The State of the Union, faces and voices of resistance


Bill Whalen, who was chief speechwriter for the former California governor Pete Wilson and responsible for his annual state of the state address, said: “There is uncertainty over interruptions by Democrats. We have plenty of faces of resistance but will we get a voice of resistance through heckling? The second question is, how unified are the Republicans? It’s a tricky time for him to be in front of them.”

Whalen, now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution thinktank in Palo Alto, California, added: “The State of the Union has become a very sad spectacle. We’re much more interested in the drama, the theatrics, what people are wearing. It’s like an awards show. We don’t pay much attention to the substance.”

A local Meetup group has an excursion planned for Sachsenhausen in a couple weeks. I’ve been to Sachsenhausen twice, most recently last spring. The temperature here has been hovering around 1°C, so the foundations of Georg Elser’s cell will be white with frost. I wonder what Elser’s face of resistance was like through four Sachsenhausen Februaries. His voice had spoken unmistakably.

I am thinking of resistance this morning (which is not unusual, I often think of resistance). I am thinking of the struggle against Soviet occupa­tion evenly remembered by my instructor in Vilnius: “That was our life, then.” She and I spoke of Romas Kalanta. I imagine Kalanta’s face of resistance in the end contorted, his voice of resistance a clarion call of flame.

How does one shift one’s compatriots’ points of reference away from television programming, broaden their concept of struggle to include more than heckling, lift their vision of leadership to something higher than a late night television comedian exemplar?

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