Mar 24, 2016

It may have been at Bellarmine College Prep, when I was in the NFL (Forensics, not Football and speech, not autopsies) or at the Georgetown Debate Institute the summer of '71, but sometime back in High School I learned that the Greeks, inventors of oratory as a science, discerned three major ways of persuading people: logos, logical proof; pathos, using emotions like empathy and sympathy; and ethos, one's character, and essence. Most orators, they argued, would ground a speech in one of those tools and persuade the audience to their viewpoint. Being Greeks, they were most fond of Logos. Being trained in logic and shaped by those classes, I had been a logo adherent.

My foray with Kris into the emotional tumult that is Election 2016 has moved me to favor Ethos. The rally had to be thrown together the night before. As Senator Sanders (or "Bernie" as the attendees called him and I shall for the rest of this impression) told us during his speech, they were supposed to be in Montana but it snowed so they came to Los Angeles, where it's always warm. He was apologizing to us for the folks that couldn't get in. The Wiltern was the largest practicable venue they could find on such short notice.

You see in the picture above some of the line. If you're not familiar with Los Angeles, Wilshire in this picture runs right to left in front of the Denny's. That block is as long as a standard block and a half. The Wiltern is on the other corner of the long block to the left. Behind us, there's three-quarters of a block and the line ran the length of it and ended up wrapping along the back of the block and up the other side to roughly where we're standing.

The line was in itself an experience. Kris had kindly bought us wings which we devoured at 4:00 when we met each other there. In front of us was the Nice Lady, who had come on her own without the downloaded invitation one got at Bernie's website. She was going to try to get in without the ticket. (She had no problem at the door, they weren't ready to start letting us in until 7:15, with the rally scheduled at 7:00 so they checked no one's "ticket.") We heard her teach a friend how to set up a Gmail account over her phone. We would also come to learn as we stood in the line that she worked in a phone bank for Bernie. She told another over the phone that she was the oldest person in line and Kris was kind enough to point me out to her and she admitted she was one of the oldest.

While Kris was disposing of the bones and napkins, an entrepreneur came by with a plastic bin of his company's t-shirts, black with white letters and drawings of suits going into the fire and slogans to match. He gave them away to folks that gathered like baby birds around a mother bird with worms then came by later to take pictures of the folks wearing them. Nice Lady didn't know why anyone would want such a dark t-shirt. I suggested there may be heavy metal fans in the bunch.

Initiative signature gatherers came by at regular intervals. One asked me to sign one and I told her my truth: I don't believe in the initiative process, that no good laws have come of it and the laws passed usually get overturned. "Let the legislators do their jobs," I told her. She thanked me for having a good reason for not signing and agreed she too wished the Legislature would work. A lady came by with a platter of cooked sausages on a metal plate over a Sterno burner, in a shopping cart. Folks walked by with mobile coolers, filled with more conventional Bernie shirts and hats instead of ice, with  "Feel the Bern" or a caricature outline of him printed on them.

A lady came by with a platter of cooked sausages on a metal plate over a Sterno burner, in a shopping cart. Folks walked by with mobile coolers, filled with more conventional Bernie shirts and hats instead of ice, with  "Feel the Bern" or a caricature outline of him printed on them.

Someone set up a giant balloon Bernie, filled with air from a fan like the ones that power waving balloons. During our wait, a couple of women sidled alongside us, talking about their family histories. One lady from the South discussed her Grandfather, who had a shady past as a Carnival fighter and con man who became his family's sole source of income during the Great Depression because he knew the cons that worked. The other lady and two sides of the family, on one a moonshiner and on the other a sheriff. The sheriff would arrest the moonshiner and "lose" the evidence. The moonshiner would avoid conviction and they would do the catch and release over again. This kept up until the Sheriff became the Chief.

The two women had worked their way to slightly in front of us and I had positioned myself so that they couldn't get into the gap. The couple behind us mentioned to us the talking duo seemed to want to cut. Kris asked if they knew anyone in the party in front of us and I pointed out this was a line. They grew highly indignant. "We were in line. Who were we standing with? Oh, you two." They moved back four or five groupings and said, "Wouldn't want to meet new people, would we."

Four times during the wait from 4:00 to 7:30 when we finally got in, two young ladies with shorts and no shirts walked by. They had masking tape over their nipples and had written "Free the Nipples" on their bodies in magic marker, alternating cheering for Bernie and chanting their slogan. The last circuit they came by us they had removed the tape and one said to the other, "I just got a warning." She then said it loudly and folks around us murmured approval. The two then moved to the entrance of the Wiltern Theater. We heard a commotion and two uniformed officers ran by to join the swarm that arrested the two. Cells were whipped out to take pictures and the news cameras turned for a brief moment. Kris showed me my pensive face by imitating it and I explained that I had been thinking they had a good point: my bare chest and nipples would have been more aesthetically displeasing. No one said anything as they were lead away. Their protest was probably too meta for us, a gesture of feminism lost to a crowd focused on other things.

