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Tag Archives: peace
900poundgorilla and Revolution and Beer wishes for you and the world that we may all one day realize Peace, love, community
“…if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together…”
President Barack Obama, August 2012
I’m a writer, a novelist, an activist, artist and playwright. I’ve been to war, traveled extensively and have a supreme desire to better the world I was born into before I leave it, not commercially, but socially and humanely. A nurtured and near obsessive penchant for communicating that desire for a better world is my greatest tool, but it is nothing without the good people who perform and come to my plays, buy my books, read this blog and also those who argue vehemently with my assertions of sublime wisdom.
In the Balkans during the break up of Yugoslavia, organizing relief for Rwandan Genocide victims, and struggling to understand bigotry and racial divides in this country, I came to a simple, single theme; that it is all based upon skewed and inflated perceptions of our own egos. There is a tendency in a world in which we are small and overwhelmed all too often to sub-divide the world down to smaller and smaller parcels to understand and pretend our own preeminence. We may define ourselves, for examples, Christians, and then Catholics when the other Christians piss us off, then Americans, midwesterners, from Illinois, then from Chicago, white or black, northside or westside, from a certain neighborhood, attending such and such school, disagreeable to neighbors and so forth until we are left alone in our own misgivings about the world around us.
It is natural, as we are driven by our egos, needs and desires. But to accede to that solely is a capitulation to our base, anti-social, selfish natures. There must be a balance. We must balance ego with the understanding that we can all exist as nominal allies in this struggle to live and love and face the realities of the world and our own mortality. Rather than subdivide the world down to confirm our own self-importance, a negative, community means erasing a bit of ourself, multiplying ourselves out into the community where we face those inevitable realities in the embrace and nearness of others.
I could write in a cave, those thoughts and perspectives unchallenged as they echo back in some self-validating echo chamber. The illusion or hypocrisy is that the echo is there to assuage my loneliness in that cave. Rather, it is the community and all of you, dear readers, that gives any of this meaning, and for that I am deeply and unalterably in your debt. I did build that, but not alone.
Young boys turn to young girls
To whittle away the time,
Young men turn towards war.
Comes a day when but a few young men remain.
In the bars and parks they congregate,
And polish their pain to badges of honor
With stories so bold.
Comes a time when the stories all sound the same.
And then as old men,
Dog-eared stories put away
They turn towards god…
And perhaps a very lovely garden.
Twenty Years ago I was sitting in the studio of a little old Jewish sculptor, Milton Horn. Eighty-six, the Russian Born artist, and friend to the late Frank Lloyd Wright, was lamenting that he was the last of the “true classical artists.” Upon the table beside me, a posed photograph of his late wife Estelle, resplendent in a silver-tint nude art pose taken many years before. In the musty, languishing air of his studio, light filtering dull and gray through tall shuttered windows, Horn wagged his finger at me almost scoldingly.
“Get away from Chicago,” he urged. “Get out of America and go to Florence and study the great Masters.”
I was resolved from that moment, but being a greater fan of the modern decided that I would go to Barcelona and study in the home of Picasso, Miro and Dali, whose work I found relationship to Horn’s style. Horn, clearly not an admitted fan of the Modern, scoffed at the idea, but relented grudgingly, conceding(or rationalizing) that I would inevitably pick up classical arts education if nothing else by simply walking the streets of an old European city.
I would, I resolved. I would pay all my bills in advance, pack my cat, Manhattan, off to my parents, and go off to Europe until my funds were exhausted. But Europe was in transition, and parts of it rushing headlong from the chaos of that transition into complete disaster. The first reports from Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital were only just emerging. Those headlines told of snipers, random shelling, roundups of men and something new called “Ethnic cleansing.” It was a phrase I immediately recognized for what it truly was, a phrase the UN and Western governments seemed all too careful to avoid using: Genocide. Like calling rape “non-consentual intercourse.”
Reports began to emerge about artists not simply struggling to survive, as food and water became scarcer, and the search for those necessities became increasingly deadly gambles on Sarajevo’s streets. More and more the idea of my studies and explorations in Barcelona and elsewhere in Europe became increasingly inane. Sarajevo, I decided was where I needed to be. I would show solidarity with those stalwart and besieged Bosnian artists. I would place my own existence on the line for what had been, up to that point, merely words and ideals about human rights. And there was something more.
