Monday, April 20, 2015

The Militarized Woman: 'Grounded' with Anne Hathaway @PublicTheaterNY

Photo source:
It's an old story: a na├»ve young soldier runs with open arms toward his generations's war shouting "America, fuck yeah!" There, he encounters the death and destruction of innocents. His own role in inflicting suffering becomes too heavy a burden to bear. He begins to question his former patriotic fervor. He breaks down, and a traumatized veteran struggling to survive replaces the fresh-faced boy.

After her son returned from Vietnam a farm woman in my neck of the woods told a neighbor, "I sent the Army a good boy, and they sent me a home a killer."

But what if instead she had sent the Army a good girl?

In 'Grounded' by George Brant, currently in previews at the New York Public Theater, Anne Hathaway plays an Air Force fighter pilot with all the macho posturing, beer drinking and swearing of a stereotypical warrior. She's the 21st century militarized woman, cannon fodder who no longer needs superior physical force to kill with the best of them. In the mechanized wars, a pretty face will do to push the buttons that rain down Hellfire missiles on "the guilty," over there.

Hathaway's unnamed character rejects traditional feminine wisdom as she makes it in a man's world. Men she meets on leave don't know what to do with her alpha maleness; since she's in the guy role, they don't know where that leaves them. Until Eric, who's turned on by her prowess in the sky and wants to rip her flight suit off to have robust sex with her. By this means the pilot is grounded by a fundamental truth about females: we get pregnant. In the militarized world, the power to create a receptacle for new life is a weakness, not a strength.

Ultimately the pilot's "punishment" for becoming someone's mother is consignment to the contemptible ranks of "the chair force." Now she will operate a drone, a flying killer robot called Reaper, over the sands of an unspecified foreign land. With a team of surveillance operators and interpreters she will locate and destroy military-age males, sending their body parts flying on the grey screen she stares at for 12 hours at a stretch. Driving through her own desert each day from Creech Air Base outside Las Vegas, she will return to a home life that is more alienating than grounding. Eric, in a neat role reversal, couldn't be more nurturing, supportive or understanding -- at least for a while, until his wife begins terrorizing their toddler, Samantha. Mom doesn't want Sam to become "a hair tosser, a cheerleader" but the little girl just wants mommy to play with her.

What's new about warriors unable to reintegrate into the home space? As Hathaway's character observes, she used to transition home once a year. Now she has to attempt it once a day. Once she could let off steam by drinking with the boys. Now she has to pretend she wants to play with pink toy ponies.

What's also new is the role of surveillance, the so-called Gorgon Stare, a high resolution camera mounted on drones that can almost but not quite see its victims' faces. As the drone pilot comes unraveled her perception of being constantly watched by invisible forces becomes unbearable. And when she is the watcher she begins to imagine that it's her car she's following on a road through the desert. That it's her child who runs from the house toward her father, "the Prophet," captive in his own car, peeing into a bottle so that he never has to emerge into the drone pilot's gaze.

Eric, who cries easily, makes his wife go to counseling with him. She's jealous, imagining he's attracted to the  blonde therapist. She's angry at being pressured to talk about her feelings. She can't take off her flight suit anymore, even in bed. It's her armor, and the soft person she is inside it doesn't emerge until her mental deterioration is complete. Then she wanders out into the desert and buries her flight suit in the sand. She's last seen creating crazy memorials to the legions of the dead, clad only in her underwear.

It's the perfect play for a month when the so-called feminist Hillary Clinton, an accomplished warmonger during her time as Senator and Secretary of State, announced her candidacy for president. Expert direction by Julie Taymor can't overcome the fact that Anne Hathaway doesn't quite have the inner cauldron of seething rage that this tragedy needs. Hillary would have been a better casting choice, the poster girl for selling off your feminine soul for a mess of pottage. The Dalai Lama has been widely quoted as saying that it will be Western women who will save the world. Maybe so, but only if they don't forget how to be women.

