Letter to the Editor: Act of protest seems to be lost art

Today’s paper had a shortened version of what I sent in- here are both versions:

Know what to do if person has a seizure; Learning trades should be option; Death penalty needs re-examination; Act of protest seems to be lost art
Act of protest seems to be lost art

Re “Theater audiences are free to accept, reject plays ideas,” Dec. 26: In a country that was forged through a dumping of tea in Boston Harbor and cauterized by a lone black woman refusing to move to the back of the bus, our citizens have grown indifferent to challenges to the status quo.

Our recent protest against smoking on stage was greeted with disdain by a few, indifference by some, inaction by many, and was mostly ignored by the press until long after the play Moonlight & Magnolias closed, and the public voted to ban smoking in public places.

Did we “win” the protest?

If you read the “Other Voices” column by Marsha Hanna — no, we did not. She was the victor and we were driving a stake through the heart of her organization by simply questioning why an actor had to light a cigarette and burn it as opposed to just pretending to smoke.

She cast herself as the protector of artistic freedom, and us as Fascist dictators trying to censor art, which is far from the truth. Our protest wasnt an attack on the Human Race Theater Company; it was an attempt to bring attention to an issue that has been destroying lives for too long.

But it seems that our society and Hanna has a hard time accepting protest as an art form. Its not a win/lose proposition. There is no score keeping — at least not like what we are used to in politics or baseball.

Protests are won when an issue moves from the shadows into the light, or onto the opinion pages of this paper.

David Esrati

Dayton

A lost art: Protest

In a country that was forged through a dumping of tea in Boston Harbor and cauterized by a lone black woman refusing to move to the back of the bus, our citizens have grown indifferent to challenges to the status quo.

Our recent protest against smoking on stage was greeted with disdain by a few, indifference by some, inaction by many, and was mostly ignored by the press until long after the play closed and the public voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in public places.

Did we “win” the protest? If you read the “Other Voices” column by Marsha Hanna- no, we did not. She was the victor and we were driving a stake through the heart of her organization by simply questioning why an actor had to light a cigarette and burn it (as opposed to just holding it and pretending to smoke).

She cast herself as the protector of artistic freedom- and us as Fascist dictators trying to censor art, which is as far from the truth as the idea that “smoking is glamorous” – an idea that was foisted upon our country by the peddlers of death who advertised smoking as healthy for years.

Until November 7, Ohio allowed smoking in bars and restaurants and on stage at the Human Race. Some bar owners are ignoring the law now, and protesting in their own way, to the glee of many smokers (who will later lie on their deathbeds cursing their years of self abuse).

Ms. Hanna can try to wrap herself up as some freedom-loving protector of the arts- yet, when push comes to shove she admits she will comply with the law. How then is she not betraying the art? In the same way that they don’t really shoot people on stage, or drink real booze (both things we mentioned on our flyer). She will ask the audience to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.

What we asked, was for people to consider that smoking, even for 15 seconds on stage, doesn’t have to happen just because a playwright penned it, or the director thought they had to stick to the script.

Our protest did involve calling sponsors and questioning their support of a needless lighting of a cigarette on stage, and one even came out and protested with us. It wasn’t an attack on the Human Race Theater Company, it was an attempt to bring attention to an issue that has been destroying lives without question for too long.

But it seems that our society (and Ms. Hanna) has a hard time accepting protest as an art form. It’s not a win/lose proposition. There is no score keeping- at least not like what we are used to in politics or baseball. Protests are won when an issue moves from the shadows into the light, or onto the opinion pages of this paper.

Think of all the freedoms you enjoy because someone stopped to protest instead of accepting the status quo. It’s as American as can be- an art form far more important than smoking on stage.

David Esrati

So- be warned- your letter may be shortened-

and to those of you who tire of my anti-smoking tirades on this site, save it.

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7 Responses

  1. PizzaBill January 23, 2007 / 3:32 pm
    David,

    I’m tired of your anti-smoking tirades on this site.

    Thanks.

    PizzaBill

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  2. Melissa January 23, 2007 / 4:33 pm
    David, seriously … what’s the point?! You won, right? No smoking inside public venues. Eventually, the state will catch up to places that violate this law. Obviously, not quick enough for you. With every issue present in Dayton today, why do you insist on flogging this tired and nearly dead horse?

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  3. Greg Hunter January 24, 2007 / 7:57 am
    The DDN always changes the letters to the editor, they cannot help it. It certainly waters down the point. It seems to me that they have sacrificed controversy for ad revenue, which is why the internet blogs and news sites with their vigorous free speech are replacing the paper and its supposed check on the powerful.

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  4. Dad January 24, 2007 / 11:02 am
    It is the implicit right of a newspaper to edit (for clarity, space, or prevention of libel or slander)any letter submitted for publication.
    To be candid, your letters are too long. If you had sent them to me as the editor (and I have done that job), I, too, would have cut them.
    And, I should add this warning: You may have a point, but endless repetition only weakens it. Change the record and go to another tune.
    Dad

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  5. David Esrati January 24, 2007 / 11:54 am

    This was submitted as an “Other voices” piece- they chose to run it as a letter.
    I’m sorry I’m boring all of you. Go find something to protest on your own.

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  6. Josh Bruce January 27, 2007 / 10:05 am
    David,

    I don’t care if you keep repeating the same story. For me, it has to do with the concept that you are correct, protest created and evolves this nation. However, the American Revolution was about a larger ideal – which a lot of people agreed on (no taxation without representation). Civil Rights movement was based on the larger ideal that “blacks” are people too – therefore, have the same rights as all other people. Berkley – was about Vietnam and the draft. Protest only works if you can find many like minded individuals in a given area to help you affect change – smoking ain’t the topic.

    I remember the G8 summit in Savannah GA. Swat was there. National Guard troops were there. They fenced in the town. And, on any given day there were – maybe – 150 people there (overkill much). There was no consistent message. People were protesting the war. Civil Rights. Big Business (Coke specifically). The G8 as an organization. Etc. Basically the protesters couldn’t even decide why they were there.

    Chances are, if you can’t get a lot of people to join you and your voice – the issue isn’t that big of a deal for that particular area. Sure, on a global scale smoking is dying. However, in Ohio it seems less than 60% of the population care (according to the vote).

    The smoking ban isn’t about equality, or injustice – which is why you can’t get a huge amount of people in one area to back you. Further, it is not the issue to focus on to change the world – as temporary as that change will be.

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