Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Opposite of War Isn't Peace...*

The death toll for US soldiers in Iraq reached 1500 today. The civilian toll stands at around 17,000.

It's now unconstitutional for the the United States to kill children on their own soil. Though I still have a student who hopes to one day become the first prosecutor to put a six-year-old on death row. Apparently she hasn't been watching the news. I wonder what color skin that six-year-old has in her dreams.

As usually happens when I contemplate death and destruction, I have this insatiable desire to make something, to create something to replace what we destroy every time we decide that human value varies based on how humans look, how much they have, how much they're not like us. I want to pay permanent tribute to those who don't get eternal flames, who die for the sanctimony of others; to beg pardon of their ghosts; to remember why I never want to be like us. Of course, if that creation contains materials that depict violence, even if it's derived from real cases, I could be arrested and even convicted of obscenity. Guess it's good I'm not creative.

Mike Diana's case is the one that really pisses me off. Here's a man who drew a comic based on real life onscenities because he saw people being desensitized by the evening news. For his work he was convicted on obscenity charges in Florida. The CBLDF front page lists more recent attempts at government censorship, including a US Customs seizure of "Richie Bush" parody comics on copyright infringement charges. The problem? Fair Use laws protect parody as a form of criticism. The courts thankfully ruled against Customs on this one. Mike Diana was not so lucky; SCOTUS refused to hear his case.

It's strange, because the period of gvernment sensorship that I'm most familiar with is the early cold war confiscation of nudie pictures that were transported through the mail (if you saw Kinsey, you saw bits of what I mean). Since the fall of communism, terrorism has become the new dark force rising, the new invisable evil. And once again, we find our government waging war by restricting creation to that which will not "corrupt those whose minds are open to such influences," as the original 1868 definition of obscenity put it.

Paulo Freire writes that the vocation of every man and woman is to be human. While there is opression, neither oppressor or oppressed can be fully human, because inequality leaves all parties unstable. Violence has never stopped violence; war has never stopped war; and oppression will never be stopped by more oppression. The need to create new ways of knowing and interacting, the need to create community and get away from this us-vs.-them mentality, the need for creative "revolution," if you will, becomes more apparent every time the nightly news shows the faces of fallen soldiers, then gives a rough number of dead Iraqi civilians. Who will paint their picture, tell the story of their family and achievements, remember their humanity? And when it's done, will it be siezed?

*Title shamelessly gacked from both an anti-war poster and a song from RENT


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