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Rationales: A Spontaneous, Topical Play for Voices

A play about Kosovo.

2 actors, a man and a woman, play all roles. Motion, lighting, scenery, and props can be presented in any manner chosen by the actors.

Voice 1

Yeah, well, just reading about it makes me sick. We shouldn't be over there. Clinton says there won't be any ground troops, but everyone knows there will be.

Voice 2

So what are you going to do?

Voice 1

I keep informed. I read the Times every day, and I've been checking out web sites. Milosevic must be stopped, but why are we the world's policemen?

Voice 2

Okay. So what are you going to do?

Voice 1

(Very angry.) What are you?

Voice 2

Make you feel guilty.

Voice 1

That's it?

Voice 2

What else can I do?

(Pause)

Voice 1

We're destroying our souls!

Voice 2

The embassy is next door. This is a dry cleaner.

Voice 1

You'll never wash the blood out!

Voice 2

We have a special fluid, gets blood out.

Is that a poster?

Voice 1

A placard. It says "We all have blood on our hands."

Voice 2

What's it say on the back?

Voice 1

Free Mumia Now.

Voice 2

Did you take that from a store that was giving away Mumias?

(Pause)

Voice 1

(44 year old woman) My son wrote me a letter. (Reads)

Dear Mom, Dad, and Jamie,

You wouldn't believe the week I've had. We disembarked and got our stuff together, and there was the regular drilling and digging and so on, like in training. But you see it in everybody's eyes, that this is the real deal.

I'll be driving a Hellscorcher Tank like before. It's a big one, the second biggest in the Army. I named it Edith. I painted your name on the front below the turret. Not many mothers in Riceborough have tanks named after them, right? I guess it's sort of a tradition during a war. Your tank will be responsible for kicking some serious Serb butt.

(Deep breath)

I don't completely understand the situation or why we're here. We're supposed to get a book that explains it. But the Army says go, and what can you do? I guess now I get to pay back the money they gave me for college.

Anyway, don't worry. I'm in pretty good hands and we're keeping up good attitude. They have VCR's and TV's all over the place and we get shows by satellite, although if I see one more video on hygeine I'll scream. The food is pretty bad. They say we'll be home in a month. We have special Hershey bars made for us with flags on them. I put a wrapper in the envelope for Jamie.

Well, free time is almost over and it's back to duty. Dad, I can't wait to get home and compare notes. You guys take care of yourselves. I'll see you soon.

Love--

(Pause)

Voice 1

Did you say we all had blood on our hands?

Voice 2

Sure.

Voice 1

Even the kids?

Voice 2

Even the babies.

Voice 1

Even the tiniest little babies? The ones that can't see? With beautiful little hands and feet that you just want to nibble on? Tenderly biting those agonizingly gorgeous little tiny toes while they coo with delight entire?

Voice 2

Yes. Babies are born with blood on their hands.

(Pause)

Voice 1

Whatever happened to Vaclav Havel? I thought he was in on all this. Wasn't he peaceful? He was friends with Frank Zappa.

Voice 2

That was Czechoslovakia.

Voice 1

What's the difference?

Voice 2

Czech women are hotter and don't wear bonnets.

Voice 1

I read that Osama bin Laden is funding the KLA, that's the Kosovo Liberation Army. So that means we're working with an enemy of the United States to--

Voice 2

(Starts loud, almost at a shout, then trails into silence.) Forgive me for interrupting your private conversation. I am veteran of the Armed Forces, which means I am mostly ignorant of all but my own small, specific role in the whole machinery of the state. However, I am prepared to pontificate endlessly about how this war itself is a bad idea. I remember in Vietnam, the whores had razorblades in their Texas salamanders....

Voice 2

(Speaking over trailing Veteran) They're saying on CNN that Milosevic is the worst murderer since Hitler.

Voice 1

But the protesters are shouting that Clinton is Hitler.

Voice 2

They also said Saddam Hussein was like Hitler. They can't all be Hitler.

Voice 1

Look here! In the vegetable crisper! It's Hitler!

Voice 2

(Yelling like a ballpark vendor) Get your 'itler!

Voice 1

(Producing a bottle of hand soap) Final Solution hand soap scrubs your hands super-clean. For clean hands, think Final Solution.(Stuffs bottle in pocket.)

Voice 2

Is that Adolph Hitler in your pocket or are you just here to gas me?

(Long, extremely uncomfortable pause. The pause you take after someone has said something awful and you're trying to recover the conversation.)

Voice 1

I wish CNN had more footage. This is boring.

(Pause)

Voice 1

(15-year-old boy) Dear Diary, Last night, I was reading my Bible, and it talks sometimes about how war is wrong, while other times it advocates rape, slavery, and total scourging in battle. Thankfully, it was written by God, and whatever I find in there, and however I interpret, I know it is the absolute sacred truth.

For a while I decided that war is wrong. But then I asked myself, what is war? What if one of your cheeks has a thermonuclear detonator inside of it? Is it right to turn the other cheek then? Because if someone punches that cheek, you'll blow up their hand. I prayed for a while about it and decided that I really, really want to have sex with Alison Carpenter.

