27 Nov

From Novi Sad, Serbia, A Proposal.


Hello. It’s November 27.

I am in Novi Sad, where three years ago Kulturanova did a Serbian-language version of my play Open House, which is performed in homes.

I’m here in the aftermath of the November 8 US election, wondering what to do. I’m talking to people about former President Milosevic, current President Nikolić (possibly worse, depending on who you talk to), the future of this place, and our place in the future. I think maybe the project will be called Language Reversal, and will be about translation of time, history and words.

Language Reversal is going to be (I hope) created through a series of conversations among Serbians at a table with an American and a translator, about three things: the onset of fascism under Milosevic and Trump; the ineffectuality of language as an intimate mediating tool between cultures; a philosophical treatise on the value of being together, and making culture, despite what our histories may not share. We will stage conversations over two trips to Serbia, plus three in the US, over the next six months. From there I will put together a text that will be translated into both languages.


In the US we are facing the possible onset of fascism. It may or may not come to pass. It’s a test of our wills, a fight between the nihilism and chaos that leads to the crackdown, a presentation of ourselves as limited and unexceptional, far beyond the due date of that ideology. One Wikipedia post about Milosevic: “Milošević exploited nationalism as a tool to seize power… while not holding any particular commitment to it.” Sound familiar?

A very  smart artist, Melissa Potter, who has worked in Serbia a lot says she thinks of Trump as “Milosevic without the IQ.” In the US we are on the brink of a truly plural society – meaning more than one – rural/suburban and urban, white people in the minority, elite and uneducated. The cities go blue (in two senses of the word) and the country goes red, and the system set up to control for extremism, to wrest power from its most extreme elements, does the opposite. The popular vote is the cosmopolitan vote, with its flaws intact. The electoral college goes for the idiot, but maybe out of habit, out of a lingering sense of exceptionalism. We have lost ourselves.

Serbia is being held at bay from the EU, last to be invited into the failing experiment known as unity. Both countries harbor and cleave to long-dead myths. We are coming to an unraveling we cannot stop from happening. Is progress real if only some of us are lucky or privileged enough to see it? Nothing is self-evident. We started destroying ourselves so long ago.

What Are We Doing? 

I started thinking about this project right after Trump’s election, when I had the first of two visits to Serbia planned, and didn’t have anything prepared. I am trying to make sense of this time by being somewhere unfamiliar, where I don’t speak the language and where I don’t really know what has been done.

08 Nov

A Mix

blogI’m typing on my device, with my thumbs, while riding an M14A bus through a neighborhood that feels like it is slipping away, in a city that stays so vital despite itself.

I loved taking my son with me to vote. I loved voting for the first female presidential candidate, even as I wish I agreed with more of what she says and has done.

(Love the pro-choice and the potential judicial appointments, and the somewhat better stand on immigration; dislike very much the capitulation to war, the lack of spine on real climate change and the support for charter schools)

I’m ashamed at what a shit-show our system remains, that it seems like some kind of miracle when you can get your teeth fixed, or a public school is regarded as great, or I can get across town on a bus.

On the way to the polls Harry said, “I wish Hillary Clinton were president, and Albert Einstein was still alive, and that Barak Obama was my grandfather.”

It’s great to move things forward but it makes me restless how long it takes.

I hope this evening I’m going to celebrate. Tomorrow I’m going back to worrying about the temperature and sea level when he gets old enough to think about what we’re leaving him, go back to critiquing from the outside, after joining the mainstream for a day now and then, like you do, from necessity.

I like the Democratic platform this year, but I don’t expect the party to follow through. I wish that to the two major parties people of color were more than vehicles for blame, or else blocks of voters; I wish someone in office would recognize the dehumanization and exploitation upon which this country’s onward march is predicated. I wish we didn’t all have to line up, even as its heartwarming to see so many people reject Trump, even as we struggle to grasp what his campaign has made visible.

There are a lot of ways to open our mouths and get fed. The movement doesn’t end.