Photos source: The Children Killed by America's Drones. "Crimes Against Humanity" committed by Barack H. Obama by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky in GlobalResearch, Jan. 26, 2013.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

1,300 Mainers Tell @SenAngusKing Don't Bomb Iran, Let Diplomacy Work!

photo credit: Martha Spiess
Mainers concerned about Sen. Angus King's belligerent stance toward Iran visited his Augusta office yesterday to deliver a petition with 1,300 signatures of constituents calling for diplomacy, not war. In this photo Doug Rawlings, co-founder of Veterans for Peace, hands the petition to King's staff while Codepink associates Ridgley Fuller and Mark Roman join others in holding DON'T BOMB IRAN signs produced by social action organization CREDO, the petition's sponsor.

This is one of many actions concerned citizens are taking to let King know that we expect him to represent the people of Maine, not the campaign donors of AIPAC. Israel does not and should not dictate U.S. foreign policy, but King has been eager to jump on their bandwagon.

A call to action circulated by Just Foreign Policy has also been making the rounds in our state. It draws attention to the fact that King, an independent, has co-sponsored legislation designed to sink any negotiated agreement with Iran to monitor nuclear production.
Dear Bruce,
Exciting news from Switzerland: the US, our international partners, and Iran have agreed on a framework for the Iran nuclear deal! [1]  
This latest development proves that diplomacy is working. But even with this landmark success, Republicans in Congress will continue to try to derail a final deal.  
Sen. Angus King is currently helping Republicans kill an Iran deal. Sen. Angus King is currently a co-sponsor of a piece of legislation Republicans are trying to push through the Senate: the Corker-Menendez bill (S. 615) that would impose procedural hurdles in the way of a deal. This bill will likely be considered shortly after Congress returns to DC on April 14. [2] [3] [4] 
Call Sen. Angus King NOW at (202) 224-5344 and say
The US, our international partners, and Iran have reached an agreement on a framework for an Iran nuclear deal. Diplomacy is working. I urge Sen. Angus King to STOP SUPPORTING the Corker-Menendez bill (S. 615), to OPPOSE the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill (S. 269), and to OPPOSE consideration of any other legislation that would compromise the talks until after the June 30 deadline. 
When you're done, report your call here: 

Thanks for all you do to promote diplomacy,
Megan Iorio and Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy 

Those in Maine who prefer to make a local call can contact the Augusta office at 207-622-8292. Or use this link to send King an email. Let's work together to remind Congress that we want them to support the Iran deal, and that we don't support the war that hawks are promoting.

Use these CODEPINK links to send a letter to your reps and senators saying Congress: Let diplomacy work! or to sign an open letter to Sen. Tom Cotton. Here Medea Benjamin and other patriots visit Cotton's DC office last week calling for peace with Iran and reminding Cotton of the role of the Senate under the U.S. Constitution.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hate Speech On The Rise And What To Do About It

Bowdoin students stage sit-in outside president's office by Beth Brogan, Bangor Daily News 4/1/15

It's a bit sad that I'm blogging about hate speech rising at dawn on Easter morning. It's the spring holiday when every faith celebrates the return of light and life, and the re-greening of the planet.  So happy Passover, happy Nowruz and happy Ostara everyone. I fear that what's rising in my neighborhood is not the eternal spirit of love and forgiveness, though, at least not for many.

My first discouraging discovery this week came right on the heels of a happy one: students at my alma mater had staged a sit-in at the college administration offices to call attention to their demand that Bowdoin divest from fossil fuel investments. After being stonewalled by the trustees of the college for 150 days, and in response to the non-responsiveness of the college's lame duck president, twenty young adults occupied the halls outside Barry Mills' office. 

