Friday, March 18, 2005

U.S. + Iraqis = 2 YEARS 2 LONG

March 2003:
I happened to be in San Francisco during the pivotal weeks when America (and the world) were making a feverish no-holds-barred demand for peace, that is, NO WAR in Iraq. I was doing an artist residency there, and the tenor and timbre was definitely anti-war. Felipe and Liz, who were sharing an artist house with me, would make coffee and turn on the television. Artists don't sit around watching tv, but artists that month were tuning in daily to hear what the Bush administration was conjuring. "Have we done it yet, are we going in today?" were the somber questions we asked, and which colored our day and our work. We drove downtown on Saturday the 14th to join thousands of others rallying and marching for peace; I wore my zip-up "spacesuit" with "WOMD"--"words of mass dissent" that day and it was a good windbreaker for that chilly morning.

Five days later, March 19th, 2003, I had plans to meet a friend at Mel's Diner for breakfast and visit the Asian Art Museum on its grand re-opening day. The big news on tv was certainly BIG news: the U.S. had invaded Iraq, Bush was in and we were in there with him--whether we liked it or not. The big question locally was: should the Asian Art Museum cancel its re-opening, as it was located directly across the street from the Municipal Building and a Federal Building--sites where protesters were sure to gather.

I ended up spending the whole day in San Francisco, joining anti-war street blockages and chants, dancing in intersections to the music of Spearhead, watching dozens of bicyclists clog up the streets as a show of resistance against status quo denial of the impending gloom (for the U.S. as well as Iraq). Numerous police helicopters hovered over us, all day, and all night. Highway patrol squad cars were stationed at both ends of the Golden Gate Bridge, and at on-ramps to highways. I saw a chopper noisily track the movement of one protest march in The Mission District comprised of fewer than fifty people. I sat cross-legged on the floor of the Asian Art Museum, hearing live Mongolian throat singing for the first time in my life, as I imagined what it might be like to be nomadic in Mongolia--in a country without weapons of destruction and the will to internationalize war. It was certainly a day of paradox, a day of confused possibilities.

And now, two years later, who is more free and who is less terrorized now that battalions of men and women have been separated from their families, some permanently? Now that Baghdad is an open wound, laden with shrapnel of countless varieties? Mainstream media tries to minimize the impact of the war on me, by launching yet more reality shows which pitch human against human, normalizing competition, distrust, betrayal, and greed. As the leader goes, so does the follower.


Saturday, March 19th - 2 YEARS 2 LONG

a COMMEMORATION of the 2-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Performances of music and poetry, and statements by local activists/luminaries will be offered from 12noon-6pm at the Trinity Park Shelterhouse (remember where Shakespeare-in-the-Park used to happen?). Just off W. 7th St., just west of the Trinity River. Free and open to all.


No comments: