The Journey of a Peace Activist: Tableau at the State Fair
Richard Weiskopfy

My trip to the State Fair this year was not the usual visit. Several of us met at the Center for Peace and Social Justice on August 31, 2010. We were driven in a van to the main gate of the Fair. There were nine of us. The other eight performed roles in a tableau representing the death and destruction caused by pilotless drones in Afghanistan. A tableau is essentially a theater piece in which participants hold a pose for an extended period of time, drawing a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Fair. Its title was “Drones are Terrorist activity—kill civilians and create more enemies for the US.”

Doing their part (clockwise from top): regular peace outreachers Ed Kinane (holding an impromptu teach-in on drones), John Fitzimmons (playing a dead civilian) and Ann Tiffany (playing a grieving Afghan mother) were part of the group that maintained a presence every day outside the NYS Fair. Photos: Mike Miller, John Liau, Diana Cramer

The tableau was quite realistic with a model drone constructed from heavy duty paperboard. A few feet away two of our group assumed the roles of dead civilians draped in black and “bloodied” with red paint. A third played a mother sitting and cradling a dead infant. There also was a “pilot” dressed in fatigues, sitting comfortably at a computer operating the drone by remote control. I stood and held a sign saying “Bring the Troops Home.” I accompanied this group for one afternoon. The rest of them performed the tableau for an hour each of the twelve days the Fair was open.

It was stiflingly hot the day I was there. Many folks going in and out of the Fair appeared exhausted, not interested in stopping to find out what our demonstration was about. Two from our group were handing out leaflets to explain what we were doing. It was difficult to get people to accept those, but some were taken. Occasionally we saw a “thumbs up” or peace sign in response to us. A few times there was a definite negative reaction. I didn’t experience anyone yelling or cursing at me, or calling out “Get a life!,” which sometimes happens on peace vigils.

So many people were elderly, bent over, with faces that were “washed out.” No room behind those sunken eyes for the luxury of politics. There were also young people who appeared energetic and innocent. Many were obese, some walking with canes or walkers, and in wheel chairs.

Why do I bother to go on this “journey?” Because I need to make a contribution to the struggle for peace and social justice no matter how small. To show that I feel strongly enough about a point to stand with a sign. To get people to think, “Oh! Some folks are so concerned about far away happenings that I don’t even think about.” Also, I do it, because we are allowed to in the US. I hope that will continue.

I think to be a peace activist you have to have at least some financial security. People working two jobs to feed their children, living in poverty, and struggling to make ends meet don’t have the time or energy to be an activist.

So, when I’m driving to the next peace vigil and say to myself, “Why am I doing this?,” my answer is, “This is your job, to do this one thing today if nothing else. Be part of something bigger, do what you can. You don’t have to do the whole job, just your part.”

Richard attends many of the Tuesday late afternoon Peace Outreaches.