Why this was encouraging: Bowdoin students generally go along with the status quo and are too polite to make waves. Many an activist student who finds him or herself at Bowdin expresses frustration about this; many transfer. Though the college states its mission to educate youth to serve the common good, there's a general perception that what they mostly serve is their own agenda to enjoy life and make a lot of good connections while getting a degree that will get them into a good grad school. Many of the people I went to Bowdoin with a long time ago went on to become Wall St. types who helped crash the economy in '08 and accelerate the crushing poverty of the masses. Bowdoin's endowment, by the way, is epic; it passed the $1 billion mark in 2013.

Why this was discouraging: check out the pages and pages of hate filled comments on the Bangor Daily News article about the sit-in. (The thread is now closed for comments. Maybe because I tried to get some friends to send the students some love? We'll never know.)

Here's a mild example for starters:

This sets a theme that others developed with sneering contempt. There were recurring insults that made me feel many of the commenters were paid climate change deniers who were operating from a common playbook. Free wifi, for example. Other criticisms that willfully ignored the issue the students were concerned about ridiculed them for their creature comforts including being warm (it's been a long and very cold winter in Maine this year due to changes in the ocean currents due, ironically, to climate-change induced melting of the polar ice cap). 

Access to electronics and free wifi, and politically correct food choices were also recurring themes.

Free wifi came up so often it was kind of amazing. Doesn't McDonald's and your local library offer free wifi for the masses? Don't Bowdoin students either pay or borrow thousands of dollars a year for their "free" wifi? Of course I should stop trying to find any logic in the hate speech spewed by talk radio and Fox news which the commenters are parroting.

And about those cars. Apparently students at expensive private colleges are all driving fancy SUVs that get poor gas mileage, the hypocrites.

This recurring accusation seemed a little behind the curve, actually. Because wouldn't a lot of these particular students drive (expensive) hybrids? Plus, isn't the Mainer most likely to leave comments like this driving around in a full size (like 6 or even 8 cylinder) pickup truck that gets lousy gas mileage, too?

But it was the underlying current of threat that I found so discouraging.

Do people who don't know how to use the apostrophe correctly naturally hate people who do, or is this something that must be learned?

Next on my discouraging news of the week came from blogger Shay Stewart-Bouley who heads, as she puts it, "one of the few organizations in the United States dedicated to anti-racism work," Community Change, Inc. in Boston. 

While walking down the street in Portland's Old Port fancy pants shopping and dining district, her mixed race family encountered a car full of cowardly youths who yelled the N-word at them and drove off.  She wrote about in her blog,  BlackGirlinMaine: When gelato gets racial or a little girl hears the N-word for the first time. 

I recognize how sad it is that being targeted by hateful, threatening speech is a constant for people of color in Maine. As Stewart-Bouley put it:
as a mixed-raced family in a white space, the reality is that anytime we leave our house as a family, we risk incurring the wrath of the ignorant and hateful
I don't want this to be, but so it is. Reading the facebook discussion about how a white news anchor in Maine witnessed the event and wrote about it made me think about what I would have done if I'd been there. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have chased after the car, though I understand why Shay's 23 year old son did. I like to think I would have yelled something at the car, but what?  SHUT UP! maybe. I refuse to shout IDIOTS, because name calling is part of the problem, not the solution. I also like to wish I would have the courage to go over to the family as Shay reported one man did to say, Are you ok?

Well that's really the question, isn't it -- is a family or a 9 year old girl or any of us ok in a place where hate speech is the norm?

Personal racism results in hate speech, and all within earshot are aware of it. Many argue that institutional racism -- the kind built into the structures of society -- is more apparently polite, often invisible, and probably much more harmful. Some would argue that getting the ugliness up into the light of day where we can all hear it and acknowledge it is a good thing. 

Sure, like it was better when the Nazis shouted ugly slogans at Jewish people on the street than when they turned them out of their jobs as college professors.

Stewart-Bouley observed:
In my professional work, I work with white people on race and the white American culture is an all-too-polite space where too many times white people don’t speak up and unfortunately silence can be harmful. Racism is a system, and that silence upholds that system even when we don’t believe we are actively creating harm.
That's their white privilege in operation. And if you really want to see people get angry, call them out on their white privilege.

