As I embark on a new project, Coming In Hot, that illuminates the perspectives of women who have served in the military since Vietnam, I find myself in the midst of a new and oddly prickly controversy.
My inbox is overflowing with messages from across the political spectrum that urge me to abandon my newest artistic adventure.
The Left is generally perplexed and often downright irritated that a peace activist would take on the material that, in their view, validates the war machine. Supporters of the military dismiss the project as anti-war. The overwhelming majority of those in both camps are hesitant to support the project in any way. My artistic/literary endeavor has been saturated with political hyperbole before a word of it has been performed. I should surrender my peace union card, say some. I should love my country as it is, or leave it, say others.
Since when does participation in discussion and argument constitute complicity? Is it not our task, as peace activists, to attempt to persuade our adversaries of the error of their ways? Is it not our duty as anti-warmongers to illuminate the evils of the dominant war-based culture we decry with our efforts every day?
There have always been conflicting energies in the peace/anti-war movement. The distinctions between those two overlapping entities are an ocean of nuance, a tidal wave of minutia that could drown a Killer Whale. As Abbie Hoffman said, “Conspiracy? We can’t agree on lunch!”
However, I have never experienced such troubling cohesiveness between the Right and Left.
What am I, Agnus Politica?
What am I, a theatre artist/peace activist to do? Show tunes? Shall I sit back and sing Kumbaya and wait until pigs fly and post-apocalyptic “peace” sets in? What is an appropriate activity for me? To go about preaching the words of Jeannette Rankin** to the choir for the rest of my life? Are our truths so fragile that we can’t expose them to scrutiny, put them under the Right’s microscope and let them be dissected and analyzed? The truth is REAL. It won’t fall apart. It will always, always hold together. It will not disintegrate upon inspection. Ours is not empty rhetoric. People are dying every single day as a result of American hegemony, jingoism, laziness and greed. Have we lost our mettle?
I urge you – no, I CHALLENGE YOU to contact me or leave comments here and discuss this in non-violent, non-accusatory language. Let’s figure this out together. It’s reckoning time, my peacenik comrades, and if we don’t stand together, a stand will be taken for us once again, and it won’t be anything we want or need or support or will be able to live with.
Let’s get with it.
In peaceful solidarity always,
**A Single Woman is a play written and performed 263 times by Jeanmarie Simpson. The piece explores the lifelong pacifism of first US Congresswoman, Suffragist and Anti-War Lobbyist, Jeannette Rankin.
Jeanmarie Simpson is a writer, film and theatre artist and peace activist. She is a lifetime member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). To contact her, visit her website.