Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 16 of the Tour: 9-24

The University of Arizona Poetry Center, 6:30pm. The final public performance and post-show discussion of the tour.
Approximately 60 people in attendance (including four scholars---Adela C Licona, Sheila Tobias, Laura Gronewold, Kathleen Williamson---and Dr Anita Fonte, who was observing/analyzing the civil dialogue process.) Also in attendance were several female veterans and service members, including Kim Shroyer and Jamie Jansen (who have been traveling with us to high schools talking to the kids), and Kara Smith (who has signed up to be on a submarine).

Conversation came from those who have directly lived some of the deeply difficult experiences presented in the play as well as from those who have spent their professional lives analyzing, studying and working with the complex forces surrounding women, military, war, and the language we use to talk about those things. The "pride of service" vs the question of "America as a colonizing power", the "dehumanization" that is required by both sides to point and shoot vs the "invisibility of a war" that many people have the luxury of not thinking/talking about, "choosing" to join vs those who are rendered choiceless by poverty, the notion that everyone "in the military is the same/is a man" vs the high incidence of violence against women in the military and the intolerance of gays, the work of early feminists to get women into combat roles (which would help get them into positions of political power) vs the high number of returning soldiers disabled with PTSD, an audience member needing to meditate during the performance to maintain her equanimity vs the high stress levels that soldiers may carry into inherently stressful environments, responses from the gut and the heart vs responses from the intellect.

As Sheila Tobias said, we are not used to parsing mosaics. I think last night was an indication of that, but we attempted to do it anyway. .

Here is what some of those audience members had to say:

"33 years and experiences are still vivid in my mind's eye and depth of my heart and soul."

"This was multidimensional and inspiring."

"Powerful stories."

"I have some small idea of my daughter's experiences through the emotion of the performance (my daughter doesn't talk a lot to me about them). I am so proud of her."

"One of the most powerful and thought provoking pieces I have ever experienced."

"I came away with a strong sense of how everyone in war is human, and that humanity cannot be put on hold or ignored without consequence."

"I think this is a very powerful piece for those of us who live in such a privileged community that we are little-touched by the reality of our coutnry's military actions and engagements."

"Unlike anything I've seen. I appreciate the depth of honesty these women shared about what it's like to be a woman in the military."

"There were things said that I had not even thought of as a young private (female). I began my military career with an integrated army. I still feel the need however to be stronger than the males just to prove it can be done, probably due to my female Drill Sergeant's grinding it into my head."

"Would like to see this performance hit the Fleet. . . . [it] brings unspoken thoughts to words."

"Tonight's performance had a profound impact on me. . . when human qualities are stripped away, who decides which qualities go away?"

"Please keep presenting this."

"I am floored by the presentation. I am honored to have the opportunity to see it a second time and catch things that I had missed."

"Thank you so much for bringing this topic to the attention of so many people who may not fully understand the true roles and feelings of women in the military."

"while there was certainly a vast and powerful range of emotions, i was surprised with the lack of DESIRE (not "love" or "heartbreaks" or yearning) conveyed across the pieces--or even mentioned by the audience. not to minimize
the alarming statistics of rape and sexual assault in the arm forces, but given the prime age of soldiers (both women and men) and external stresses, it would not be surprising that the armed forces would be a ripe context for a great
deal of DESIRE (and not just from men). i don't know if serving in a compulsory situation (israel) made a difference... or perhaps growing up in a country where young girls did not need to get drunk and pass out to "allow themselves" to have
sex with whomever they wished... but for me and for many other women soldiers, at the time, consensual DESIRE (not sexual assault) was an important and empowering component of the military experience--to be remembered with no
guilt, shame or regrets. given the marriages and unions (gay/straight) forged during service in the U.S, i'd imagine that DESIRE is not unique to any particular army (integrated or not).

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