Thursday, March 24, 2011

Art and War: Libya and Making Sense of it All


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Yesterday night, after a long day at the office working on women's health and reproductive justice. I settled in front of the computer with some tea and a determination to catch up on what's happening in Libya, and what the arguments both for and against military intervention. I found a couple of very nuanced assessments that helped me get a handle on the situation.

An article in Jadaliyya makes the crucial point that, "The desire to act in solidarity with the Libyan people demands that we assess the available options against the core principle of legitimacy that any intervention must satisfy: do no harm (that is, do not do more harm on balance by intervening). The likelihood that any of the current proposals involving coercive intervention would satisfy this principle is severely constrained when evaluated against the historical record, logistical realities, and the incentives and interests of the states in a position to serve as the would-be external interveners."  Please read the full piece here.

Additionally, yesterday Democracy Now! hosted Libyan poet, scholar and University of Michigan professor Khaled Mattawa, who supports U.S.-led intervention, and UCLA law professor Asli Bali, who says the U.S.-led coalition has ignored viable alternatives to military attacks. Their debate is sincere and each of these scholars makes critical points about the aims of the US military intervention and the alternatives in the face of a brutal dictator. Watch the segment here.

Then, as I kept reading and watching various news sources, I found that sleep was evasive and I needed something to help me make sense of all these competing political narratives. And that brings me, finally, to the point of this post: Art. I've always felt that art is so much more than singular acts of creative expression. It is analysis. It is energy. It is action. It is therapy. It fosters reflection and yes, it can change the world.

We know that laws are made by those who win the wars. Policies are made by those who can vote. But if we seek the voices of the disenfranchised and the marginalized, where do we look? We look to their art. More than anything I read about Libya, nothing reflected the turmoil I was feeling more than the following performance by Suheir Hammad, Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist.

In the comments, please share other sources on Libya as well as anything that is offering you sustenance during these times.


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