War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

no, tell me what you really think

why don’t I see it coming? why do I engage? little incomings.

after my daughter’s violin recital last night (the girl nailed her Rameau Rigaudon), I was approached by a woman I’ve met a few times. a woman from our little community. “tell me about your work. I’m so interested in it”. I explain that I’ve just come back from my last time with the boys, the memorial service for the fallen, the change of command. I explain what I’ve tried to do. I prefer not to talk about my work during social occasions but didn’t want to appear dismissive or rude.

but the thing is, and I should have clued in real fast, the woman was using me to vent her anti-war feelings and wasn’t really interested in what I’m doing, what I saw, what I as an artist am trying to articulate. and I fell for it hook line and sinker. and it always amazes me that people pass judgement on something they know absolutely nothing about and feel it’s okay to vent at me.

I guess she’d just come back from a trip and saw the Green Zone on the airplane and I suppose that qualified her to pass judgement on the Canadian military, the Afghan war, and me. she pulled all the stops including the word colonialism.

and I just stood there and talked with her for way too long because I’m polite. and a bit stunned at her rudeness. she’s a doctor. never in a million years would I go up to her at a social occasion and talk about abortion, euthanasia, drug abuse in the medical profession, blah blah blah and never would I make assumptions that I knew what it’s like to be a doctor making decisions, mistakes, etc. etc.

and I kept saying to her, “I’m an artist. I don’t see my job as passing judgement” and maybe some artists want to editorialize, but ultimately it doesn’t interest me. and does that make me a propagandist ?

but black and white don’t interest me. it’s the shades, the gradations of colour that do. it’s compassion that interests me.

but hey, it’s a free country.

5 Comments (Closed)

Dave Mallette

Let your guard down did you? Must be returning to civvie mode. But then again, you wouldn’t have been reminded through your inquisitor’s questions and views of the value of your experience – little incomings… keep you frosty

Jun 27 2010 · 20:54

Marjolaine Hébert

Yes! on your daughter’s violin recital …
I suppose it can be hard to just be ‘mom’ while made to feel you have a war to defend, huh? So yay mom! ;-)

Jun 29 2010 · 00:45

Alex VanderWoude

No offense, but since you are an artist you are likely to be “progressive” in your political views, and thus opposed to things like our involvement in Afghanistan. Presumably this woman assumed that you would be sympathetic to her point of view. And perhaps you are, but certainly on this blog you have gone out of your way to avoid being pigeon-holed in terms of your political point of view. Therefore people will unfortunately use simplistic reasoning like that in my first sentence and proceed from there.

I would find it extremely interesting to hear whether or not your views about war, the military, and the Afghanistan campaign in particular have changed due to this project. But if this is not the proper forum for that discussion, or if it is simply none of anybody’s damn business, then that’s okay by me. Just be aware that in the absence of information people will fill in the details based on assumptions — we’re hard-wired to do that.

Jul 03 2010 · 11:25


Alex, my job is to witness. We have enough opinions. We have enough armchair experts. I am neither progressive or the opposite. Before this project I had never met a soldier. Before this work I had the “cookie-cutter” image that all were alike. Probably my main source of info was American movies as is most Canadians’.

Soldiers. Artists. Straight, gay, right wing, left wing, religious, atheist, agnostic, male, female, brave, fearful, kind, hard, drinkers, abstainers… all facets of human nature can be found in both professions.

What really interests me though is that which soldiers and artists have in common, especially dancers. That REALLY interests me and that’s one of the themes of my May Day project.

The only thing I know for sure is that soldiers and artists pay a very, very high price for following their call. We are alternately loved and loathed.

thanks as always

Jul 03 2010 · 16:44


Funny how people presume what your political proclivities should be because of you being an artist? How would THEY like to be painted with a broad brush?

Keep up the good work – keep sharing your truth. If people don’t like your truth, they can seek elsewhere.

Jul 07 2010 · 12:04

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled no, tell me what you really think. It was posted here on June 25, 2010.


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