Saturday, October 16, 2010

10-9-10 Hollywood

60 people were in attendance for the "No More Victims" benefit performance hosted by Cole and Ann Miller. Blase Bonpane, Frank Dorrel and other long-time activists from the peace community were there. Dylan Brody lead the after-show discussion (see his review here). One woman in the audience said emphatically that "the violence that has been going on for centuries needs to stop" and that we "must stop it." Another woman made a plea for teaching compassion to our children and guiding them away from violent means to problem-solving at an early age. Another audience member asked "what does it mean to present a wide-range of opinions, of aspects to a collective psyche?" Jeanmarie talked about how in high schools, in some cases, that kids changed their minds about joining the military after seeing the play; I commented that the intention behind presenting a mosaic, not a political polemic, was to create compassion for all of our humanity and make it difficult to "other" (ie, internalize one's own violent feelings) toward another group---a group which, in this case, suffers abuse and is under-voiced. The longer view of peace-making that this project takes is one of understanding across differences, across cultures and healing through story-telling and truth-telling.

Here is what some folks said when asked, on-line and after the show, what they thought:

"The play is surely an honest warning to young people. It is kind of like SCARED STRAIGHT which told people the horrors of being imprisoned. I am sure it has a very practical value as has been demonstrated in the visits to schools. But there is a second shoe, the devastation caused by our endless military interventions. Perhaps that should be the sequel. As for our troops who are in effect slaves, I would only want the best treatment. In my view, this should also be the case for prostitutes and prisoners.

Our veterans are the vanguard of the peace movement. No one has made a greater indictment of our slaughter than the troops

"I did not like the play at all. . . it wasn’t anti-war enough for me. The one part of the play that I do think would be good for girls and young women to see was the part about one in three women in the military being raped and three out of four being sexually abused. Other than that, the play does not work for me as an anti-war peace activist. It might work for people who are not part of the anti-war peace movement."

" I didn't see the play as a counter-recruitment tool, but more as a means for motivating young women to work toward better treatment of women and gays in the military. The stories used, for me, were far too introspective and self-absorbed; I was honestly shocked at the lack of empathy for the civilians of the countries we've invaded. I couldn't muster up much sympathy for a woman who didn't get to kiss her partner good-bye, when she was willingly going into a situation where she might be killing innocent civilians, or at the very least, terrorizing them simply by being there!  If there was talk of "conscience" or worry about the innocents I may have felt differently.

I can't see a soldier in uniform without wondering if he or she had hurt or killed or terrified an innocent civilian in Afghanistan or Iraq.  I think of the fear "No More Victims" kids must feel when they see a US Army uniform or hear the sounds of our weapons, and it makes it very difficult for me to listen from anything other than the civilians' perspective."

"We are the ones doing the invading. We are the ones killing and torturing civilians, and tearing entire countries to pieces. They are the terrorized ones, not us. The identity politics of economic conscripts are unpersuasive in this context. Not many Iraqis can afford college, but I don't think that gives them the right to invade America and kill Americans for tuition money.

The play does expose the imperial narcissism that afflicts the United States. . . but I can't really empathize with a soldier before she departs on imperial errands. The stats from Iraq are appalling: around a million dead, more maimed and wounded, millions of orphans, 4.5 million living the miserable lives of refugees, decades of development intentionally destroyed by powerful and indiscriminate munitions, an entire generation poisoned by depleted uranium and reduced to penury. The cultural inheritance of 7,000 years scattered to the winds in the cradle of civilization. And in the midst of this, Americans are whining hysterically about an Islamic YMCA being built two blocks from "Our Hallowed Ground." This display of narcissism is about as convincing an indictment of Americans and imperial culture as one could imagine. The play certainly exposes aspects of this imperial narcissism, an important contribution to our understanding, but most students are unlikely to perceive it.

A strong piece by a woman who witnessed and participated in the killing of civilians would strengthen the piece enormously.  We need that perspective as well."

"It is with no regret whatsoever that I cannot provide you with a killing followed by remorse story. I was in Uzbekistan two months after the attacks on 9/11, which were brought to our front door step, so to speak.  We were attacked, and the Taliban was more than happy to claim ownership of it (whether or not they did). Our presence in Uzbekistan meant a huge boost for their local economy, and the people I spoke with were not displeased with our military presence as just south of their border the Taliban had been subjugating women, minorities and any number of others who dared disagree with them.  The story was much the same in Iraq. . .  The people cheered us on from the sides of the roads as we convoyed through to destroy the military encampments just miles away. This was quite the shock to me.  I learned a new compassion for a people who were so terrorized by their own government that they welcomed foreigners who greeted them at the point of a gun.

Having believed in our cause when we invaded I soon found myself subject to the political musings of men and women who will do anything to get themselves more political pull. . .  Nine years and we are still occupying, still dying, still terrorizing. I say "we" because it is the soldiers who receive the ill will for occupying countries where we do not wish to be. I know of very few of my fellow soldiers who want to go back for their third, fourth, fifth tours. "We" are tired of the fighting. "We" want this insidious war over probably far more than the peace activists. They have statistics to cite, we have countless friends who have lost their lives for this political cause. "We" have returned permanently crippled, both physically and emotionally.    

I sincerely hope that CIH is not merely to dissuade women from joining the military. . .I love your project so much because it gives a voice to a group of people who are not generally heard.  I want a voice. I want voices for my sisters. I want to be included in the discourses of history."

"We are trying to open up our net of compassion and understand other points of view in order to appreciate the reasons that such huge numbers join the military. When surrounded by war wounded vets, were I to approach them as demons who have learned - too late - the error of their ways, it would only deepen their feelings of guilt and self-reproach. I appreciate vets coming forward and telling their stories. I learn from all of the points of view."


  1. There was also a woman there, a high school teacher, who said she works in a very at-risk district. For her students, the military is the best option for them to escape poverty. The reality that the USA's wars have always been waged by the rich and fought by the poor cannot be emphasized enough. That our disadvantaged youth find camaraderie, honor, paychecks, benefits and education as a result of military "service" is not something that we, the comfortable and privileged, should easily dismiss. It is by walking in their shoes that we might be able to appreciate their perspectives and then, MAYBE, begin to find our way out of the tangled web in which we, our children and the whole world are trapped.

  2. These writings and performances are important as they present a wide range of experiences by women in the military. I think at times people attend the performances with assumptions or an agenda instead of being open minded to the content of the stories. All of these women's reasons for joining the military are as unique as their experiences while enlisted, yet representing women's treatment as a whole. The scars are mental and physical, going as far back as Vietnam or as recently as Afghanistan. These writings also prove something good and positive can be cultivated out of the worst of times. The well of experiences these performances can tap is, unfortunately, limitless. Lets hope Coming in Hot can change that.