Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why Most People Won't Know About Drones Until One Is Right Over Their Head

From Portland, Oregon anti-austerity protest Nov. 3 where about 25 people were pepper sprayed by police.
I'm in an interesting discussion with sister activists about our ongoing campaign to raise awareness among the general public about drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. These flying killer robots cost a bundle, and are used both to kill people and to spy on them. They are already flying over the borders of many countries, including our own.

Here we are performing a die-in during the First Friday Art Walk on Nov. 2 in Portland, Maine.

You can see a daylight performance of the die-in in this video made the last time we staged the event (with a lot more people) at various locations in Portland, Maine on Oct. 8:

The discussion we're having is about whether we're reaching anybody to accomplish our goal of raising awareness about drones. Most in the U.S. go "huh?" if you ask them if they know about drones. If you follow by saying that drones have killed people this year not only in Pakistan and Yemen but also Somalia, Indonesia and the Philippines, they are incredulous.

The Washington Post did a three piece series plus an op-ed on drones recently, which was seen by many as evidence that awareness is growing. They didn't echo CODEPINK's call to ground the drones, but they did at least question the wisdom of the extreme secrecy that surrounds the Obama administration's drone assassination program.

Activists are debating (yes, actually debating -- you know, where each person offers the best arguments they can muster for their position, and the tone is civil with no interrupting) how best to bring the message about drones. Our theatrical director wants to keep it non-didactic, so that spectators are not told what to think but are offered a provocative spectacle to stimulate their own thinking and analysis. Signs and flyers offer additional factual information about drone casualties.

Another organizer wants us to be more explicit, to make sure that passersby really understand why people are dropping to the ground and being covered by bloody sheets and prayed over while people clad all in black labeled with names like Reaper and Predator hover menacingly to the steady beat of a drum. Part of the discussion is about whether to stage these performances in daylight, after dark, on holidays, on public streets, in front of grocery stores, or during well-attended cultural events like the art walk.

This month we did it in the semi-dark because a group of Occupy activists invited the die-in to be part of their Halloween-to-Friday-art-walk series of events "99 Horrors of Capital." They took time out from their sweet occupation of a different corner of Congress and State streets to help leaflet and hold signs. Afterwards everyone enjoyed free local food and entertainment including a fire eater, a pumpkin headed guitarist, a rapper, and much more.

There was also a ton of political art on display in other places that night, including a group show at the Meg Perry Center, and Kenny Cole's solo show at Aucocisco Galleries.

"The Luckiest Generation" by Kenny Cole who wrote in his artist's statement: "I’ve begun to grow alarmed at the storm of misinformation levied by a retrograde army of spin brokers working today."
What to do about the perfect storm of misinformation that characterizes the 21st century? That is the question.

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