Wednesday , May 29 2024

Theater of Protest

Repeat to yourself over and over: Iraq is not Vietnam, Iraq is not Vietnam, Iraq is not Vietnam….

NY Times story on artists snapping to attention when the words “war” and “protest” pop up in the same sentence: “Huh, whither shall I protest this thing called war?”

    For those opposing war with Iraq, the cancellation of the poetry symposium symbolizes the part the arts can play in politics. Hearing the drumbeat of a new war, through readings, concerts, art exhibitions and theater, artists are trying to recapture their place as catalysts for public debate and dissent.

    If the immediate artistic response to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington was the theater of grief, some of the nation’s poets, musicians, writers, actors and playwrights have moved on to the theater of protest. The prospect of an imminent military confrontation with Iraq has incited a new sense of creative urgency.

If I hear the fucking words “drums” (or “drumbeat”) and “war” in the same phrase one more time, I may declare open hostilities myself – come up with a new cliche, please.

Blah, blah, blah – the usual names are outraged – blah, blah, blah:

    The Berkeley concert also featured Saul Williams, the poet-rapper, who wrote the Not in Our Name theme song, which includes this lyric: “It’s not about retaliation,/your history of war does nothing more/than scar imagination.”

And save the world from murderous dictators and aggressive totalitarian ideologies, but that’s besides the point, right?

But then we get to the interesting part, where a few brave souls stray from the lock step dogma:

    Perhaps surprisingly, some of the artists who were ready to march against the Vietnam War are not as eager to raise their voices now, when the focus is Iraq and Al Qaeda.

    Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary , is more likely to be singing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” once the anthem of the Vietnam protest movement, in elementary-school classes than on the street. Mr. Yarrow has kept a distance from organized rallies against the United States buildup to war in Iraq.

    For the last four years he has been using familiar protest music in Operation Respect, an educational program intended to teach children what he calls “nonviolent conflict-resolution tools,” a project that requires the endorsement of local school boards and national politicians.

    “I am urgently trying to find common ground on a nonpartisan basis to reach for nonviolent solutions through the social and emotional growth of children,” he said. “I do not believe that adults are really capable of changing what is in their hearts. Therefore I believe we should create conditions for peace in the future in the children before they’re taught to hate and to fear.”

    Similarly, Edward Sorel, the illustrator and a pacifist, said he cannot get a handle on how to depict the current political situation through his work. “Vietnam was a clear case of us being not only in the wrong place but on the wrong side,” he said. “It was much easier than this. Here one group of religious fanatics represented by George Bush and Mr. Ashcroft is pitted against religious fanatics even more despotic than they are. I find the whole thing very confusing. So I take my tranquilizer and go to funny movies.”

And this guy is a real pacifist, not a tag-along sloganeer. There is hope: Iraq is not Vietnam, Iraq is not Vietnam…

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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