By Jerry Waxman
“All the world’s a stage”
Composers Duke Ellington and Richard Strauss are both attributed to have said (each in their own way) that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. The same could be said of any artistic expression including theatre. Some very bad Theatre of the Absurd occurred at the Orange County Commission swearing in ceremony on Monday, Dec. 19 at 1:00 PM, and some very good Theatre of the Absurd occurred at the Orange County Courthouse at roughly the same time. One of the things that Occupy Orlando must deal with is scheduling priorities in order to have maximum media coverage for effect.
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark Florida”
Some theatrical productions are done on the cheap, yet can be very effective in conveying the intent of the playwright. Other productions can be overblown and overproduced with bad direction and even worse acting. “The Swearing in Ceremony” as we’ll call it is bad theatre at its supreme worst. Six months in preproduction the Orange County Commission (the producer) was mandated to come up with a redistricting plan as a result of the 2010 Census. Redistricting is mandated in all 50 states at all levels of elected government, from congressional elections on down to city districts. Incumbents use this as an effective tool to choose their voters rather than the other way around using logical geographical boundaries. Numerous meetings were held to redraw the boundaries and numerous plans were drawn to be decided on. Hearings were held and public input was invited, not out of the goodness of their hearts mind you, but because a very sensible law says that they must hold public hearings. Every civic group including the bi-partisan County Watch was for a sensible redistricting plan. While all the county districts had boundaries in play the battle heating up was on district three. The elected commissioner from District Three which had a huge influx of Hispanic residents since the 2000 Census had been Mildred Fernandez who got caught in a corruption scandal and was replaced by then Governor Charlie Crist with Luigi Damiani, a non Hispanic who had narrowly lost to Fernandez. Damiani was an independent and as such would not necessarily vote the way former Mayor Rich Crotty or current Mayor Teresa Jacobs would like but he had a stake in lessening the Latin impact in his district so that he could run for the seat. The commission didn’t want another ethnic minority district either. After all, that could also be a threat to their power. The final plan that the commission approved on November 29 came literally from left field. No one had seen it before, or if they had they masked it very well, yet from out of nowhere the plan came forth and was approved. The plan reduced the impact of the proposed Hispanic district and other minority areas. Once that was accomplished it was time for Damiani to exit stage left.
“What’s done is done”
It was now a question of who would replace Damiani. Several qualified people applied for the position including two Republican Puerto Ricans at the urging of Republican power broker Lew Oliver. Mayor Teresa Jacobs met with Governor Rick Scott just after the redistricting decision to come up with an acceptable choice. According to Jacobs it was Scott who pulled John Martinez out of the hat. Scott had said that whoever was appointed to the position must not run for reelection in 20012 and Martinez agreed. Speculation is that John’s father, Mel Martinez had a lot to do with it. Everyone is denying it but it certainly appears that way. You remember Mel Martinez; before he didn’t finish his term in the US Senate he didn’t finish his term as County Chief Executive and didn’t finish his term as Republican Party Chairman and didn’t finish his term as Secretary of HUD etc. etc. ad nauseum. While he doesn’t exhibit the bombast of a Sarah Palin and he’s nowhere near as vociferous he’s the personification of the one per cent chasing the Peter Principle. Born into a wealthy family in Cuba, he has ties to powerful and influential families, including his own. He is the perfect example of the upwardly mobile one per center in action. He now serves as an international banker for Chase. How much more one per cent can you get? The fact that his son now has the chance to make a name for himself smacks of the worst kind of nepotism-he doesn’t have to run for the office, and he has the chance to position himself for further political appointments and future elections with name recognition. It doesn’t matter that he has no ties to the community he represents. That’s a direct slap in the face to everyone in the county, not just District Three.
