In 410 B.C. the Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote a play called Lysistrata. The story was about Athenian women barricading themselves inside the Acropolis in protest of the Peloponnesian War and promising to withhold sex from their husbands until they agreed to declare peace with Sparta. On March 3, 2003, more than 1,000 readings and full productions were performed in some 50 countries worldwide to protest the United States’ pending invasion of Iraq. What happened after that? The United States invaded Iraq and Lysistrata remained a relevant piece of literature for people who wouldn’t be able to shoot straight anyway if asked to participate in an invasion.
No surprise. That’s how that shit usually goes down. And, chances are, that’s how that shit will always go down.
Kurt Vonnegut, who made me want to put down the air guitar when I was 15 and become a writer by drawing a picture of his asshole with a felt-tip pen, once said that protesting wars was not unlike protesting glaciers and that the weaponry of artistic expression against state tyranny was roughly equivalent to a custard pie being dropped from a stepladder 6 feet high. I believe he was right, being something of a war-protesting pie dropper myself. However, Vonnegut didn’t want the sentiment to rest there as some sort of defeatist justification for political noninvolvement. As evidenced by his own persistent pie dropping, he thought that perhaps the arts community shouldn’t always wait for some blatant expression of state tyranny, like a war, to signal when a pie should be dropped. He seemed to believe that pies should be hitting the floor all the time, and not just from the hands of artists but from everybody with a conscience. That way, his work seemed to imply, there will eventually be enough custard on the floor so that any asshole who attempts to shoot a gun or tries to run another person through with a bayonet will fall down and break his neck without forcing a single pacifist to compromise his or her deep commitment to nonviolence.
Plus, it’s darling when nobody can stand up for laughing their asses off. And the clock is ticking.