The third discouraging thing this week was the glee with which liberals greeted the news that a former mayor of Biddeford and former state legislator, Joanne Twomey, had thrown a jar of Vaseline at Maine's governor during a public appearance. Her missile was apparently a response to a crude remark of a sexual nature that the governor had made. 

Having cartoonish villains is part of the personalization of politics that normalizes hate speech and hostile gestures, making them seem desirable as long as they are directed at the proper targets. Maine's governor is the buffoon liberals love to hate and they are fond of calling him various forms of stupid when he is, in fact, a creature of ALEC and an extremely astute politician. His criticism of a different Democratic state legislator as "a bad person" with "no brains" and a "black heart" is reportedly what spurred Twomey to action. 

The rise of accepting hateful speech and gestures aimed against anyone is not and cannot be a good sign. I don't like the governor's proposed budget either; it's designed to make the un- and under employed working poor of Maine even poorer and angrier than they are now. And the media is sure to tell them who to blame: affluent college kids, and families that vaguely resemble (in the sense of lazy thinking to the effect that "they all look alike") that much reviled, well-educated African American family in the White House.

All who care must teach and practice tolerance -- or we will repent at leisure. Get busy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why Ten Year Olds Think "America Is In Other Countries Fighting For Their Freedom"

"Winged Genius Anointing the Keeper of the King's Bow" Assyrian relief removed from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II by looters in the 19th century and now on display at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Empires throughout history have spent a ton of money on internal propaganda. And it works. School children will scurry across a room to stand with a classmate wearing a U.S. Marine Corp. t-shirt who states -- falsely, but with great conviction -- that "America is in other countries fighting for their freedom." How would a ten year old even get that idea when it's doubtful he could find Afghanistan, Iraq or Ukraine on a map?

You can count on the fact that he has not seen any news like this:

At least 54 Colombian girls sexually abused by immune US military: Report

U.S. soldiers and military contractors sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007, according to a recently released historic document on the country’s conflict. The suspects have allegedly not been prosecuted due to immunity clauses in bilateral agreements [emphasis mine].
Colombia -- that's where the White House is, right?

You can also count on kids today having seen plenty of movies and t.v. shows with the message: Nazis bad, "American" soldiers good. The fact that the U.S. scooped up the German rocket scientists after WW II, or that IBM and Ford made plenty of money doing business in Nazi Germany? They'll never hear about it. And it would be impossible to count how many movies and shows kids today have seen depicting Islamic extremists blowing things up and harming innocent bystanders.

I turned off corporate television so many decades ago that it's quite a shock when I travel and see the disinformation streaming out from big screens in airports and hotel bars. No shortage of enemies, ever. Russia, Iran, ISIS, fill in the blank -- someone is always menacing the mighty and exceptional U.S.

But, history would also suggest that empires who overspend on wars and propaganda while allowing their citizens to starve crumble into dust.

Congress is about to impose austerity cuts that will make those of the past look mild by comparison. Even with our high rate of children growing up in poverty, the U.S. appears to be about to throw millions more families off food stamps and Social Security. Here in Maine we have 70,000 low-income people who are unable to receive Medicaid because of our Tea Party governor.

Libertarian Rick Santorum made news this week by saying. "We will never have the elite, smart people on our side." Maybe he has read some history and even knows what to expect from the lumpen proletariat. Meanwhile, many so-called smart people are kept busy crowing over how one corporate party seems dumber than the other corporate party. As if that made a bit of difference in both parties working together to push through (in secret) the Trans Pacific Partnership, or starting another few wars with our best buddies Saudi Arabia and the neo-Nazis of Ukraine.

