Last night I went to see Ariel Dorfman’s “Speak Truth to Power” performed. It was a college production including not just students from the drama department, but also professors from various parts of the school. The play, first presented in September in the year 2000, is a collection of excerpts from interviews with human rights activists from around the world with occasional poetic and choral reworkings of quotes. The play focuses on sound and words rather than detailed sets. The particular production I watched ended with a dance consisting of two dancers who seemed to tell the story of two people noticing each other and beginning to help one another out.
I received “Speak Truth to Power” not as untold stories, but as stories that I had heard all too often before. I may not have been familiar with all of the activists whose words, were quoted, but their efforts seem to blur into one another over time. The great challenge from a play like “Speak Truth to Power” is to decide how it will affect your life going forward. Will you travel to war zones? Will you use boycotts and/or divestiture to avoid financially supporting oppression? Is it necessary to leave your current geographic location to work for justice and peace?
I have often dreamt of making a difference somehow. My heartstrings are pulled at by an endless stream of letters from organizations requesting donations from money I do not have. I work to subsist. When I cannot raise the funds to travel to stand between oppressors and oppressed what then is my obligation? If I am not hired by an organization with a stirring mission and instead find myself with the masses working at ordinary tasks for wages have I failed?
I struggle to be authentic despite pushback. I work to retain my identity though I am told that life would be easier if I left it behind. I face the enormous cost of healthcare. Collective action seems a distant dream rather than a recourse close at hand. Who will join with me in my struggle to make do with my resources? Who will stand with me against the chafing strictures of the gender binary? Surely joining together is not merely for people in distant lands.