Charlotte Higgins writes about art (theater, mostly) as a “powerful force for peace” during the Vietnam War and wonders if it can happen now:
We don’t know everything about the Iraq situation; in fact, judging from the past, one of the few certainties is that we are being deceived. And yet to amass facts about the past is to find a framework from which to assess the present, and the future. And, now, surely this is what really matters.
And so does art: I am the last person to doubt the transforming nature of drama, or the power of theatre as protest. But what I want, now, this moment, is not plays, not poems, not mythology, not art – but facts.
Higgins’ hook was “US Revisited,” screenings and discussions of Peter Brook’s 1966 play, US, which set off a firestorm of debate over British indifference to Vietnam. Another Guardian article quotes Brook:
To use a play to fight a war is taking a taxi to the Marne…We recognised that no finished, formed work of art about Vietnam existed: we knew you can’t go to an author, give him a sum of money and say, ‘We order from you, as from a shop, the following masterpiece about Vietnam.’ So either one does nothing or one says, ‘Let’s begin.’
In his memoirs, Kissinger credits US and similar works for hastening the end of the conflict, which ended just nine years later, in 1975.