When Soldiers Speak Up


courtesy of International WOW

On Saturday, I was asked to be a panelist after a performance of “The Expense of Spirit”, a great new play by Josh Fox’s International WOW Company. This was the second Fox play that I’ve seen. The first one, called The Bomb, staged sometime soon after 9/11, told the story, loosely, of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project and one of the fathers of the atomic bomb. Oppeheimer was played by an Asian-American woman.

“Spirit” is about lots of important things, and you should just go see it, if you’re in NY. For those that can’t, it focuses on Marty, who owns a video store in Brooklyn. The play is set on Christmas eve, and Marty is preparing her annual feast for friends, and dealing with the fact that her daughter, who is serving in Iraq, hasn’t telephoned her. Maybe that’s all I should say. Deborah Wallace is brilliant as Marty; Robert Saietta and Alanna Medlock are also great.

Afterwards, some of the audience stuck around, and myself, Fox, and Glenn Devitt from the New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign took questions on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and other related matters. There were lots of thoughtful questions, and I tried to advance this notion that U.S. soldiers, now that the presidential campaign is over, are assuming the place in public discourse of counterweight to the Bush Administration. We saw this last week when Specialist Wilson questioned Rumsfeld in Kuwait, and despite subsequent revelations that a journalist had a hand in his question about insufficient armor, the cheers of Wilson’s colleagues were unscripted. The opinions of the soldiers, when they’re allowed to express them, can be realistic and unassailable at the same time, a trick that eludes most politicians.

More on this inchoate theory to come.