Monday, March 22, 2010

Clowning for Peace. What's with the clown get up?

Well, this weekend was host to a myriad of protests: anti war (which I was at), then immigration and then the tea bagging nuttos freaking out about the health care bill. Which passed! Dan and I sat up late watching CSPAN as they counted the votes. Exciting!

Anyway, the protest I was at was the March to Stop the Wars. I dressed as a clown again. Just so much fun. This time my friend Alison came along. She wasn't so much into the politics but thought it would be a fun time. She really reminded me just how joyful clowning can be and just how essential the joy of clowning is to my 'mission.'

Lots of people ask, "Why the clown get up?" What's this political clowning all about? People tend to take politics very seriously --especially war. War is not a funny subject. One woman was doing a little political theater of her own at the protest and was dressed as a Muslim woman with a bloody baby in her arms. That's the kind of political theater most people expect. Big skeleton heads and such. Wringing the neck of Dick Cheney puppets. We saw all of these things at the protest.

Well, the clowning makes more sense for me because I dont see these events as protests against war but rather demonstrations for peace.

My brother died in July 2008 as a soldier in Afghanistan.

I think in the years before his death, he was exploring creative alternatives to war through film and photography. And I want to do the same in my life. For me, the creative fascination is not with film or video but with clowning. I want to honor this part of his story by exploring ways in which I feel passionate about creativity and art.

I feel strongly that peace will only come through alternative avenues of conflict resolution and the process of finding these alternative to violence requires an immense amount of creativity. When I want to resolve a conflict, my first reaction is often violent. I want to blame, I want to scream. I want to fight. And that is fine. However, it's just interesting that is the same method (to a lesser degree) that creates war. So clowning is not clowning against war but rather clowning for peace. Clowning is a reminder to laugh and forgive. To not take life so terribly serious. To be honest about our emotions and live in the present moment. Mark Twain said it best when he said, "The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that's laughter. The moment it arises, all our hardness's yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place"

(More great clowning quotes here)

So many of my pro peace friends don't show up at protests/demonstrations anymore because they think they are useless. And in many ways that's true. Many people say, "I would go if they were like the protests in the 60's when there was so much more at stake. Protests today have become so mainstream. Nothing comes of it."

But my personal opinion is that every time I show up at a protest, not only am I physically exercising my creative approach to peacebuilding, I am recharging by surrounding myself with a community who cares deeply about their voices being a part of change. Just showing up to march peacefully is a creative alternative to war. Just showing up. I go to interact with other people in my city who feel strongly about their cause and who believe in the power of community organization. I go to feel inspired by the people that are actively physically present. I go to celebrate this community. No matter how angry and confused these people may be. I go to celebrate them.

And what better way to celebrate this community than to clown for them? This time, I created peace skirts that had hundreds of little "peace fortunes" taken from Louise Diamond's Peace Book. Anyone that approached us for a picture or to say we looked great, we offered them a peace fortune. "Listen, really listen" "Create Peace Corners" "See Yourself as the Other" and on and on.

We also focused on finding the cutest boys in the protest and offering them peace fortunes. Cause I mean really, how often do you get to shamelessly hit on beautiful men and have them laugh in such embarrassment and delight. It was freaking awesome.

For me, it does little good to be angry at these protests. If anger motivates people to advocate for peace, then that is wonderful. However, what if we used these demonstrations as ways to talk about everything we've achieved and talk about strategic ways to continue to organize rather than spout anti Obama rhetoric and swear at an empty Haliburton office?

So, anyway, that's why I clown for peace.