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Greetings from Uncle Sam

Posted: 02/03/2011

Some reacted with shock, others with confusion. There were quizzical looks and in some cases, annoyance.

The reactions came to a mock military draft simulation, a piece of “street theater” that took place Jan. 31 in the atrium of the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall.  As students entered for dinner, they were handed slips of paper with their (fake) selective service classification, and then led to information tables to be “processed.”

All came away with an increased awareness that this country is at war, which was the goal of the exercise, according to the Rev. Rick Chrisman, director of religious and spiritual life, who called the responses “really good.” He commended the student actors and said that the ruse worked “awfully well.”

Chrisman hoped that the simulation helped students to connect both intellectually and emotionally with the “costs of war.”  He added, “We are aware of it, we’ve seen it in the news. But for the most part, we don’t feel the effects of these conflicts. It feels wrong that we’re not more connected to what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Channeling concern into action, he coordinated a yearlong program titled “Theater of War in a House of Peace.” Events have included an art exhibition, lectures, and an upcoming multi-media presentation featuring music, poetry, dance, and literature, scheduled at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, at the Dance Theater.

In addition, he has scheduled a student study group to consider the question of universal national service. The group’s first meeting is planned for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the Intercultural Center, and the mock selective service exercise was Chrisman’s way of publicizing the event. He thinks the exercise achieved his goal. “I learned later that there were a lot of conversations as students had dinner.  If there’s discussion, I’ve met my goal. If they come to the study group, I’ll be really happy,” he said.

Photos by Sam Brook ’12