Let's Make Love, Not War

Are you upset about America's impending war with Iraq? Are you angry that it's being sold as a vital battle in the war on terror when, in fact, it is not? I am. And so are two New York City actresses who oppose the war but had no way of letting anyone know it. That's when they decided to stage a reading of Aristophanes' famed antiwar comedy, "Lysistrata," wherein the women of Greece end a cycle of senseless wars by withholding sex until the men stopped fighting.

Word got around, and last week the Lysistrata Project was able to organize 1,000 simultaneous readings in 59 countries. Sure, the play was written more than 2,000 years ago. But, hey, that Aristophanes knew how to pack fannies into the seats. I mean, this is a play that would make Dick Cheney blush. While women fondle each others' breasts, the men are left to groan under the weight of astoundingly erect penises that they wear for almost the entire show. And get a load of the women's oath of abstinence: "I will neither extend my Persian slippers toward the ceiling, nor will I crouch like the carven lions on a knife-handle." Yikes! It may be news to us Americans, but it seems people were getting naked long before the invention of the Chevy back seat.

I was invited to join the cast, I'm proud to say. When I showed the script to my wife, as I was reading (natch) in bed one night, she immediately volunteered to take the no-sex oath. "But I'm already opposed to war," I protested. She merely rolled over, muttering something about patriotic sacrifice.

The Lysistrata Project may just be a bit of leftist tweaking, but it reveals a great deal about liberal and conservative America--not just politically, but culturally. When conservative activists get together, they talk about grabbing tax cuts for the rich. When liberal activists get into a room, they talk about staging a show to piss off the conservatives.

We saw that in late January, when First Lady Laura Bush hastily canceled a White House symposium on Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman after hearing that several speakers planned to highlight the poets' antiwar works. (And they say the well-read Laura is the smart one in the Bush family; any third-grade teacher could've anticipated that politics might infect a literature salon taking place in the East Wing while the West Wing is finalizing war plans.) The trouble with those Bush girls, I conclude, is that they just don't wanna have fun.

We liberals do. For us, politics is like open-mike night at a Berkeley coffeehouse. How else do you explain those papier-mache puppets that always show up at global summit protests? Or the naked women lying in the snow in Central Park so that their bodies would spell out the words no bush? You can bet they aren't Young Republicans.

Even "big money" liberals are theater majors at heart. Phil Donahue's liberal-leaning talk show was canceled last week, but that hasn't deterred two liberal venture capitalists in Chicago from their plan for a radio network to counter conservative broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh. But instead of right-wing radio's angry "slam, bam, thanks for calling, ma'am" style, this all-left-all-the-time network will "rely on comedy and political satire," as The New York Times somewhat earnestly reported. The radio network will opt for the "Lysistrata" approach, the Times went on to say, because "Liberals do not have the fire-and-brimstone manner" that comes so easily to conservatives. Liberals don't want to be Limbaugh, in other words. They want to be Aristophanes.

Not always, though. I hate to admit it, but flag-burning liberals can be just as obnoxious and sanctimonious as flag-waving conservatives. Remember Ben and Jerry? When they were still making ice cream, their liberalism was cute and comforting--like finding a big chunk of peanut brittle in a bowl of chocolate fudge ripple. Out of the ice-cream business, they're now jamming politics down our throats. This time, they've put their bazillions of sweets-gotten gains behind a series of remarkably self-righteous antiwar ads. Their hearts are in the right place, but puhleeze: whoever dreamed them up left his creativity in the last Bill Clinton focus group. I mean, one of them even features Susan Sarandon. "Before our kids start coming home from Iraq in body bags, and women and children start dying in Baghdad, I need to know: what did Iraq do to us?" It's a cloying sort of Chardonnay-sipping activism, as rightie Patrick Buchanan might have it. A thin and unconvincing white whine.

Give me "Lysistrata" any day. I'd take the no-sex oath just to keep the lot of them, left and right, off the air.