Media Blackout

I’ve toyed with the idea of posting a prediction for tomorrow’s outcome, but the fact is that I’m just too riddled with anxiety. A prediction would require that I go sifting through polling data with a calculator and a map. And, even more exhausting, I’d have to think seriously about the fallout: the inevitable court challenges, the days (weeks? months?) of political posturing and legal maneuvering, the general acrimony, and the slack-jawed wonder I’ll feel when it’s all decided, finally, regardless of the outcome. I’ll make only one prediction: whoever wins — and excuse my Fre-, er, my Cheney — is fucked. I feel a bit like Ethel in Millennium Approaches: “History is about to crack wide open.”

And speaking of the Rosenbergs, rather than making predictions (or reading any news that might spoil my distorted sense of guarded hope), I have instead been getting up each morning and working on my dissertation, burying myself in 1937-1956. The significance? In 1937 Arthur Miller was an undergrad at the University of Michigan, reporting on efforts to unionize General Motors plants in Detroit and Flint for the school paper. He was also writing his first plays, which are like Clifford Odets’ except without all the nuance. (If you’re not familiar with Odets, that was me being sarcastic.) Miller has characters say things like:

I’m a Communist because I want the people to take the power that comes with ownership away from the little class of capitalists who have it now.

Subtle, eh?

In 1956 Miller was called to testify before HUAC. His hearing came nine years after the committee’s first trip to Hollywood, three years after Elia Kazan’s testimony, and three years after the Broadway debut of The Crucible, and things were beginning to change. Miller, in fact, could have gotten out of the mess entirely if he had just allowed Marilyn Monroe to have her photo taken with the committee members beforehand. But he didn’t. And he testified. And that testimony helped to secure his reputation as our moral conscience, or something. And I’m doing my damnedest to figure out what this can teach us about the American Left.