Chapter 3, Scene 1: America

Chapter 3, Scene 1:  America

INT. MITCH’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

Mitch sits at the small kitchen table, staring at his laptop. The apartment is mainly dark, with the laptop screen serving as the only source of light.

INSERT: Laptop screen, displaying coverage of the 2017 Inauguration:

INTERCUT THE COVERAGE WITH MITCH’S STUNNED, DISMAYED REACTIONS

… Donald Trump taking the Oath of Office.

… Trump’s Inauguration speech.

Over the various clips and snippets of coverage, the HOST is heard interviewing a PUNDIT.

       PUNDIT
With President Trump’s references to “America First” and reminders of violence and struggle in America’s inner cities, the tone of the address did not sound like that of the unifying victor, rather much more of an incendiary call-to-arms.

… Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell congratulate the new President.

       HOST
Who do you think he’s talking to there?

       PUNDIT
It certainly was NOT the progressives, not even the moderates he said he wants to represent, but clearly the base of voters that pushed his victory –

       HOST
– the blue-collar, mainly white-male contingent –

       PUNDIT
Of course. He knows if he doesn’t keep them fired up and on the edge of their seats, his entire political empire fails to take root.

… Vice President Pence congratulates his new boss.

… The rest of Trump’s team… Bannon, Conway, etc. display confident smiles.

       HOST
And the alt-right factions rising in the ranks?

       PUNDIT
Well, yes, obviously this speech has Bannon’s fingerprints all over it.

Mitch has finally had enough and swiftly closes his laptop.

       MITCH
Ugh!

Now in a darkened room, he stands and flips on the light in the kitchen. He notices how cold, how dreary the apartment feels.

He moves to another nearby lamp and turns it on. He steps to the opposite corner and turns on the overhead light next to the front door. He continues throughout the rest of his apartment, turning on every light possible.

He sits back down at the kitchen table and ponders opening the laptop again.

Instead, he grabs a pocket-sized journal, a pen, and his keys, and heads toward the front door.

INT. BED BATH AND BEYOND STORE – NIGHT

Mitch stands in line, waiting on the next checkout clerk. He holds two new table lamps with corresponding light bulbs in his hands.

He checks his cell phone, pulls up more news articles about the Inauguration and the opposing protests across the country.

He shakes his head, furrows his brow, clearly upset over the events of the day.

EXT. UPPER WEST SIDE – CITY STREETS – NIGHT

Mitch moves along Broadway, north, back toward his apartment, carrying the large Bed Bath and Beyond bag of his purchases.

His gait has lost its normal long, purposeful stride.  Instead, it’s more of a gentle stroll, suitable for someone with no destination in mind, merely a wanderer, soaking in his surroundings, looking for some sense of comfort.

He notices people that pass on the sidewalk, all going about their business, their lives, their current methods of pretending they aren’t equally shaken as he feels.

He steps past Cleopatra’s Needle, a Mediterranean restaurant and jazz club. He stops, looks inside, and notices a trio of musicians in the corner, fronted by a female singer.

INT. CLEOPATRA’S NEEDLE RESTAURANT – NIGHT

The mid-sized restaurant is active, but not busy, especially for a Friday night. The place feels like it gets hopping later, after the dinner crowds leave and the real jazz lovers crowd around and in between the tables.

Mitch sits at the bar, nursing a bottle of imported beer as he listens to the music.

The jazz is melancholy, haunting, and deep. The singer croons in a language Mitch can’t quite make out… maybe Greek, maybe Hindi, maybe Arabic.

He takes out his journal and begins making notes.

       MITCH
(written in journal)
Still so completely stunned. And fearful for this country. It’s not Trump. It’s not even Bannon, although he appears to be the architect of our demise. Fractured at our foundation — of what “America” really means.

He stops, gazes into nowhere.

The musicians finish their song. A smattering of respectful applause drifts up from mostly random, dis-engaged patrons.

Mitch returns to his journal.

       MITCH (CONT’D)
(written in journal)
We forgot how we got strong through diversity. We allowed the word “American” to be hijacked…  molded into a narrow image — like the white-skinned, light-haired Jesus they needed to believe in. So many giving up their right to the truth, in favor of the easy out — convenient to belong to something they don’t have to think about, just accept the rhetoric — even when it’s not true. Now ripe for a madman to use it all against them, against all of us — using “America” without defining it. Now “America” doesn’t relate to ideals of brilliant men that formed its tender beginning. Now a dangerous slogan, a banner, an icon on a hat, built on fear.

The trio begins another tune, although Mitch can’t easily distinguish it from the last song. He zones out a bit and returns to his journal.

       MITCH (CONT’D)
(written in journal)
And all of this… terribly disturbing. But what do I do? Where do I turn? Who do we turn to for reason, truth, and decency? When there is so much anger, distrust, and hatred? How does virtue triumph?

After a few more scribbles, something in the music catches his attention.

The singer has yet to express any lyrics, but something about the melody starts to sound strangely familiar — maybe in a minor key, with the somber, jazzy, dark tone of the previous song, but Mitch definitely makes out the song… America the Beautiful.

And then she sings…. In the same language used earlier.

       JAZZ SINGER
(in Arabic)
Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

The singer’s strong emotional expression spreads over the restaurant. The patrons who had been barely listening, eating their Moussaka and Tabouleh, are now mesmerized by the rendition.

The moment hits Mitch like a wrecking ball. He fights back a more visible reaction, but a stray teardrop manages to break through.

       JAZZ SINGER (CONT’D)
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
My God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

The song ends, and the crowd is stunned into silence. Even the wait staff, bartender, and hostess are still and reverent.

Applause would seem too jovial. Cheers would seem too jubilant.

Mitch stands from his barstool.

Folks around him look at him, not sure what he’s about to do.  The singer looks directly at him, and she lightly smiles.

He clasps his hands together in front of his chest, gives a little shake as a symbol of solidarity.

Still silent, others in the crowd follow suit, standing and clasping their hands, many with tears on their faces as well. A woman of obvious Middle-Eastern heritage sitting at a table next to the stage, steps up and hugs the singer, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

INT. MITCH’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

Mitch places the two new lamps in the living room, flipping their switches on.

The extra light helps him feel more settled, and he nods to himself in affirmation.

He returns to the kitchen table and opens his laptop.

He clicks and types, clicks and types, and then we see the website where he landed:

INSERT: SHOT OF LAPTOP SCREEN ON WEBSITE:
https://dailyaction.org with the title: “RESISTING EXTREMISM IN AMERICA, ONE PHONE CALL AT A TIME”

He adds his phone number and clicks ‘Submit’

END OF SCENE

One thought on “Chapter 3, Scene 1: America”

  1. Captured the sentiment of so many, feeling the stunned paralysis of Hamlet upon hearing the truth. How will we galvanize ourselves? I don’t know how, but galvanize we must.

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