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Arts Festival: An Active Message for Peace

October 23, 1986|LIANNE STEVENS

SAN DIEGO — Elizabeth Bacon-Brainard wants the world to view peace, not war, as a noble and glorious cause.

The peace movement in the United States may have been relatively quiet during the last decade, but the quest for world peace has never ceased. Bacon-Brainard is one of the people working to step up that activity into a fervent public demand for a planet unscarred by war.

Prompted by the United Nations' declaration of 1986 as the International Year of Peace, the United Nations Assn. of San Diego County is sponsoring a Peace Arts Festival on Saturday at Balboa Park's newly refurbished Organ Pavilion.

More than 40 San Diego peace groups have endorsed the festival. Although their philosophies range from the scientific to the spiritual, they will join Saturday to celebrate peace.

But the grand flourish in this festival of peace will come from the arts, represented by singers, painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, mimes, poets and actors, according to Bacon-Brainard, who is local chairwoman of the International Year of Peace committee.

"It's a more delightful way to think about peace than just having a speaker," she said last week. "This is not a day for speeches. I've told everyone, 'You can demonstrate your cause for peace if you can sing it, dance it, paint it, mime it, sculpt it.' . . . I think that seeing, touching, hearing is a more potent reinforcer than just words, printed or spoken."

All of the artists, peace groups and committee members are donating their time, talent, and in some cases, hard cash to support the festival, which is free to the public.

Bacon-Brainard estimates that she has already contributed more than 500 hours of her time in coordinating the daylong program of performances that will take place on the Organ Pavilion stage. The 46-year-old mother of three is being helped by dozens of volunteers.

Although there have been a few bureaucratic conflicts ("There is more money in war, and people who work for peace are kind of suspect," she said.), the former county social worker has been overwhelmed by responses from local artists. There is a long waiting list for a spot on the official program.

While some participants are busy performing, many more visual artists will be quietly displaying their peace-related works.

"Hopefully, you'll find out on Saturday that (the peace movement) is alive and well," Bacon-Brainard said. "I think people find it hard to support causes at which they're not personally involved, and as long as we're simply buying mercenaries to fight our wars for us, getting surrogate nations to fight our wars for us, the peace movement will have less impact.

"When our sons, brothers, fathers and daughters--again that humanization factor, real people that we love and care about--go to war, then you'll have a loud, clear roar against war. Most people are interested in putting bread on the table, shoes on the school kids, that sort of thing, and stopping war is not a top priority unless you're personally threatened by it."

Bacon-Brainard has been active in the peace movement for six years, and is a board member of the local United Nations Assn. War touched her own life when she was only 2 years old.

"My brother lost his leg in the Battle of the Bulge, which was our last 'glorious' war, or 'noble' war--our war to end a madman," she said. "When you're an 18-year-old kid and your leg gets blown off in the Battle of the Bulge, it's not so fun anymore.

"This is the reality of war. People get killed and maimed. It is not Rambo showing that he is a real man for being brave.

"I think some of the bravest people in the world make a stand for peace."

The local group chose an arts festival to promote the International Year of Peace, Bacon-Brainard said, because "art is one of the first things to go in time of war. I think the artist, like the historian, tells us where we're going, where we've been, where we're at. They portray a culture; they reveal us to ourselves. Art is a way to celebrate peace, not be downtrodden about it, but to promote it in a festive kind of way. It is a positive statement for peace."

One of the messages she hopes the festival will strengthen is that war has been romanticized and glorified for too long.

"War needs to be exposed for what it is. . . . It is destructive rather than constructive," she said. "Like Einstein said, our thinking needs to catch up with our technology. We need to celebrate life, celebrate peace, make peace fashionable, make it noble, make it achievable--demand it, rather than the Rambo-type movies that we have out now.

"I think Americans idealize war; they romanticize war. We haven't had one on our soil for a long, long time. We forget that most of the victims of war are women and children, and even your so-called warrior is an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old otherwise unemployed kid.

"In a country like Nicaragua, where half the country is under 15 years of age, just statistically most of your victims are going to be children."

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