Not sure if I fully realized it then, but something stronger was drawing me to Bosnia and the war. Hardly satisfied with the media’s oversimplification, and painfully ignorant about Yugoslavia, which Bosnia was seeking to break from, I began to obsess over the culture and history. I devoured the history of Yugoslavia and southern Europe from Russian, Yugoslav, Ottoman, German, Italian and Western sources. I read all of the literature I could find, like Andric and Selimovic, and watched classic Yugoslav movies from a local video store, “When Father was away on business,” and classic war films like “Igmanski Mars,” “March to the Drina,” and “Tito and me.”
One night, exhausted from work, newspapers and books scattered on the bed beside me, I sketched an illustration about the conflict. It portrayed the haunting image of a young woman standing beside the coffin of a child, the war raging behind them. The Islamic crescent was etched upon the coffin, a Christian cross around the woman’s neck. Little did I realize the faithful place where sketch would lead…
Must we suffer through wars today to enjoy peace tomorrow? War is the last indication that hope and wisdom have failed in favor of our ignorance and hate. It is the generation that has abandoned hope and reason, the generation polluted by the generation before that accepts the possibility of war. Must the generation that is heir to the future also be polluted by the ignorance of the past? When do we learn that lesson? When do we decide to learn that lesson? I think that is the ultimate measure of our species.
The occupy movement sharesd a kinship and deep respect with the freedom movements in the Middle East. If ever there was an opportunity for common ground and future dialogue throughout the world, it has been planted here among the movement. Now is the time. Today is the day. The decision lives in each of us. History is ours to be written, if only we would write it rather than eternally being its victim.
The Play that made national headlines, changed hearts and energized a movement is now available on Best of the Left at the link below:
Please share it with your friends, especially those who still think the struggle of our times is not the co-opting of our great nation by corporate and financial greed.
Staging a protest — on a makeshift stage: Outdoor reworking of ‘A Christmas Carol’ makes use of actors who have been drawn into the protest movement
originally published in the Chicago Tribune. All ights reserved by B. Brotman and the Chicago Tribune:
December 24, 2011|By Barbara Brotman, Chicago Tribune reporter
The audience members began to arrive, walking behind a man carrying a sign reading, “Where are the jobs created by the tax cuts for the wealthy?”
The set was ready. In front of the memorial to Abraham Lincoln in Grant Park, a bench was hammered onto pieces of plywood to keep it from being blown over. Rolling wardrobes on the sides were anchored against the wind by backpacks. Scene lists were duct-taped to the tall columns on each side.
“I like that Abe Lincoln is looking over us,” said Teresa Veramendi, looking up at the president’s somber, seated figure. “I think he would approve.”
“Occupy My Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol,” by writer-activist William Turck, is a modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”:
On a cold, snowy Christmas Eve, an ambitious Chicago banker loses his job and his money-hungry girlfriend, encounters a former love who is part of the Occupy movement, is visited by three spirits who show him painful truths, and finds redemption.
“It really stays pretty true to the classic Dickens tale of somebody who has sold out all their values to the pursuit of money and isn’t really happy,” said Zach Johnson-Dunlop, 28, who plays the banker.
The action is set amid a protest, and last week it was seen by audience members who had just come from one. The premiere — a single outdoor performance Friday afternoon — was coordinated to begin at the end of a protest march that set out from LaSalle and Jackson.
The small and chilled crowd, joined by several perplexed tourists, watched and occasionally participated, to director Hannah Friedman’s delight.
The actors gently shooed away a man who had walked on stage to take close-up pictures of what he thought was a real TV newscast but was actually part of the show. And one Occupy regular kept joining the actors portraying protesters in the show.
Turck conceived of the play just before Thanksgiving. As he attended Occupy Chicago’s general assemblies, he was struck by how many theater people he was meeting.
“I thought, ‘Boy, if we could channel this talent, there’s no better form of communication, heart to heart, than art,'” he said.