As we approached the entrance, there was a homeless man, hugging a shapeless leather bag that looked as if it were made of Uggs, who was loudly singing some odd songs. He would work his way between the crowd and a news camera, hoping to be noticed.

I slipped a couple of bucks into the paper chicken bucket that another homeless man had attached to a sign that said any little bit helps. They were pioneers in the bucket and it made me sad that this group, so into the grand vision of helping fixed the rigged economy didn't see a chance to do something in the now for a person conquered by it.

It may be in this dichotomy that we see in this small scale that demonstrates what happens when we run into the millworks where the grist stone of theory meets the standing stone of details: many didn't donate due to their own ideas of what makes people homeless or concern that it would go to booze or drugs. It's entirely possible that my two bucks could make him die faster. I believe in free will; others believe in tough love. If there are to be programs to administer help to people, one hopes that something's in place to ensure it indeed helps. There on the street, for that one man, it might have helped towards buying a sandwich later. It was close to true sunset when we got in ...


Once we gained entrance past the magnetometers and uniformed Secret Service Agents, we entered the downstairs section of The Wiltern. It was already filled, every available seat taken. I had forgotten to pack my meds, so my Parkinson's was flaring up and I had been standing for 3 hours in line. Having worked as an extra in The Wiltern on a bunch of shows, I knew there was a balcony. They had it ribboned off and an Usher was waiting for permission to open it up. While we were waiting, we had drawn the eye of a member of Bernie's campaign. He was a young man, with the sides of his head shaved and his hair neatly coiffed. His eyebrows had been trimmed and he carried himself as the Assistant character that David Spade had played on Saturday Night Live. "You're not letting anyone upstairs are you? We need the auditorium to be filled up." The Usher assured him that we wouldn't be allowed upstairs until permission was given by his Supervisor and it was his understanding that only the campaign staff could give his Supervisor that permission. The campaign worker, apparently satisfied, walked off.

Kris and I have evolved a series of gestures we use to communicate to each other when we can't talk. It started when we both worked as Extras (oops, Background Actors) and has grown since then. He invented a new one for the Campaign Worker. He made the ok sign, looked through it and then tightened his fingers three times so that you couldn't see his eye anymore. I knew exactly what he meant.

Once in this balcony, we found our seats next to the center aisle and four rows from the edge of the balcony. Kris had the idea to take a picture in front of the rally..

And I had to imitate him...

We started a trend, so we soon saw a young man, perhaps all of 18, who decided that it would be a great idea to test his abs by leaning half over the railing to have his picture taken. Kris and I are both frightened by heights and were cringing. The security staff had the same idea and escorted him as if throwing him out. He was allowed to return but not to sit in the front row.

As the evening continued, even during Bernie's speech, folks would wander down the aisle and take the same picture. One lady even dragged her two-year-old daughter down the aisle to put the daughter's back against the short railing to take her picture. The lady in the seat in the row closest to the aisle held onto the little girl under her mother took the picture.

For some unrelated reason, Kris informed me that more people died taking selfies last year than were killed by sharks. I knew hockey is dangerous so the San Jose team really needs to step up its game.

The seat next to me was vacant until we were joined by a young man in his twenties, dressed in sweats and a t-shirt, quite fit and with energy that could power the theater if we could figure a way to harness it. He introduced himself as "Zippy" and gave me the Howie Mandell dap greeting. He took a selfie with me and a picture of the front of the theater. He charmed the lady to his right and she gave him a portable charger so he could take pictures during the rally.

During the course of the rally, he would turn to me and say things, like "I don't know why anyone would vote for anyone other than him." He said that Bernie would be the only one that could beat Donald Trump if he got the nomination. I opined that there was no way Trump was going to be nominated. "The GOP has outsmarted many men smarter than he. He didn't get committed delegates so he won't make the nomination." "If that happens, he's right. I will riot in the streets! The people have spoken." He was abashed at himself for that sentiment and perhaps its volume, so walked it back immediately. "Not that I get that mad at anything, though.."

It was in that outrage that I may have found the common denominator between some folks in the Bernie movement and some in the Trump movement: many of them feel as if they don't count, their voices aren't heard, their ballots not available, and their votes not counted. Bernie has a corporate "not-us," Trump unnamed "not-uses," facilitating projection of racial and misognyistic enemies, different for each person. Individually powerless, they have no faith in the "system" no matter who they fear is running it. There's a collectivism in both groups, ironic for the "true" GOP, which bands together folks that would otherwise not associate with each other.

Zippy became a cheerleader during the whole speech, turning to folks and all sides to get them to join in the applause. When Bernie started the section of his speech covering the drugs law that puts marijuana as the same Category of drug as heroin, Zippy turned to me and confided that he had just smoked a bowl before he came to the rally.