Voice 2

(Minister) If I were to take the pulpit, and tell people that we all have blood on our hands, I think I'd lose half my congregation. And maybe we don't have blood on our hands. I mean, what could I have done to stop this war? Nothing, really. Without changing everything about how our system works, individual people don't matter, just part of a demographic in the poll. And talking about it doesn't help.

At least CNN can't get in there and show their video game pornography of things blowing up. I have a lot of problems with that, all the fancy digital graphics. And if they're telling the truth--you never know--the genocide over there is the worst since World War II. So maybe we're right to go.

I don't know what it's like to hear air-raid sirens, to see your beautiful cousin taken away. I was reading that Serb soldiers came to a tractor piled with Albanians and said, "you, get down from there," to a 22-year old woman. And the people on the tractor asked, "why?" I don't know if both groups spoke the same language, but the answer was clear. The Serbs said, "she's the prettiest one. We need her."

I just picture that beautiful girl stepping off the tractor into the hands of men with guns, feeling the absolute horrible drama in that moment, knowing that she can save more bloodshed, that she can just go and cry and lie there while these men ejaculate inside of her, their semen indiscriminately swimming through her regardless of her most violent physical protest. Her body is another ration, another silver trinket stolen from a house as you burn through the countryside. If she fights they will strike her across the face with their automatic rifles, render her senseless, and rape her anyway. We blame them as evil, foreign, horrible, but American boys with too much power would do the same. And have done the same. Someone said, "you'd think the world had learned from World War II." You'd think they'd learn from African slavery. You think they'd learn from British colonialism. Or East Timor.

Maybe she went to college, she's educated, fully aware of history, and knows the precedents. Does she see herself on the long list, a name on the printout in the courtroom, on a desk at the Hague? When all is done and the toll is greater than all the bells in Kosovo could handle, and they are prosecuting the desparate-looking men through translators, will hers be a name the journalists gloss over?

She's there now, you know. This happened yesterday, it won't wait for history. There is no chance for healing when the scar is growing wider. They'll turn her inside out, and others who look like her. You're hearing me and there is a woman in a room in Kosovo with a group of 19-year old men with guns, and they are raping and torturing her. American boys are piloting 43-million dollar airplanes, built like a child's space toy, flying right over that girl in the room alone with those soldiers.

I don't even feel tired from hearing about it. I don't receive any kind of thrill. It's numbing. Do we cry? That's what I'll ask my congregation. But we don't have enough footage to cry. We don't have the interviews on PBS news where the translators are dubbed over the natives, and the faces look out with that beautiful, ghostly stare, the stare that both victim and perpetrator share, seeing the world as shapes, all pattern and significance lost, Rorschach tests in red blood after the execution. We'll have our story, and some of us will cry, just not yet. I have to give a sermon this Sunday, and I've been praying over the topic, and I know it must be this war. But will I say it is wrong? Will I what right we have to go over and try to stop those soldiers in that room with our science-fiction rocketry?

(Brushes hand under eye.) Don't interpret these tears. There's only one or two of them anyway. I'm not crying for that girl. She's a news item to me, even if she's screaming out her lungs in a room that stinks of piss and sweat. I can imagine her with a thousand different noses, voices, a hundred lives, but never have the most vague idea of what she's going through. Any well-directed movie is more real than she is, when I sit down and watch it. Look, what makes me cry is the numbness, the ambiguity. Why are we there, why are we flying over any other country, again? Do I, personally, belong to NATO? Is it my finger over there, with my single vote, pulling the missile release on my Stealth Bomber? What is our moral authority? That's the question a minister should ask. What is the moral authority of our sovereign cluster of nations? I could quote scripture here, but some other minister would just quite something else, and tell me I was wrong. I need an answer deeper than words. I have all these questions...is it a fat wallet and a sense of fairness that gives us the right? My job is to tell you what God is thinking, but he's glad to stay in the middle with everyone else, while the Russian battleships creep into the harbor.

This will be a ground war, don't you think?

All the books I can find on the topic, all the theological tomes I know, tell me an attack like this is wrong. It's not even in self-defense. But this violence--it's so different, so clean, from the air. We attack above the clouds, like Gods, while our enemies scramble below.

I have a fantasy that we could send a million people of all races over on boats, and they could circle the border, and then just march inward together. They'd pick up all the Serbs and Albanians on the way, everyone just totally shocked to see all these new faces, and take away their weapons. And then they'd just squeeze everybody into the middle, make everyone face each other immobile, so that no one could move at all until they agreed to make peace. A million squeezing people, stopping the war with the pressure of their bodies. That would be a ground peace, instead of a ground war.

I just wish I could come to some conclusion. I don't believe we do have divine right, just because our weapons most closely approximate the hammering hand of the Old Testament Lord, arriving from the sky. America is supposed to be a New Testament Country--but Kosovo is an Old Testament war, and the wrath of God is ours to dispense, I guess. I prefer my plan to send millions over and march them inward. Because the alternative is that, if the wrath of God is ours to dispense, then we all have blood--

Voice 1

On our hands?

Voice 2

Yes. On our hands. And how should we go about washing it off?


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