So much of the ugliness that the American wars have brought into the world over the past decade has been invisible, hidden from view by being unrecorded, unremembered, redacted, spun, censored, or glorified. For those not in the way of falling bombs and night raids, or those whose families haven’t been torn apart by deployment after deployment, the wars have been easy enough to ignore. We’ve all seen enough, though, to know better. We should know that this ugliness hasn’t done, and cannot do, any good. Yet the ugliness has, as a whole, left Americans discouraged and irresolute. Maybe it will take beauty to finally show people the courage to pay attention and act.
That’s the idea behind 10 Years and Counting, a new initiative hatched in the Adirondack compound of the Blue Mountain Center, an activist and artist residency community nestled beside a high-country lake. 10YAC’s goal is this: between September 11th and October 7th of this year—marking the 10-year anniversaries of the 9/11 attacks and the start of the war in Afghanistan—launch an artistic groundswell by coordinating protest and arts events around the country. Their network includes activist groups, including Code Pink and the War Resisters League, as well as arts organizations and galleries. To see some of the visual art, poetry, music, and performances they’ve been gathering, take a look around the 10YAC blog.
But art, for 10YAC, is not quite an end in itself. “One of the most important visions” of the project, according to Alice Gordon, program director at Blue Mountain, is to see “as many Americans as possible getting onto the streets for peace around the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.”
Just as the project’s duration comes to a close, an ambitious occupation will begin—endorsed by many of the same organizations, in fact—in Washington DC on October 6th. This convergence may be a chance to see whether 10YAC can really translate its art into mobilization. The October 6ers, anyway, could do worse than take as a rallying cry a poem like this one, recently posted on the 10YAC blog, by Holly Karapetkova:
LOVE AND THE NATIONAL DEFENSE
If love were a dirty bomb, you could set
it off in Washington and it would spread
into the suburbs unseen, contaminate
the air and water. People would breathe it, feed
on it unknowingly and slowly love
would infiltrate their lungs, make their fingers burn.
In a week, you’d see them start to pair up, leave
the office early for lunch and not return;
even the evangelists are born again—
this time to love—they grab the nearest nun,
and scientists are too involved to look
for cures, not that anyone cares. Attack
on US, the foreign press reports
with real concern, seeing the SUVs
abandoned on the interstates, the airports
unguarded, army generals on their knees.
Don’t they know love is always like that,
tearing you out of the spaces you once thought
meant something, making you forget each
last defense, the guns rusting along the beach.