Sadly, Zippy didn't know that the theater wouldn't allow backpacks and had to leave his at the local Jamba Juice, which closed at 9:00. And so he left shortly before that time like the whirlwind he was when he came in, saying goodbye to us about 10 minutes before Bernie finished.


To start the rally, Rosario Dawson comes to the lectern to introduce Bernie, giving an impassioned TL:DR version of his stump speech, complaining about the "Corporate Media," the voter delays in Arizona and then demands that we vote. She's a reminder that to many this Bernie isn't just a candidate, but is more like one of those water rockets, powered by a hose of discontent as water, rising as the discontent level rises, so any rocket can be lifted by it but any rocket is also capable of falling off if the anger is diverted to another channel.

Bernie comes in with his wife and a step-daughter and cautiously sets up behind the lectern while the ovation washes over him. He seems truly humbled by it, at the same time not at all sure he deserves it and unsure it will last.

His reaction to the chants are the deepest he gets into pathos, he tells us he loves us too and means it. He tells us that we are the only thing that keeps him going and that is authentic too.

What is less authentic and also less truthful is that he tells us he's going to bring up uncomfortable truths; that a nation must face them as people must face them, even though we want to run or turn away from them.

The truths he tells us aren't uncomfortable for us but are for the ones who are-not-us who cause the problems in the U.S. Corporate greed gives us a "rigged economy." He is great weaving logos into these parts of his speech, numbers quickly are interwoven into the speech. Many of those numbers the crowd and call back to him, "our campaign is funded by millions of individual donations, the average of which is.." "$27.00," the crowd calls back.

He deftly ties Secretary Clinton into the narrative as one of the Corporate-are-not-us, for her votes for Trade treaties or taking money to give speeches. He revels in her desire to retain the content of those speeches, insinuating that such an expensive speech should be wonderful enough for her to share. He completely ignores the value of being able to deliver the speech to folks that haven't heard or read it before because the only reason that she could not want to publish it would be... Well, he never tells us a conclusion because, well, he doesn't know. But his hints and pauses manage to make her seem greedy and corporate.

She's evil in by innuendo in foreign policy too. She and Barack Obama both voted for the Iraq War, so she must be in favor of continuing it is the conclusion we're lead to. That President Obama hasn't continued the lands wars is omitted from the speech.

Which is made odder because the Administration single-handedly brought down the regime in Libya, according to Bernie. That there was an Arab Spring in the whole region at the time which leads to a regime change that was also bad for Egypt at the same time is ignored. Libya after Ghaddafi has been a disaster beyond doubt. If Secretary Clinton brought down Ghaddafi, "ignoring the law of unintended consequences," so she gets the blame for Ghaddafi, how does one processing this speech with logic not give her credit for ending the war in Iraq and negotiating an agreement with Iran?

One is left with these series of innuendos believing Secretary Clinton is a warmonger and single-handedly made all of the foreign policy decisions of President Obama's administration.

Bernie could say if he were truly into telling us uncomfortable truths that Americans are too willing to buy the lies we are sold, Senators, Presidents, and voters alike. He could ask us to face that we are too full of ourselves and both believe that we have to right all the wrongs in the world and that we can do that all by ourselves. We could look at why we vote by slogans that masquerade as principals and false conclusions that masquerade as values.

If we are a people that are willing to let the top 4% suck up our wealth and their private corporation is allowed to employ folks at less than a living wage, forcing workers to fall into the safety need of food assistance and housing help, could it be that we dream of being one of those people? But no, the fault dear Brutus instead lies in our "stars" and not ourselves that we are underlings.

You probably saw in the picture the folks standing on risers behind Bernie. During that speech, one young man among them fainted. A Secret Service Agent spotted him and went to him to help. He was amidst a delegation of nurses who too aided him. Bernie saw the people pointing to the young man and turned around to call for someone to help him. He also saved the young man some embarrassment be attributed the faint as having been caused by the young man having to stand for a long period without any water. He obviously cared and stayed with it despite it totally stalling the momentum of his speech.

In facts and logos both, Bernie is intrepid. There is also no doubt that he had known and expressed these fears for a long time. And it is here that Zippy found his attachment. "Who could doubt him about this," he asked. "He's been saying this for so long."

In this Bernie's pathos and his logos merge, he has been outside the box for so long because he dared to say these facts against the oligarchs. Miraculously he has come back from exile, an Ezekial allowed to return to a people he has cobbled together. He is sustained by us and would no more leave this validation than a man left in the desert for years would leave a fountain of cool, clear water. I saw that asking him to drop out to save the Democrats would be the same as to ask him to stop breathing to save air. So Bernie stands where he wants:  toes dipping in the pool of success but still safely an outsider; a brave man in a Sears suit, who cares for ideas as they apply to real people and real people as they apply to ideas, shyly basking in the adulation his ideas have generated.