24 December 2010


By Curtis C. Chen

"My art is not a weapon," Glenda said to the soldier.

The man in the khaki uniform smiled, and his blue eyes twinkled in the afternoon sun. "We'd never call it that, Miss Knopp. We like to think of it as a force multiplier."

"I don't know what that means."

The soldier leaned forward. "Something that increases the effectiveness of our troops beyond their numbers. For example, GPS. Knowing exactly where you are grants a huge tactical advantage."

Glenda nodded, only half understanding but wanting the soldier to think she actually cared.

A door opened behind her, and Jeff walked through the living room of the small apartment on his way to the kitchen. "Sorry," he said, in a tone of voice that indicated he really wasn't. "Don't let me interrupt."

"Not at all," the soldier said. "I was just explaining to Miss Knopp that the Army doesn't want to weaponize her artwork."

Jeff refilled his coffee mug and headed back to the office. "You're still the military. She doesn't like the military. And neither do I."

The door closed again, making more noise than it needed to.

"You'll have to excuse Jeff," Glenda said. "He's from Berkeley."

"I don't care what your boyfriend thinks, Miss Knopp. I'm asking you to help your country."

"By killing people?"

"I can guarantee you, if you allow us to use your artwork, that it will never be used offensively," the soldier said. "In fact, you can help us deter violence. We air-drop information leaflets into the Middle East—"


The soldier shrugged. "Right now, most of it gets ignored. But can you imagine if each leaflet had your artwork on it? Images that would compel people to look at the paper, read the words, and believe them?"

"I get final approval on the design," Glenda said. She wanted the soldier to think that she was getting as excited as he obviously was.

"Excuse me?"

"I'll only agree if I get to approve all the propaganda messages," Glenda said. "You'll need original brushstrokes on every piece anyway. It doesn't work with mechanical reproductions."

The soldier smiled. "I think we can work that out."

She made some additional, minor demands, asked for double the money he was offering, and otherwise kept pushing until his eyes stopped twinkling. Then they shook hands—his palm was cool and dry—and the soldier said he'd send over the paperwork right away.

"You've made the right decision, Miss Knopp," he said as she showed him to the door. "Your art will save lives."

She closed the door behind him. When she turned around, Jeff was standing in the kitchen, watching her expectantly.

"So?" Jeff asked. "Did he go for it?"

"Oh yeah," Glenda said, hugging her boyfriend. "I thought he would balk at the price, but I guess the Pentagon's got a big budget."

"I still don't trust them."

"Of course we don't trust them." Glenda smiled. "That's why we're not telling them about your music."


Photo: arte em movimento by Tiago Sousa Garcia, July, 2009