It's a truth. Look at any great play and see what the bad decision was. Someone fucked up hugely. Someone got badly burned. Someone got irreparably damaged. Maybe someone got killed.
For various reasons, we tend to nurse on others' misfortune. I use “nurse” in its most beneficial definition. Not voyeurism, where we enjoy the vicariously tumultuous ride of a soap opera, but a lesson in which we witness a tragedy and its aftermath.
This is what art does. It holds a mirror up to life and shows what humans truly are, both at our most noble and heroic and our most despicable evil. That's its purpose. Good plays show us both at the same time.
But still. Bad decisions make great drama.
Like killing your brother then marrying his widow and stealing a throne. Like putting profit over safety and shipping faulty airplane engines to the war front. Like using driving lessons to sexually abuse your pre-teenage niece. Like seeking the imprisonment of a teacher who dares to teach science rather than religion. Like leaving your lover when he gets AIDS or denying the truth of yourself in the face of cultural superstition. Each of these is a tragedy. Each of these decisions destroyed people’s lives.
Somewhere in the theatre world there has been an argument about creating new art based on the current Ford/Kavanaugh hearings. I've seen arguments on several sides: why we should use this topic to create, why we shouldn't create something so unfair to men, why we shouldn't create anything new in favor of existing work on the subject, why only certain people should be allowed to create certain work because of who they are or shouldn’t be allowed to do so because of their ignorance of experience.
Someone, somewhere will create a work based on this. It's inevitable. I hope it's profound and sympathetic and above all, truthful. I hope it makes a statement so indelibly formidable that it cannot be ignored.
I hope it's written by someone with a compassionate soul.
And for those who see this as apology for scavenging a tragedy for personal gain, I offer the words of a profound, sympathetic, truthful, and compassionate woman:
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.