The great danger of propaganda is that empires start believing their own bullshit -- right up until vandals break into the palace and start slashing the wrists of the king's keeper of the bow, that is.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Get A Job" & "I Love War" Say Workers @BathIronWorks, While Others Desire Change From Building WMDs

When working class Mainers encounter peace demonstrations, hostility often gets expressed in the form of shouts to "Get a job!" Yesterday at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard we heard a lot of that. Being unemployed is just about the worst fate some who are employed building destroyers for the U.S. Navy can think of. Besides, if we're standing around on the pavement at noon on Saturday speaking what's in our hearts we must be in need of something better to do -- right?

"I love war" was another thing we heard amid the jeers and catcalls that greeted one of our speakers in particular. Hee Eun "Silver" Park seemed to anger the BIW workers, or perhaps it was the banner in Korean that her husband, Paco Michelson, held behind her as she spoke. Translated it says NO NAVAL BASE but to many of the BIW men changing shifts at noon it was Chinese, and they didn't like it.

Silver spoke movingly in English saying that the people of Jeju whose coral reefs have been trashed to make a deep water port for U.S. destroyers in South Korea don't hate the workers who make the ships, and don't consider them enemies.

The Chorus of the Unemployed song from my play Canteen Annie at the Bomb Factory expressed what many BIW workers have told protesters there over the years: we need our jobs, but we would love to build windmills or trains instead of weapons of mass destruction. BIW workers are like Brecht's Mother Courage, the basis for the character, Annie, making a living off the war machine out of necessity. Do they, like Annie, try unsuccessfully to save their children from recruiters? Do they go on working for General Dynamics because it's the largest single employer in Maine? 

We live in a state where full-time, full benefits jobs are as scarce as daffodils on the first day of spring. Also, some workers shared with us that many have had their hours cut lately and are no longer full-time. So they must feel scared about the prospect of being unable to pay their mortgages and keep food on the table at home.

Annie's dreadful bargain doesn't save her children in the end. Neither will the BIW shipyard workers you can hear shouting at Paco in the video be able to save their children from the effects of a fully militarized economy. Younger generations will also experience coastal flooding and other effects of environmental degradation caused by the Pentagon's massive carbon footprint.

Children everywhere are teetering on the brink of inheriting a planet that won't support life. 

I'll be sending a letter to Maine's congressional delegation signed by many in Bath yesterday. It calls for a budget that serves people's needs over those of the Pentagon's many wealthy contractors. It reminds them that Congress is supposed to represent the people, not General Dynamics.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Canteen Annie At The Bomb Factory: Mother Courage At @BathIronWorks #mepolitics


At General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works on Saturday, March 21 at noon CODEPINK, as part of the nationwide Spring Mobilization for Peace, will present CANTEEN ANNIE AT THE BOMB FACTORY based on Bertolt Brecht’s legendary antiwar play, Mother Courage and Her Children.

Bruce Gagnon, an organizer of an ongoing series of Lenten vigils to protest militarism explains the significance of presenting the play at Bath Iron Works: “We need to stand together to express our opposition to the ongoing crime against peace which is the building of guided missile warships at BIW.”

Gagnon will speak on March 21, along with international organizers Hee Eun “Silver” Park and Paco Michelson, peace activists from the Jeju Island Anti-Naval Base struggle. Park and Michelson are travelling across the U.S. in March and April to share the story of the struggle through the screening of a new full-length documentary, Gureombi, and speaking about their personal experiences on Jeju Island, Korea where a coral reef is being destroyed to create a deep water port for the destroyers built in Bath. The film will be shown March 20 at 7pm at Grace Episcopal Church in Bath and on March 23 in New York City before touring the rest of the country.

Free transportation on March 21 will be provided from Portland, leaving Monument Square at 10:30 am, and Brunswick, leaving the train station there at 11:15 am. CODEPINK and other sponsors of the event are calling on Bath Iron Works to convert to producing light rail trains for public transportation rather than weapons of mass destruction.

