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What Happened to Peace?

Mon, 10/23/2006

I did not realize the full potential and viability of the theater when I began The Vagina Monologues. I had certainly experienced the magic and the power before, but I had yet to understand its truly sacred nature, its ability to explode trauma, create public discourse, empower people on the deepest political and spiritual levels and ultimately move them to action.

When I first began to perform these monologues around the world, I realized that just saying the word vagina caused enormous controversy, because vagina is, in fact, the most isolated, reviled word in any language. You can find words like nuclear, scud or plutonium on the front pages of newspapers and they never caused anywhere near such a stir.

The taboo on the word is no accident. As long as we cannot say vagina, vaginas do not exist. They remain isolated and unprotected. Young girls get genitally mutilated and sex trafficked throughout the world. Women get raped and acid burned, and beaten, and no one is held accountable.

This is where theater comes in. Theater insists that we inhabit the present tense – not the virtual tense or the politically correct tense. Theater demands that we truly be where we are. By being there together, we are able to confront the seemingly impossible, we are able to feel that which we fear might destroy us – and we are educated and transformed by that act.
Theater is sacred because it allows us, it encourages us, as a community of strangers, to go some place together and face the issues and realities we simply cannot face alone. Alone, we are powerless, translating our suffering and struggle into our own private narcissistic injuries. As a group, these issues become social or political concerns, responsibilities, a reason for being here together.

My experience has led me to believe that only by wholly entering, wholly feeling, wholly inhabiting other people and experiences are we brought to any happiness and security. Only by allowing ourselves to see what we already see and know what we already know are we freed from depression and ennui.

This is possible in the theater if we are willing to strip away the layers, risk making ourselves uncomfortable, insecure for a time, risk saying the word vagina if that's the word that needs to be said.

And so we enter 2007. We continue to spread the word, empower ourselves and our sisters, we continue to stand up against violence. We continue to perform, direct, organize, feel and say words in darkened theaters all over the world which will hopefully free stories and consciousness and allow for healing and liberation. We continue to join with women in almost 90 countries who are struggling against rape and battery and female mutilation and being sold and being burned and isolated and dismissed and undermined and reduced and muted.

This year we are focusing on women in conflict zones. We are focusing on women in the midst of war or in the aftermath of it. We are drawing the connection between family violence and state violence. We are saying that if a government supports the use of force, weapons, violence as a method of control and dominance, this models and gives license to the same kind of behavior at home.

This year we are Reclaiming Peace. We are taking back the word, the concept, the possibility. We are saying that making Peace must be the first option, that communication, respect, dialogue, compassion, kindness, generosity is the hard work, the necessary work and the priority. We are asking men and women to join in this discourse. To ask what happened to Peace? To ask what Peace is?

We are saying that there is a new way, a way that is not forced or exploded open with bombs and guns and machetes, but instead it is melted open, invited in with strategy, wisdom, care and a deep regard for the future of life. We stand with our sisters from Beirut to Baghdad, Kandahar to Darfur. We know their suffering is our suffering.

We know that if the human species is to survive, the time of war must end.

I ask you to be bolder this year and kinder, more careful--to bring the energy of peace to every aspect of the V-Day work. I ask you to speak out, stand up for an end to violence. I thank each and everyone one of you for your amazing commitment, your time, your energy your willingness to go the distance. I am with you always,

Eve Ensler