Saturday, February 16, 2008

Democracy Now! | On Tenth Anniversary of V-Day, Vagina Monologues Playwright Eve Ensler Focuses on Violence Against Women in New Orleans and Gulf Sout

Democracy Now! | On Tenth Anniversary of V-Day, Vagina Monologues Playwright Eve Ensler Focuses on Violence Against Women in New Orleans and Gulf South

AMY GOODMAN: You said something interesting last night, Eve, about how perhaps your most radical act in starting The Vagina Monologues, something you thought was so outside the mainstream, became the most mainstream.

EVE ENSLER: Well, I think there’s that great irony, I think, when people tell you not to do things or not to say that something, usually when you say that thing, that’s the thing that changes your life and moves the world in some specific way. And, you know, I had written a lot of plays before The Vagina Monologues that were—well, they were all political plays, but they, on some level, were far less radical. But it was that play, ironically, that was invited into the mainstream, you know, and I think it’s telling, hopefully, to women, particularly, to find the thing they need to say, whatever it is, and to go and say it, because you never know who’s just there waiting for that shift of consciousness.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And your emphasis this year on New Orleans and the women of New Orleans, why precisely did you take that as the focus this year, and what are you planning to do?

EVE ENSLER: Well, we went down to New Orleans right after the flood. We were invited down there by women on the ground who were, you know, at shelters and hotlines, and the whole infrastructure, of course, was gone. So we went to see what we can do, which is what we do. We don’t kind of have an interventionist politics. People invite us, or they do what they do and we support it. And we did this amazing evening of storytelling, and we kind of launched this idea of this Katrina warrior network of women, and about 900 women showed up. And it launched this community and network of women.

And we were down there at the same time trying to determine where our tenth anniversary was going to be, and we thought maybe Nairobi, maybe Paris, and then it was like, no, this needs to be at the Superdome. You know, we need to take back the Superdome. We need to reclaim and turn it into Superlove. And what was fabulous about it is, at the same time, we were launching a spotlight on conflict zones last year, and New Orleans is clearly a conflict zone. It has all the ingredients of a conflict zone, a failed state, you know, the desecration of one section of the population, loss of control in the central government. We can go on and on. And so, we began to look at it like that and began to see the impact of what happens when there is a failed state, when in this country people don’t show up and there’s that kind of profound neglect and abandonment, particularly looking at women, because women have carried New Orleans and the Gulf South since the storm.

And I know you all have spent a lot of time there and covered it in an incredible way since the flood, but, you know, I’m there almost every month in some way, and people don’t know what’s going on there. We don’t—people don’t know that we have tent cities there. People don’t know that the mental health rates and the suicide rates are out of control. People don’t know that people who lived in houses that were once $400 are now $1,200. People don’t know that people are being charged for fuel adjustment, this new term, and they don’t even have a meter, you know, the gas meter in their house. I mean, it’s a bizarre, I think really immoral and profound statement about where the US is.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, the reports recently of all the formaldehyde problems with the trailers—

EVE ENSLER: Oh, absolutely.

JUAN GONZALEZ: —and the poisoning of—

EVE ENSLER: And the poisoning and everybody becoming sick. You know, there’s a piece I just wrote for Oprah, where I call it “FEMAldehyde,” you know, which is kind of this new creation made by our own, very own failed government. But I think what we’re saying is that we need to bring women from this country and all over the world to show up for our sisters in the South.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the special burden you feel the women of New Orleans bear?

EVE ENSLER: Well, I think if we can look at all the pieces of it, we kind of look at the whole story of what needs to change for women everywhere. But there’s the burden of racism. There’s the economic inequalities. There’s the burden of a failed education system there, so where are children going to school? And where are they—it has just been designated the murder capital of America. So we’re talking about one of the highest—the highest violence rate in America. We’re talking about communities where taxi drivers wouldn’t even bring me to go—I don’t have a car—because they were too scared to go into the community, and people are living there.

You know, we’re talking about—I think women particularly are on the frontlines, because they are dealing with children, they’re dealing with husbands who have no work, they are dealing with how to put food on the table, they are dealing with all the kind of nurturing, moving-the-community-forward aspects. And everybody’s traumatized. We’re talking about a seriously traumatized population. So you’ve got trauma.

You know, we did a brunch there recently for the women in the Gulf South, Mississippi, Alabama, grassroots activists, fabulous women who have just been working twenty-four hours a day, and we just gave them a brunch. Women were standing up and weeping, you know, talking about the fact that no one had ever given them a brunch. I thought, a brunch? This is what we’re grateful for? A brunch? And I think, so, part of it is, how do we bring people from all over the US and say we care about the women in New Orleans? We’re going to be giving free massages, free medical exams, free yoga and meditation, all free for the women. And women from all over the country are volunteering. And then we’re going to do a performance of The Vagina Monologues with performers from New Orleans. You know, Charmaine Neville is performing, and there will be gospel choirs. And it’s going to be the biggest mega-event we’ve ever done, at the New Orleans Superdome, at the arena.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Democracy Now! | Headlines for February 04, 2008

Democracy Now! | Headlines for February 04, 2008: "Bush Proposes Highest Military Budget Since World War II

President Bush is expected to unveil a budget today that includes military spending of more than $515 billion. The New York Times reports that if approved, military spending will reach its highest level since World War II. The figure does not include supplemental funding for nuclear weapons or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has already topped $600 billion. The Pentagon budget proposal marks a seven-percent increase over last year and the 11th consecutive year its gone up. It comes just days after the Bush administration announced plans to seek deep cuts to Medicare and a freeze on new Medicaid spending. Overall the White House is trying to slash $208 billion from federal health programs over the next five years. The Bush administration has increased military spending by 30% since taking office."