Christmas was a little more than a month away. And Turck happened to be a great fan of Dickens.
“On DVD somewhere, I’ve got just about every version of ‘A Christmas Carol,'” he said.
Turck had his concept. He banged out the script in a week, returned to Occupy’s general assembly “and tried to convince people I was sane.”
“He jumped up and said, ‘I have written a play,'” said Veramendi, 26, an actress who teaches theater in Chicago schools. “People were very excited. … Everyone cheered.
“It’s a great vehicle to get people interested and to bring more people into the conversation who might not come out to a protest — but who might come to a play.”
Friedman, 22, who has been an assistant director and stage manager at Lookingglass Theatre Company, Piven Theatre Workshop and Chicago Dramatists, saw a notice on a Chicago theater website asking for actors and a director for an Occupy play. She met with Turck and Veramendi.
“I got a chance to read the script, and I really liked it a lot,” Friedman said. “He’s taken this classic — it’s almost become an icon in American culture — and turned it into a revolutionary story.”
Turck’s version differs in one important respect. “Our banker, Josh, is a likable character. He’s not Scrooge,” he said. “His arguments are compelling.
“We tried to be very realistic. We didn’t want to be cartoonish. We really wanted people to think.”
On Friday, actors changed costumes — all of which included coats — on stage, in the open. No one used mics, and though traffic hummed, sirens yowled and trains whistled, the actors generally made themselves heard.
The audience, standing behind or sitting on the steps up to the memorial, chanted along with the play’s protesters and tried to stay warm. One young man passed out chemical hand warmers; another, cookies.
At the end, people wiggled upward-raised fingers, an Occupy expression of approval, and gave enthusiastic reviews.
“It was funny, but it also had real events and actions. And I liked the turnaround of the main character,” said Ryan Griffin, who added powerful praise for an outdoor performance in winter:
“I was really getting cold, and I wanted to get out of here. But I really wanted to see the play.”
“Occupy My Heart” will be performed indoors, for free, at 8 p.m. Monday at the Prop Theater, 3502-04 N. Elston Ave., and at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at Studio BE, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave.
A radio play the cast recorded was to be broadcast at 10 a.m. Saturday on WCPT, 820 AM, during Marshall Stern’s “Awakened America” program. A podcast of the show was scheduled to be posted soon at bit.ly/uH3oBb.
Last week Florida Representative Ted Deutch introduced a Constitutional Amendment removing personhood for for-profit corporations and prohibiting corporate funding of candidates. Please encourage your representatives to support this historic measure
Meanwhile, attacks continue against peaceful Occupy protesters as a concerted and systemic effort to crush their constitutionally protected voice. Below is the current list of new attacks against peaceful Occupy Protesters:
November-18 mayors in conference call with DHS coordinate crackdown on Occupy Movement. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/17/1037317/-Could-The-DHS-Be-Coordinating-With-Mayors-s-No-Credible-Evidence
04November- Iraqi War Marine Corps veteran Kayvan Sabehgi suffers a ruptured spleen while telling Oakland police he is a veteran and a business owner. Sabehgi is in intensive care, the second veteran severely injured by Oakland police. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/04/occupy-oakland-second-veteran-injured
November-former US Poet Laureatte, 70 year old Robert Hass and his wife beaten while pleading with police not to beat non-violent protesters. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass & Wife Beaten by UC-Berkeley Police During @OccupyCAL Protest http://t.co/6UoOhT2w #ows
Novemeber- Seattle Methodist Pastor Rich Lang tackled and pepper-sprayed while attempting to mediate between police in riot gear and protesters.
13November-84 year old Dorli Rainey doused directly in face by military-grade pepper spray. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFN307Sn9BU&feature=related
19November- UC Davis police pepper spray non-violent protesters with bear/weapons-grade chemical. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjnR7xET7Uo
The illegal and immoral assaults are growing in ferocity across the country, ramped-up by Right-wing talk radio and other media consistently portraying protesters as criminals, scum, communists and treasonous. They must stop before a fatality occurs. Time for politicians to voice support, if not for the protest then for their assertion of constitutional rights. It is time for churches to stop their silence. It is time for all good citizens to come forward and be heard.