— Brian Tunney (@briantunney) September 27, 2016
By the 2012 elections, I was alone, in a desolate apartment in North Redondo Beach, wondering about the news and the election and the debates and the inter-afters of what I would hear on NPR during my brief drives throughout the South Bay. I wasn’t particularly “trying” to be disconnected, it just happened and I went with it and figured Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama in my tiny bubble of California was an afterthought that I would explore when the actual election happened.
My town, the surrounding areas, the local NPR affiliate, everyone seemed more preoccupied with getting the “ensure porn actors wear condoms” law passed. I voted for it, it passed, and then the porn industry started their various Los Angeles loopholes around the law involving Arizona and Vegas (at least that’s what NPR said…)
This year, 2016, it’s not Redondo Beach; I’m now in a blue city surrounded by a red state (Austin, Texas) and it’s not as black and white as California in 2012 or New Jersey in 2008. There are hippie drum circles in parks but there are also gun-toting cowboys driving their pickup trucks wherever they please and parking badly for all to see. It’s a mess of push and pull culture.
It’s also a debate month. And because of technology, because of my phone and because of the push and pull culture that envelops Austin, debate month translates into social gatherings that encompasses drinking, emotions and infighting. I don’t really enjoy it — every direction, I’m surrounded by an arterial political debate when I’m more concerned with finding a gluten-free bread that doesn’t contain sugar.
So we chose a movie theater that serves food as the place to watch the debate. And all was good and fine until about thirty minutes into the debate, when an elderly man started waving his arm in the air for help. Apparently, he was having a heart attack, in a half lit movie theater full of 150 people watching Hillary Clinton debate Donald Trump over who the fuck knows what.
The lights came on. The call was put out. “Is anyone here a doctor?”
911 was called, and left on speaker for all of us to hear as the man was laid down on the floor next to his seat.
The operator instructed the theater employee on timed chest compressions as the entire theater looked on in shock. Someone in the back end of the theater turned down the volume on the debates, and the only remaining sound in the theater was that of the 911 operator coordinating chest compressions with a movie theater manager. Donald Trump’s agitated face remained on the movie screen.
The political drama, the push and pull, none of it mattered. Everyone in that room felt powerless as we waited for the ambulance to arrive, enveloped by the silent movie screen of a man that had let materialism envelop him, grasping for silent retorts.
When the ambulance finally arrived, they told us all to get the fuck out in an orderly matter, which we did because it was all we could do by then. The theater offered refunds as the various emergency medical service vehicles assembled. A young kid leaned on a bench and started crying with his head in hid hands.
I’m not one to dismiss the relation between health and emotions ever, but this night, it really felt as if the push and pull of this town and this election got inside an individual more than they expected, with us bearing witness.
It made me hate the election cycle and it made me hate the failed art of assembled arguments. It made me want to relearn CPR.