Iraq Veteran Emily Yates vs. the Federal Military Machine
When you tuck your children in at night
Don’t tell ‘em it’s for freedom that we fight
- Emily Yates
Story is important. It rules our lives without our really knowing it. Some stories amount to unquestioned cultural assumptions; others, we like to argue over. I often introduced the idea of story to the inmates in my prison writing class by pointing out the trial that got them where they were was a forum of dueling stories -- and their story lost. The point was for them to want to learn how to better tell their stories.
This is because stories are subject to the realities of Power. One of power’s prerogatives is the establishment of institutions that decide whose story matters and whose doesn't. Courts, judges and lawyers are the instruments of this kind of power. This court of dueling stories can sometimes become so absurd that it inspires artists like Franz Kafka whose famous novel The Trial is a black comedy about a hapless man facing a powerfully entrenched court system that feels no need to apprise him why he has been taken into custody and why he's being abused.
In the larger courts of Life, Truth and Art, there’s a long tradition of confronting this kind of abusive power of the state. I include the two-tour Iraq veteran and folk singer Emily Yates in this tradition.
Yates lives in Oakland, California, and in August 2013 she had a music gig in Philadelphia. While here, she agreed to be involved in an antiwar demonstration in the Independence Mall area focused on the bombing of Syria. She also agreed to stick around for a later marijuana legalization rally on the mall. It was a blast-furnace August day, so she was relaxing in a corner of the mall with benches under shade trees.