Witness 2016, United States of America

The People wanted a reality television star to be their leader and we have to take responsibility for creating that.

It was 2003 when the first season of The Bachelor aired. Girls were on their hind legs like animals begging to be picked for a rose. Jerry-Springer-type talk shows began their de-evolution into hysterical chanting and violence. We’d already lived through the start of reporters and news stations discarding sacred words like report and news in favor of irresponsible mandates like speculate and entertain. Thirteen years ago, our modern day version of throwing Christians to the lions for entertainment was in an unfortunate full swing. I remember watching that first episode of The Bachelor, the new advent of this “reality” television. The farther along the show progressed, the tighter I curled up. I pressed myself into the farthest corner of my couch watching, through my fingers, in horror. My soul was already reacting my body because of what I was witnessing. I felt physically sickened by it and I never watched another reality TV show again… almost. Never one minute of Trump’s,  but I’d peek in on others from time to time; the advent of DVRs made it easier to fast forward through the painfully scripted and edited-within-an-inch-of- its-life “unscripted” chaos.

No one can ever tell any woman, minority, LGBTQ, transgender, Muslim, African-American, American Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, any and all ethnicities other than white, that we are paranoid ever again, because this shit is real.

For almost thirty years we’ve been watching people act inhumanly towards each other in the name of ratings and money, and calling it entertainment. Not only is it the norm: entire generations know nothing else. The nation has become negligently desensitized to what it means to be a respectful, thoughtful human to another human because that’s not good TV. The medium is so powerful, it created a caricature of a person so strong that he could not be stopped. The Democratic and Republican parties TOGETHER were not strong enough to stop what reality television and the media had created: Donald Trump. He is the worst of humanity and he uncovered the millions of people in our country who respond to that. We have made him a drug, and people are ravenous for it. We, the watchers, have to take responsibility for that. We are complicit.

I’ve had this terrible feeling for months and months that we are at an actual crossroads of humanity. That we are experiencing something like 1930s Germany, to which people look back and say, The signs were so clear. Why didn’t they stop him? He was just one man. Well, everything is extremely clear. There has been nothing covert about this man’s message. Whether he meant it all, whether he means to follow through, Trump has shined the biggest black light on our beloved country. Apparently, people have been lying in wait for this particular trumpet call. And, boy, did they instantaneously respond.

No one can ever tell any woman, minority, LGBTQ, transgender, Muslim, African-American, American Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, any and all ethnicities other than white, that we are paranoid . . . ever . . . again, because this shit is real. It is deeper and darker real than even any of us could have imagined. Even in our beautiful bubbles of Manhattan and Los Angeles blood has already been spilled.  It is not hyperbole to be afraid because it’s already begun. If we let it continue, families will be ripped apart. People will be deported. Separated. Segregated. Rights will be stripped. January 20, 2017 could set our clocks back decades and be marked as one of the darkest days in American history.

This has been exhausting to the core. To be so bewildered by humanity, so gob-smacked by people we love, whom we thought we knew, whom we thought loved and respected us and our rights and our freedoms. Millions of little civil wars have already begun, brother against brother, the stepping away from, the distancing of.  As artists we have an abundance of empathy, which is usually a great thing, but in these days it can feel like quicksand trying to course its way through our veins. We are weighed down by our disbelief, and shattered at witnessing some crazed game of telephone where the truth, crystal clear, is spoken, and as it passes, even just to the very next person, it is somehow transformed and ignored.

The most hopeful thought that moves me forward is that they can want to make a group of people register with the government because of their race or religion, they can want to take away our rights, but because it is today and not 1930s Germany, there will never come a day where this can be allowed to happen again. There is no way we would let it. Artists have always been part of the resistance, and here we are, so that there will never come a day when….

Artists and storytellers, with the mandate of talking about what our job is now, I put forth that our job now, as always, is to do magic. We create tangible worlds out of thin air. A thought has its lucky genesis in one of our gorgeous heads and we create people and their worlds where nothing existed before. We start to care for them, and hand the baton to an audience who begins to care for them, too. The world watches and laughs and cries and gasps and cares. We have our  shared experience, and that, my loves, is Magic. There is so much value in not only shining a light on the darkest parts of humanity, but also in making humanity giggle its ass off. Make music and art. Write stories and poems. Make documentaries and films and plays and television shows… scripted. As the music swells, so will our hearts.  As voices rise, so will our spirits. As collaboration strengthens, so will community.

I vow here, today, to do everything in my power, including stand in front of the harm with arms linked, to bear witness, in the name of what is right and good and decent, to support our nation, so that our creative community can shine our collective light to heal the pains and awaken the slumbering so they can see clearly: he is like me is like she is like we.

Deidra EdwardsDeidra Edwards is an LA-based actor, director, writer, and collaborator to writers. Her work has appeared in television, on film, and in theatres around the country. She directs with her mentor Jeff Perry, Co-Founder of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, in theatres such as The Alliance and The Guthrie.  She’s spoken out on LGBT Issues with her videos on YouTube under the title Enough Already. “Witness 2016” can be viewed here. Deidra is honored to be a contributor to Lunch Ticket.