You can only wish that Senator John McCain would pull another star move and ‘suspend’ his campaign, like he did during the Wall Street meltdown. His current one is against allowing gays to serve openly in the US military. It doesn’t seem likely though. Instead of America’s favorite war hero, he‘s acting more like a psycho officer Humphrey Bogart played in The Cain Mutiny. He has now made it his mission to keep Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell in place, even as his wife Cindy admonishes ‘leaders’ for discriminating against gay soldiers in a NoH8 gay civil rights ad campaign. (breaking news- she’s flipped her position again!)
The fate of gay military personnel, their future, their career and their families could rest on a pillow talk tiff between the McCains.
McCain has been schizophrenic on the issue, disingenuously, one guesses since he is so desperate for power that he needs to hold onto that ever-decisive antigay voting bloc. In 2006 he stated “The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.” I’m assuming he meant the Royal ‘we.‘ Well, they did and he didn’t.
Girding up for his public stance against the repeal the stalwart McCain consented to meet with political reporters from The Advocate policies to reiterate that he would not change his opposition to the repeal of the policies until the troop questionnaire was released and its findings were analyzed. The reporters, armed with evidence on the abuses against gay soldiers and he responded by denying that there were any witch-hunts, expulsions or unwarranted investigations. “It just doesn‘t happen“he kept repeating and ‘I know the military.‘
Well, true, he is after all the head of the Arms Services Committee, but other than some retired officers who signed an anti-gays in the military petition, he is pretty much standing alone in his opposition on this. The reporters were shouted down and dismissed with no fair hearing.
McCain followed up that little hissy with a rash of public statements that he would filibuster any Senate vote on efforts to repeal DADT. Indeed, he is the ever-eager front man for the Republicans, to delay a vote with the current congress.
You would expect him to oppose President Obama on sore looser grounds, but apparently means nothing to him that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs chairman, were in the Senate Hearings saying that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly was the right thing to do. Mullen testify passionately about serving with gay soldiers his entire military career starting in Vietnam. McCain doesn’t seem concerned about the rank and file either. More than 70 percent of the American people feel the gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly. The polls numbers are parallel to the service personnel questionnaire with over 70 percent of troops and their families who do not think the repeal would have any substantive negative effect.
Only 27 percent of those polled had objections, mostly on religious and politically conservative grounds, felt that DADT should continue. Which circles back around to McCain. He has his military survey and it did not support his view. You can only think that the politics of the issue was more persuasive in his change of heart than any personal objection. All the more insidious. McCain’s statement at the Senate hearings this week just reek of political divisiveness.
Showing his distain as Carl Levin was encouraging all who think there should be no repeal of the ban on gays serving openly, should read this report. McCain called the survey ‘flawed’ and saying “the question should be, should the policy be changed” a smoke and mirrors tactic that is designed to put everybody into McCarthy era homosexual panic. That is the same play Sam Nunn made in the 90s when he turned the whole issue about men stalking other men in military showers. Pathetic.
The old guard military wants to keep the closet in place for their own purposes. Their single effective weapon is to predict that the impact will be dangerous. They had no such concerns when they were so desperate for troops during the Iraq War that they were recruiting convicted felons on conditional releases. There will be no impact on the military as attested by the other NATO nations, US allies who allow gays to serve openly attest. McCain, ever the savvy politician is willingly bending over to keep the antigay support he has in his pocket now.
Actually, I want to see McCain make good on his filibuster. I want to see him stand against the majority of American citizens and as a military man, against the majority of his comrades. I want him to face Eric Alva, who was the first soldier to sustain an injury in Iraq or Lt. Dan Choi, a decorated Marine, an Arabic linguist who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and stateside leading his reserve regimen in New York state when he came out and was kicked out. I want to see McCain tell these soldiers they are not good enough to serve because they are gay. Maybe Bogie can lend McCain his ball-bearings and his stories about stolen strawberries.
Giovanni Boccaccio’s notorious Decameron inspired everyone from Shakespeare to Pablo Pasolini. The sacred and profane stories of plague-ridden 14th century Florence Italy are full of disease, sex, murder, transfiguration, religious tyranny, moral decay and heartbreak – all the ingredients for opera. Under the direction of Karen Salliant, Philadelphia’s International Opera Theater and their counterpart company in Italy have turned Boccaccio’s text into a raucous opera of dramatic and comedic grandeur.
Since Boccaccio’s text had a different narrator for each novella, the opera has appropriately utilized the improbable assemblage of seven Philadelphia-based composers, working on a different Decameron story. Instead of musical chaos, the various musical voices works well. The composers – Efrain Amaya, Michael Djupstrom, Daniel Shapiro, Adam Silverman, Tonoy Solitro, Thomas Whitman and Ya-Jhu Yang- build the broad musical template that is cohesive. Credit the fine libretto, written by Salliant and Tommaso Sabbitini, who maintain muscled interaction to the music, alternating song cycles in Italian and English.
Whitman’s front scenes introduce Calandrino, the artist who spins fantasies that helps him escape the grim reality of the plague. Baritone Bernard Bygott is a feverishly inspired troubadour, his physical comedy full of mischief but doesn’t steal from his earnest vocal performance. As Italian folk dances and tarantella beats swirl around, he reads from his shredded garments as he sings about the horrors of the plague with gallows humor and clinical crassness. The other lead cast member plays noble and ignoble characters over the nine stories depicted.
Among the many highlights – Yasko Fuiji who is transcendent in the Ghismunda and The Heart of Guiscardo – the stunner that ends Act I. The story is about an heiress in love with a household servant who is murdered by her father. She holds his heart in her hand as Amaya’s music blooms with the most grotesque beauty. Fuiji’s sings this horrific scene with such power and truth. Kathryn Krasovec, singing the mezzo roles, is most sumptuous as Madre Usimbalda, lamenting the loss of her children. The tenor Son Jae Yeon, can play priest, clown and villain, with equal ease and is vocally thrilling in all of them. But the baritone Christopher Grundy, stepping in just days before the premiere, in the lover roles, sometimes with lengthy soliloquy, who gives no less than a heroic performance.
Salliant, who also directed, didn’t have much to work with at the modest black box upstairs at the Prince Music Theater, but she compensates by keeping the action focused on the performances and music. Great costuming of different textures (medieval headdress; wedding gowns, viscount capes and celestial tunics) play off an ocean of tulle, which morphs into clouds, sickbeds and ethereal set pieces at any moment.
Musical director Gianmaria Griglio achieved fine detailing from the International Opera Theater Chamber Orchestra, which sounded twice the size at any given moment. Befitting its source material, Decameron, the opera, deserves a long artistic life.