Kimlee Davis Davis
Professor Brinsmaid Page 1
September 26th, 2011
“Response Paper #2”
In the article, “Censoring Myself” by Betty Shamieh, Betty tells the readers of the difficulties she’s faced in her role as a Palestinian-American playwright living and working in America after the events of 9/11. She makes a few main points rather than just one, yet they all coincide to give the reader a complete idea of what she’s been going through. A resounding main point that crops up all throughout the article is that she has been censored drastically, to the point where her art is almost unrecognizable or extinct. She has even give a few examples of how her case hasn’t been the only one. She makes a point to note that the very same irrational people censoring these works are doing it to keep the Palestinian perspective out of the public eye. At certain instances, she became hesitant, wary and even terrified to perform or present her plays and would find herself backing down in cowardice or altering everything she’d created. That is, until she realized how important it was to let these stories be heard just as they were, raw and uncut now more than ever. In censoring herself, she went three years without producing a single work about the Palestinian experience, which she stated “is an enormous part of who I am as a person and an artist” (3). She realized how important it is to maintain her personal story and creations rather than stepping back into the shadows and obliging to the censorship. As she argues, “To censor voices that present exactly those perspectives made it seem as though those voice didn’t exist” (3). Lastly, and most importantly, she explains how this view being kept from the country is keeping us from growing along with our foreign policy.
The overall tone of Betty’s article seems as reserved as she may have felt at the time of writing it. She’s restrained her emotions into a story hoping that it does not fall on deaf ears and admits that it was a terrifying act to write these words and single herself out as an Arab-American. She’s voiced her struggles and what she has learned from them is that it was an overall test of her capability to continue on as a playwright and, thankfully, she’s overcome it. When she talks about the Brave New World Festival it makes me wonder how many wonderful plays were tossed into the trash and what actually became of the festival itself. Fox news comes to mind and my stomach cringes just a bit. The irony that this event was meant to be a venue for alternative ideas and voices and became riddled with holes in the perspective of swiss cheese makes me shake my head into oblivion. I applaud her calm grace in the writing of her luminous story.
If you were to ask me my opinions on the article, I would have to refer you to the art of ancient Egypt. The artists weren’t regarded as anything very special. They were forced to create images out of strictly custom designed gridwork and never to sway from the persistent form they were presented. The kings and the rich payed for these sculptures and drawings and had the final say in what they looked like. They were the ones who got to rule the way art in their soceity was portrayed and the artists had to deal with it. The outcome was a set of rigid displays left behind for anyone to come across and see whatever these rulers had planned for them to see. They decided on what point of view was to be set and no other art forms were allowed. That is what comes to mind whenever I read this article.
Betty Shamieh speaks out in “Censoring Myself”, against the supression of mind opening perspectives and censorship in artistic theater. After seeing what it’s done to her work, or lack-thereof, she’s decided to refuse to give in to the pressures of conformity and subject herself to defeat. I think witnessing the ways in which others have been treated just like she has, she’s taken on a new vigor for the theater. She knows that somebody has to stand up and say no to the cutting and pasting. Theater is highly influential to the masses and can make such an impact in the world. As she puts it, “A good play, a play that makes you feel, allows you to see its characters as fully human, if only for two hours” (3). I think she ends the article on the most important idea of the whole piece. Anyone would be silly not to agree with her when she says, “If more people actually saw Palestinians as human beings, our foreign policy could not and would not be the same” (3). After all, how could it?