Friday, December 14, 2012

How Communities Are Using the Play "The Predator" to Question Drone Warfare

by Joe Scarry

"The Predator" is a play by Jack Gilroy that is being used by groups around the country to explore issues related to drone warfare and the larger questions of the militarization of our society.

The play revolves around a college student and some questions she is beginning to raise about her country's conduct in the world, and what her own response should be. The other characters in the play are: the student's Air Force officer mother, a U.S. senator, and an antiwar activist.

"As we move away from boots on the ground
and pilots in the air, drones will overtake
all forms of military spending.
We’re into a new era of defense."
Rosalie Reigle as Senator Barbara Lewis
in The Predator, March 2013 in Chicago.
Questioning War

Fundamentally, "The Predator" challenges us to question war and what we think about war.

Do we have a true appreciation of war? Have we really thought about the "defense" activities of our own government?

As an antiwar activist character in the play says, "The truth is that we have a Department of War, not Defense," and the "enemy" is "the indigenous people of any region where we decide we have interests." We are asked to think about "the indoctrination of home, school, media and government." The college student explains that she has come to realize, "I’d been duped."

Going a step deeper, the play asks:
  • What do we think about militarization of schools?
  • What do we think about having an economy that benefits from militarization?
The play turns on the question of whether the student will pursue Peace Studies or participate in ROTC. (Or, as the it's-all-good Senator suggests, do both!)

And, remembering perhaps that our morality is seldom far from our pocketbooks, the Senator suggests, "As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have an opportunity to bring this work to my good people of Syracuse and other regions of New York. There is a huge growth of industries engaged in the design, production, and testing of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles. . . . Our economy may be in trouble but the drone industry is hot." In contrast to the views of the Senator, the antiwar activist's suggestion that we "develop technology that is life-giving, not death-giving" feels like the sun coming out from behind a dark cloud.

And then there is the specific problem of those "unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles," or drones, The play takes its name from the "Predator" drone. Is there something in particular about drones that we need to pay special attention to? Consider the contrast between two descriptions of civilians killed by drones -- "collateral damage":
"In our attempt to destroy evil, accidents can occur."

"Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and arms. One body was still on fire when we got there."
The play is all about the detachment from the consequences of violence that drone warfare epitomizes.

Personal Decisions

How should a person define "duty" and "responsibility"? The mother in the play is certain that she is pursuing a life of duty and responsibility by being a drone operator. "My whole life has been devoted to keeping the peace," she says, and finds solace in the notion that, "For me, I shall do my duty and have faith that my God and my country are ordering me to do the right thing." However, she faces the devestation of hearing her daughter say, "I can’t support your mission any longer," and of hearing the antiwar activist say of U.S. casualities, "They died in vain."

Moreover, the play poses the question: what should we think when we see people engaged in acts of dissent? As the Air Force officer mom confesses, "When some peaceniks did a die-in at the Creech Air Force base back in 2009, I never would have guessed my own daughter would have taken their side."

The Faith Connection

The playwright is particularly interested in the impact of faith traditions -- particularly the Roman Catholic Church -- on views of nation, society, and war.

Specifically, the play challenges us with the question: What do we think about "Just War" Theory? In the introduction to the play, Gilroy says, "This play hopes to quicken the moral juices of Jesuit students who have been taught it’s okay to go to war and kill as long as you have good reasons provided by your country’s leadership." As the antiwar activist says near the end of the play, "No war is just."

More broadly, the play poses the question: does our faith come to our aid when it is time to respond to the problems of war and violence? Perhaps the most eerie testimony comes from the Air Force mother: "When Cain killed Abel, the arms race began. Making weapons is part of our nature, because self-preservation is the rule."

Learn more about how people are challenging the myth of "just war" on the World Beyond War website.

"The Predator" is available for free download on the Pax Christi website.

Read more about the playwright, Jack Gilroy, and the story of his work against drones in Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter.

Recent performances of "The Predator":
Chapel Hill, NC: Elders for Peace Stage "The Predator"

Columbus, GA: School of the Americas Watch - Ann Wright, the first US diplomat to resign her job when the war on Iraq began, took the role of the activist in The Predator when it was presented at the Columbus Convention Center, on November 17th, 2012, just a short distance away from the new drone operation at Ft. Benning.

Wittenbeg, OH: Wittenberg to Perform Gilroy's "The Predator" September 16

Washington, DC: during the November, 2011, Ignatian Family Teach In at Georgetown University

Syracuse, NY: Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church

Syracuse, NY: St Lucy's Church - a performance in which Kathy Kelly took a reading role, when she was in town facing charges for an anti-drones action at the Syracuse drone base

Syracuse, NY: part of a Spring, 2012, workshop in a peace studies conference at Syracuse University

Related posts

In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country: a performance of Gilroy's play, The Predator.

(See "The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era")

In the fall of 2007, a friend, Bernie Survil of Greensburg, PA, and a Catholic priest who worked for decades among the poor of Central America, called to say that he was going to Linz, Austria for the beatification of the Austrian Catholic peasant, Franz Jagerstatter, guillotined during the Third Reich for his refusal to bear arms for Hitler. Would I please go along for this momentous occasion?

(See Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter )

My trial will be one of the first jury trials for this so called ‘crime’ of speaking out against killer drones. If convicted, I was told by the Judge to expect to be sentenced to the Jamesville Penitentiary for one year . . . .

(See You're Gonna Put This Guy in Prison? Really?? )

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