What doesn’t make sense is why Teresa Jacobs made a Faustian deal with Mephistopheles Scott-or does it? Scott has an approval level lower than the Marianna Trench and is continuing to fall so he has nothing to lose by making a deal with her. She has a lot to lose if things don’t go right, but she also has a lot to gain. She will continue to control the County Commission and in District Three’s reduced capacity there is probably no chance that a minority candidate will be elected. The 2012 election is already rigged in favor of the one per cent in District Three. Scott and his political cronies can shovel heaps of money her way to insure her re-election and she will by necessity have to give lip service endorsement to him. The Hispanic, Black and Latino Alliance members are justifiably up in arms at the total lack of respect they have been shown by Mayor Jacobs and the Commission. If the scheme works she’s home free, but if it fails does she have an escape clause like Old Joe Boyd? Will she be able to deny her endorsement and not return his money if he screws up even more than he has? What she will never gain back is her integrity. Wow! It must really mean that much to her.
“The Play’s the Thing”
So far, what has been written in theatrespeak is called “exposition.” It is a device used by playwrights to advance the plot from what has gone on before to real time now. “The Swearing in Ceremony” is a one act play with two scenes. As the curtain rises on Scene one, we see a crowd of protesters demonstrating on the sidewalk in front of the County Commission. Led by Doug Head, they are a coalition of the Hispanic, Black and Latino Alliance along with members of Occupy Orlando protesting the appointment of John Martinez to the Orange County Commission seat for District Three. Head went on to explain the feeling of disenfranchisement that the community is feeling for the advantage of the people in power. Further insight into the problem is provided by State District 49 Representative Darren Soto. End of scene 1 Curtain.
Scene 2. At rise the commission chamber is filling up. The protesters are filling up as many seats as possible and got in prior to the white glove crowd and power brokers. There are about forty of them altogether. The introduction has to wait because several Martinez family members and some one percent power brokers have not yet arrived. Finally the moment arrives and Martinez is sworn in. As he starts to speak the protesters start to boo and demonstrate which follows through the whole ceremony.The white glove crowd tries to overcome this by cheering and clapping loudly. Even the mayor is booed when she calls for civility. Here’s the video of the entire event. End scene 2. Upon exiting you could audibly hear catcalls from the white glovers. One particular exchange went this way: White glover: “You should be ashamed of the way you acted!” Alliance member: “No! You should be ashamed of yourself and your politicians that we have to act this way!” That woman has probably never had anyone speak to her that way before and she better get used to it.
“Good night, sweet prince.”
There was a press conference after the ceremony to spin the events with only media members invited. To attend would have made us miss the other drama “The Funeral of the Bill of Rights” being acted out at the courthouse. The cast included at least 30 members of Occupy Orlando eulogizing the Bill of Rights. Although individual liberties are not completely dead they have been severely curtailed due to recent Supreme Court decisions and the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes the military to detain anyone including American citizens for an indefinite period of time without access to counsel or trial as terrorists if so deemed by the President with or without cause. This Kafkaesque scenario is both frightening and saddening. In the hands of a President Obama most people would relatively be safe, however, think of the consequences if that power were given to a President Gingrich say, or a President Santorum or Perry. That’s really frightening. This minimalist scene in front of the courthouse was true to absurdist tradition with participants dealing with the futility of the situation and it was genuinely touching. Exeunt
“And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances”
Absurd as the two plays are the central theme is how ordinary people deal with futility and frustration before they find the courage to overcome their self imposed barriers (or roadblocks) and act. Mayor Jacobs either isn’t aware of or doesn’t care that these protests are a reaction to her arbitrary and cavalier attitude towards both redistricting and minority representation. It’s rather disingenuous of her to berate the protestors lamenting the loss of civility when she is the cause of it. That’s like Dr. Frankenstein asking the villagers to accept the monster even as it wreaks havoc. Doesn’t she understand that she is the elected representative of the 99% as well as the 1%, and there are many more of the 99ers? She’s about to find out the hard way. If she wants the civility she speaks of she might start respecting her constituents the way she would like to be respected. She caused it-she can remedy it. The press reported both events almost accurately. We’re taking Dave Damron to task for underreporting the Alliance and Occupation numbers with a page one article. Had the funeral occupiers coordinated with the Alliance occupiers there would have been over 70 protesters in a room that legally holds 138. You’d better believe that would change the dynamic causing those white gloves to turn ashen with sweat. Sentinel reporter Jon Busdeker, in as few words as possible, on page A4 at least captured the mood and tone of the solemn funeral event.
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:”