother used to say, "If you dance with the devil, the devil calls the tune."

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