Make Art, Not War

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A moment of silence for the victims of this tragic shooting, and then a healthy conversation about violence in our society

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, we must admit that we have a much bigger problem than just gun control in this country. We cannot pretend to be surprised by this kind of thing anymore. It happens every couple of months, and the shock and horror of it have become a sort of numb that I feel about the whole everything. The whole news broadcast, as it is dealt out to me, leaves me feeling helpless and numb. In fact, I took it upon myself to throw out my TV years ago- for my own mental health- and to avoid being sucked into watching the news elsewhere (since it is broadcast in shops and bars, and in the headlines of every newspaper on every street corner). Still, it seeps in and I hear about this shooting from my friends and it makes me cry. Me too, Mr. Obama, I cried when I heard the news too.

But with all the due callousness of a long time peace advocate- what else do you expect? This is what happens in a gun-crazed and violent society, like the one we live in today. This is what you get when the leader of our nation deems himself able to assassinate whomever he wants, wherever he wants, for his own “secret reasons” and never be held accountable. It is a classic case of “Do as I say, don’t do as I do” and if you don’t like to think so- here is another example:

If we are to believe that this gunman is solely responsible for this atrocity, and not just a product of the society that he comes from, then let’s call him a terrorist. And let’s say this schoolhouse was in Northern Pakistan instead of Northern America.

See the difference?

The President gets information that a dangerous terrorist is in a schoolhouse in Pakistan, and what does he do? He orders the strike to have him killed and a Hellfire missile is sent to bomb the entire building. Instead of 27 dead, every person in or near the schoolhouse would be under a pile of rubble and there would be no heroes, no survivors- not even a death toll. It is the official practice of our government NOT to count the bodies of the civilian dead, so that they can wave this strike in our faces later and say
“See? We got our man! One terrorist dead. Now give us another billion dollars.”

Now do you see how big the problem really is? It’s not just about guns. It is the acceptability, and the normality of murder. Murder by any other name, is still murder. And we see it glorified on the news every single day. And what we don’t hear about, mass murder on a scale that any would-be serial killer could envy, is being carried out by our government in our name and with our tax dollars. Every. Single. Day.

People want to talk about video games, and I say TALK. But really, it is a much deeper love of violence than that. Have you ever heard the term "war-porn"? There are websites set up with official U.S. government footage of drone assassinations, where users can comment and chat with each other while dark figures are blown up on the screen.
Sound a little fucked up to you? How about throwing the term “porn” in there to remind us that violence against women goes hand-in-hand with this kind of war-loving mentality. That rape is so common in our military that a female solider is more like to get attacked by her own fellow soldiers, then be wounded in combat.

But military service isn’t safe for women? Video games promote violence? These things have nothing to do with one crazy person gunning down a bunch of school kids. Unless of course you look at it as a whole, and see these things as the mere surfacing of the affects of war and violence on our collective psyche.

American culture is a many faceted and beautiful thing. No one thing can be considered the cause of the state of our society, but sometimes it takes only one story for the whole of the conversation to change. Take what happened to Trayvon Martin, another act of gun violence, where what is an everyday reality for black youth in this country came to the forefront of our national attention. It is up to us to make sure these children-all of the innocent children- did not die in vain. Let us take the time to see things clearly for what they are. The man who did this needed help, help he did not receive, and we all pay the price. We must teach our children to love and respect themselves and each other- before they reach for a gun. Until that day, when I see the news idly prattling on in the background somewhere- I will continue to look away.

And I will continue to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the so-called War on Terror (as it as produced more terror in eleven years for “them” and for “us” then the attacks on 9/11 could ever justify) until it is over, and not one more bomb is dropped. My heart goes out to the mothers and fathers of those children. I believe killing children is the worst war crime, because children do not hate. We teach them that by how we behave. And tt is time we change the lesson. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On Military Drones (and tearing them to pieces)

It’s the arms race of the future, really, 
except this time Sputnik’s ganna be an unmanned plane.
And if the vessel is unmanned, doesn’t that make the killing 
automatically inhumane?
It’s odd to me to think that when I’m voting with my dollar, 
I demand a better treatment of the chicken for my dinner 
then our military seems to see fit for those people on the ground 
in places like Iraq and Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan…
You know, those unreliable statistics, because really- who sees?
The trouble with machines is there’s a lack of accountability. 
I want our government to have to make stickers for all their little planes that say 
“No dolphins or civilians were harmed in the making of this democracy”
How about that? How about a harm free approach to foreign policy? 
Can you install that, Uncle Sam, at the point of your gun?
Of course not, it’s an oxymoron. American the humanitarian. 
On a mission and it’s called an invasion.
Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane- 
cause it sure aint Superman.
It’s a U.S. military drone and it’s loaded, so go ahead and run.
Cause it sees you too, but not with eyes. 
With orders.