This event is sponsored by Smilin’ Tree Disarmament Farm’s Lenten Vigil at Bath Iron Works,CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace, Peace Works of Greater Brunswick, Alliance for Democracy, and Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons & Power in Space. FMI: (207) 542-7119

CHARACTERS: There are 7 main characters, each with a mask that identifies them.
In order of appearance:




Canteen Annie
Son #1
Son #2
Payroll Master

SETTING: Annie’s Canteen is held at each end by a stagehand, in such a way that the BIW shipyard is visible in the background.

Canteen Annie, Son #1, Son #2, and Daughter are visible behind the cut out window of Annie’s canteen. Extras approach the window from stage left, mime a transaction, and exit stage right.

Annie steps out from behind the canteen holding her mask, approaches the microphone and addresses the audience.
Annie: Selling food to workers at the bomb factory is what I do. Hey, a mom has got to make a living somehow. It’s a family business. My kids don’t have to make bombs or enlist in the military. I can feed them right here! Besides, where else are they going to get a job these days? Have you seen those lines at unemployment? If it wasn’t for the bomb factory, nobody would be working.

SCENE #2  The Unemployed Chorus
Lead singer at the microphone, others lined up behind him across the stage in profile holding sheafs of papers representing job applications.
Everyone sings to the tune of 


Son #1 steps from behind the canteen, followed by Annie. They approach the microphone.

Son #1: I hate this canteen like a disease. My hair smells like grease all the time. I’m better than this.

Annie: Be thankful for what we’ve got, son!

Recruiter enters from stage left. He has his mask in one hand, paper and a pen in the other

Recruiter to Son #1: How would you like a brand new pickup truck kid? Just sign right here. I’ll make sure you get a good job in the army. With benefits. And money for college after.

Annie: Get away from my son! He doesn’t want to talk to you!

Son #1: Yes I do!

Annie: Listen to me! Don’t listen to the recruiter! War is hell. It destroys the innocent.

Recruiter to Son #1: Just sign here.
               to Annie: I won't let you spoil my war for me. Destroys the weak, does it? Well, what does peace do for'em, huh? War feeds its people better.


Annie returns, dejected, to the canteen.

Son #2 steps from behind the canteen wearing glasses and carrying a laptop case. He is followed by Annie. They approach the microphone.

Son #2: I won’t make the mistakes my brother made. I’m studying accounting.

Annie: That’s a good boy!

Payroll Master enters from stage left. He has his mask in one hand, paper and a pen in the other.

Payroll Master to Son #2: How would you like a job? I need smart young men like you to work in the payroll department at the bomb factory.

Annie: Get away from my son! He doesn’t want to talk to you!

Son #2: Yes I do!

Payroll Master to Son #2: Just sign here.


Annie returns, dejected, to the canteen.

Daughter (in red boots) steps out from behind the canteen carrying school books. Annie waves goodbye to her from the canteen window.

Daughter approaches the microphone.

Daughter: I can’t believe I’m finally at community college. A dream come true!

Soldier enters from stage left, carrying his mask in one hand and school books under his other arm. He sees Daughter, drops his books on the ground, and grabs her around the neck from behind.

Daughter: (Screams) Help! Rape!

Soldier lets go of her and she crumples to the stage. He runs off stage right.

Daughter applies duct taped X to the mouth of her mask and slowly stands up with mask covering her real face. She goes to back of stage and picks up a large sign protesting the war economy and blood for oil. Begins walking back and forth across the stage showing one side of her sign, then the other.

Soldier approaches from stage right and pantomimes shooting her. She crumples to the stage and remains there.

Annie runs out from behind the canteen and crouches over her fallen Daughter.

Annie: (Crying) Oh, daughter, what have they done to you? What have they done?


A new swarm of workers enters from stage left and stands at the canteen window.

Canteen Annie rises slowly from her fallen daughter. She goes dejectedly to the microphone.

Annie: Yes, I'll manage, although there's not much point in it now. But I must get back to business.

Annie goes back behind the canteen window and pantomimes selling food to workers.