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Veteran’s Day is looming, and the nation ratchets up activities in their honor as they have for decades with parades, speeches honoring the fallen, art exhibits and now and then a token drag show.

“Make Drag not War” is one of several otherwise excellent art events in (guess where?) San Francisco, celebrating or supporting veterans. Yes, in the land where reality usually loses the election and narcissists go for inspiration, a drag show is offered as art form and therapy.

“Drag” was conceived by San Francisco resident and former Marine Stephen Funk, 28, self-described, “queer and antiwar in the Marine Corps.” The show, scheduled Dec. 4, 2011, is one several activities aimed at combating rampant rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in returning soldiers. It is sponsored by the group “Veteran Artists,” which helps veterans to “contribute creatively” and to ease stress and trauma they experience after war, Funk said.

“Make Drag, Not War” pairs drag queens and other performers with recently returned military veterans to tell their stories through “dragtivist” theater. What else could possibly capture the terror, drama and camaraderie of combat than “Lil Miss Hot Mess” or “Suppositori Spelling” performing “Nasty Girl?” I can’t think of a thing.

Lest they be accused of mere perversion, it’s all for a jolly good cause. A couple of years ago this show financed half the expenses for Dialogues Against Militarism’s delegation to Israel and Palestine, where they were definitely not supporting Israel. Cindy Sheehan was also a surprise guest performer that year, proving the group is extremely politicized. I suspect this may be inspired by the Obama administration’s penchant for all things not heterosexual, but I could be wrong.

Speaking of military strategy, should Dialogue Against Militarism send all their “girls” to put on a big show for al-Qaida and the Taliban, we could possibly end the war as they all die laughing. Something to ponder.

Other offerings in the Bay area actually manage to honor and involve vets without the use of “barely clothed boys.”


Peaceworks Mural

“Veterans Mural Alley” is the brainchild of Amos Lee Gregory Jr., a photographer and veteran of the United States Naval Submarine Service. It is an inspired collaboration between veterans, art guilds and the city of San Francisco, which is allowing blocks of alley wall space in Geary Street to be used as “canvas” for the group.

Gregory’s experience as a photographer and advocate with homeless, addicted and ill vets inspired him to unleash this huge mural project with along with San Francisco-based muralist “Cuba.”

In part of the Tenderloin district, where drug addicts tend to congregate, work began Oct. 24, on the first of 130 10′ x 10′ murals, which veterans will use to tell their stories through art. The intention is to grant veterans who are not necessarily professional artists a permanent place and visual presence in their community. Any veteran worldwide is encouraged to propose and paint their mural.

Gregory and Cuba may have been inspired by the 2010 “Peaceworks Through Art” mural in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich. Huge portraits of several, local veterans grace the two-story wall of a building, which is meant to draw attention to the “human and economic impact of war on Michigan and honor local veterans.” Painted by Mary Thiefels of Tree Town Murals, the project also hosts a website with statements from veterans.


In Memory: Todd Weaver – by Jeanne Weaver

In other parts of the nation, many exhibits revolve around Veteran’s Day and military themes. Not surprisingly, the historically significant city of Williamsburg, Va., hosts many activities at this time of year. One of the most moving exhibits is by painter and grieving mother Jeanne Weaver, who lost her son, Army 1st Lt. Todd Weaver in action in Afghanistan last year.

In a beautiful and solemn tribute, Todd’s mother painted 17 oil paintings in his honor for this show. She describes how she was unable to paint for months from shock and grief, but decided that even the details of his life were important and needed to be captured. In less than a year, Weaver crafted these works as a means to express her “loss, love and pride” in her son.

She shares these most intimate expressions of this tragedy with the world to honor all fallen heroes and to recognize the impact on “Gold Star families and their ultimate sacrifice.” Proceeds from sales of Weaver’s art work go to one of three scholarships named in Todd’s honor.

“Losing Todd: A Mother’s Journey” is at being shown at New Town Art Gallery in Williamsburg. Artist’s reception is from 5-7 p.m. on Veterans’ Day.

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