I owe $45 to the campaign to elect Mitt Romney President of the United States of America.
Here’s how that happened.
It’s not a complicated story. I wrote a two-minute satire of the banking industry that treated its major players as clueless daredevils making stupid bets with other people’s time and money, then being rewarded for their colossal failures. A cadre of ensemble members from The Neo-Futurists performed that satire for six weeks alongside the 29 other plays in the evenings’ menus. If you’re interested, you can download a copy of Large Multinational Bank Shot and read it for yourself.
Oh. And. The play ends with a side wager, of sorts, based on our show’s mechanic of being performed against a time limit. Our failure to finish the show any evening would result in our committing $5 to the presidential campaign of a man none of us have any interest in voting for and who we actively oppose in thought and deed. It was both a deliberate attempt to raise the stakes of the performance and an additional, symbolic comment about a man being rewarded for somebody else’s failure with somebody else’s money through no virtue of his own.
Which is all very nice supplemental commentary until you remember that the result of this artistic experiment, after nine evenings of not finishing the show within the allotted hour, is that I owe $45 to the campaign to elect Mitt Romney President of the United States of America.
Several of those failed evenings, members of our audience would come up to me or other members of the ensemble and ask, deeply concerned, if we were really going to live up to our end of the wager. Our aesthetic is based on honesty and a commitment to task. The things we say onstage are true and the tasks to be accomplished must actually be accomplished or acknowledged as a failure only after an honest effort has been made. So yes, we replied. The money will be sent to the Romney campaign. Concern turned to despair and anger and was met with our own frustration: No, we don’t want to, but we said that we would. Ignoring your aesthetic when it is inconvenient is how you forever lose the right to have an aesthetic.
But I admit I’ve spent the better part of this week trying to find the loophole in this, to find the way I can bend my words without breaking my word. This feeling of desperation was exacerbated further by the news that Romney’s campaign has outraised Obama’s for the third month in a row, which is not really surprising when the bulk of your money is coming in large chunks from a few deep-pocketed donors.
(Full disclosure: Although the original intent was that this would be money directly contributed from The Neo-Futurists to Romney’s campaign, I was informed that the nuances of campaign finance law would require us to declare any such political contribution coming from our 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and could be problematic for us down the road. As a result, I will be contributing my own money instead and accepting a reimbursement under the aegis of the allowed reimbursements for “props.” Shut up. This is legal. Bureaucracy is a shell game you play with bullets.)
The best solution I could come up with was the following.
1) I’ll be contributing $50 of my own money to the Obama campaign (no reimbursement). This is not money I actually have but it’s money I need to commit.
2) I’ll be waiting until the top of November to send the Romney campaign its money, by which time I am fairly sure it will do the least amount of damage, will not likely be used to purchase another typically mendacious attack ad.
3) I’ll be sending the money entirely in one-dollar bills, with the below note.
To Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney,
Enclosed, please find a donation of $45 towards your campaign to be elected President of the United States. I have no desire to give you this money and you do not deserve to receive it. But I made a wager, I lost that wager, and an honorable man fulfills the terms of the wager even when it costs them in both money and the ability to sleep at night.
The volunteer who opened this message has probably stopped reading at this point, so there’s no reason for me to tell you that I contributed a larger amount of money to the re-election campaign of the President some months ago. It is futile for me to mention that money is not people any more than corporations are, my friend, and your drive to be CEO of The Limited Liability States of America has revealed a deeply troubling lack of empathy for everybody who doesn’t look, speak, think, and spend like you; whether they’re middle-class families, dying cancer patients who ask you point-blank questions about medical marijuana, a teenager with an unusual haircut, or your family dog. Right now this sentence is in the wastebasket or maybe even in the recycling bin, so you’re not reading about how astoundingly embarrassed I am that you were somehow considered the best nominee your party could produce despite your documented lack of any guiding principle, save your feeling of entitlement to the highest civic office in the land.
This money has been sent to you in one-dollar denominations because I imagine it’s been a very long time since you’ve seen these. On the front of the bill is a portrait of George Washington, who never wanted the job that you covet but who managed to execute its duties very well despite that. I hope you use it to buy a cup of coffee for as many workers as you can find whose companies you raided and whose jobs you sent overseas. I hope you use it to buy somebody a couple of the prescription pills they won’t be able to afford were you to hold to your promise of repealing the health care law that’s based largely on the law you championed in your home state of Massachusetts.
My wager required that I send you money. It did not require that I do so kindly or respectfully.
Your Fellow American, whether you say so or not,
These are the amends I can make. That, and voting.
Current Music: Snow Patrol, “Called Out In The Dark”