Cause anyway, that’s what “collateral damage” is code for: 
Dead people, lots of them children.
Unarmed civilians is a way of saying that they had nothing to do with 
this conflict, but then neither do we- on this end.
The taxed, yet, unrepresented majority of people in this country 
who do not like the war, and do not support another one. 
But what can we do?
We don’t feel the trigger under our finger because we’re fed a constant stream of lies and all our lives we are taught that it’s “Do unto others has you would have done unto yourself”
And yet every time the news breaks that a woman is raped, that a village is slaughtered we are ready to make those sacrifices for what we call the safety of our country and it is utter nonsense.

Violence begets violence. This is a fundamental truth.

We are the purveyors of death and atrocity in these parts of the world, 
and then you wonder why they hate us   ???
So you tell me, who is the real terrorist? 
Rebel with a gun or a smiling politician?
Whatever gets the job done. 
And these days the job is as easily done as the push of a button 
by some pimple-faced in a bunker in Nevada somewhere.
Did you know the controls for these drones are compatible with a PlayStation? 
This is not a coincidence.
They are spoon feeding this to your kids, so I suggest you get acquainted. 
Because drones are the future of warfare that already is.

And I heard Obama just Okayed the use of drones over ALL U.S. airspace- so be prepared to see them around.
Equipped with cameras instead of bombs, 
so that should make us all feel safer. 
They say that they are looking for the terrorists among us 
and looking at everyone, you know –Just in case
Even though the only cases it seems our government team 
can solve these days are the ones they cooked up in the first place.
But hey-they’ve gotta spend that budget someway, don’t they?
And did you know that it takes a whopping, jaw dropping, 300 people 
to fully operate one of those drones for just one day? 
One of those $28 million planes?
Oh yes sir’ee, it’s a booming industry.
Remember that bumper sticker about how great it’s be if schools had all the funding they needed and the army had to hold a bake sale?
People, this is what our government is busy buying. 
This is where the tax dollars go.
So when they tell you they’ve gotta cut some spending, 
you just tell’em “Land some drones, man. 
Just land the drones.”

And call me a sentimental hippie like that, but I believe 
in the power of the people to fight back.
Cause we can’t just let this technology run wild, or go rouge, 
or come crashing home on us
We must realize and regulate, study up and educate each other
Before this whole thing gets out of control 
(with evidence to suggest we are already at the threshold).
So let your president and members of congress know 
what you think about the wars, 
and what you think about the drones. 
Tell'em we don't need any more killing machines, 
we could use that money much better here at home. 
Leave those kids in Pakistan alone.
It's time to end the war, and land the drones.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poetry in motion tends to stay in motion...

It's December and as the year is coming to a close, I'm happy to have just received an email from Intermedia Arts announcing the Verve grant winners for 2012 (including myself)- and it's ready, set, go time! The world can't end in 2012, I've just got too much cool stuff to do!

So, what does this mean? Six amazing spoken word poets and I get to be a part of this really cool program through Intermedia Arts to work on our craft, learn about this art style and support each other while each of us is individually working on our own project that brings art into the community in a meaningful way. I can't even say how excited and honored I am to be able to work with these poets, and with Intermedia Arts (who has been a leader in community art in Minneapolis for decades. I remember the first time I went down to that cool building in Uptown with the amazing, changing graffiti art on the walls for a show- and now I will be performing there myself at the end of this year!) It is really, by any measure, a dream come true.

My project involves performing my work (hopefully lots of new stuff) at as many different types of events as possible and documenting it for a year. I'm calling it Poetry in Action. The intention is to go out into the community and use art as a tool to make change, to contribute spoken word poetry to the various movements Minneapolis is so fortunate to have bustling here. Things I am already involved in, like the anti-war movement and Occupy, to things like community gardening and hopefully some new stuff, new places and .orgs I just haven't met yet. Frankly, I've got a lot of learning to do, but that's the point. I just need to write and perform as much as possible. So, if you hear of any opportunities to do so-you should let me know. I'm already getting some traction, though. The show on Oct 18th with Jared Paul went great, and I've got plans to be a guest on a weekly radio show/podcast called The New American Dream (just as soon as the details get worked out).

Just this week I went to a neat little open mic at Mapps Coffee Shop that was put on by the Human Rights Student Advisory Board at the U of M. It was great, all of the performers were amazing, and all of the work was LGBT and/or Human Rights related (so my stuff fit right in). It was part of a week's worth of actions and events that they are doing for Human Rights Day (Dec. 10th) and it was perfect, because I got a chance to tell them about The Anti War Committee event on Sat. for Human Rights Day. We are having a rally and a march that starts at the corner of Franklin and Nicollet and ends indoors at the coffee shops called The Nicollet, where there will be refreshments and some speeches and I will be performing my brand new piece! I'm actually supposed to be finishing writing that right now, but then I saw the email :  )

So, yeah, good stuff in the works. Any and everyone who wants to should come to this thing on Sat
(here's the facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/520565027954255/) 
 And stay tuned for future performances!