Response to Kelly Kleiman’s “review” of …For You Were a Stranger… [Section Two, January 30]

colonialism: exploitation by a stronger country of a weaker one; the use of the weaker country’s resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country

condescension 1: the trait of displaying arrogance by patronizing those considered inferior [syn: superciliousness, disdainfulness] 2: a communication that indicates lack of respect by patronizing the recipient [syn: disdain, patronage]

propaganda 1: the systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause 2: material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause: wartime propaganda 3: propaganda Roman Catholic Church. A division of the Roman Curia that has authority in the matter of preaching the gospel, of establishing the church in non-Christian countries, and of administering church missions in territories where there is no properly organized hierarchy.

Five years ago when Kelly Kleiman reviewed the ninth Big Goddess Pow Wow, I bit my tongue after reading her review, in which she accused Donna Blue Lachman of being a colonialist. After all, it was a nasty throwaway line in a nasty review that I also threw away. But it concerned me that a critic of such a prestigious newspaper as the Reader would so callously and irresponsibly proclaim such a statement of Selective Propagandistic fact-finding without reference to the actual work she was supposed to be reviewing.

Five years later I am confronted by a new review of Ms. Lachman’s work in which Ms. Kleiman begins by recalling her earlier accusation of colonialism, this time without any reference to the actual work, but only a propagandistically selective reference to the black character in her narrative. She (in from what can only be called her obviously superior viewpoint) goes on to say that Ms. Lachman might be excused for her naivete then, but cannot be excused for it now in her new play about the historical relationship between Jews and Arabs. She says that “The fact that Jews and Arabs share Father Abraham isn’t relevant” and then proceeds to say that “Jew and Muslim united against the Inquisition” have nothing to do with the exposition of the conflict in Israel in 1967. “Nothing, that is, but to underline Lachman’s condescension to the Other.” What the F does that mean? What the F does it mean when she goes on to say that “Speeches convey the antagonist’s common feeling of dispossession but not context enough to suggest how that commonality might produce peace”?????????? Does she suggest that we might find peace by accentuating our differences, our hatred, our fear?

And how do we justify the Selective Propaganda involved in choosing the only line from the show that she quotes? This is not a review. You know what this is.

At this point I must state that if Kelly Kleiman will reveal her true motivation for these views, I will reveal that I am Donna Blue Lachman’s husband. But not before I point out that in Ms. Kleiman’s final dig she states “Lachman still doesn’t understand that Israel’s tree-planting, valiant-pioneer narrative sounds to the Arabs like just one more example of Western colonialism. And if she hasn’t gotten that far, she really has nothing to contribute.” The fact is that this cliched platitude of Israeli narrative is plainly and explicitly rebuffed in the final act of the play. The fact is also that the plainly hated Ms. Lachman did not write the play by herself, but wrote it with a deeply cherished Palestinian friend of hers (a friend who Ms. Kleiman has chosen to ignore completely, as any good Selective Propagandist would). The fact is that the third scene of the play in which Lachman’s character is forced to defend Israel was the most difficult scene for her to create. The fact is that Ms. Lachman has spent her life traveling the world, seeking alternative perspectives on what it means to be human. The fact is that she has asked teachers from all viewpoints to teach her, to make her aware, to help her understand the human predicament. The fact is that Ms. Lachman has explored the viewpoints of Mexican revolutionaries and artists, Haitian mystics, Polish communist revolutionaries, Polish theatrical revolutionaries, art world eccentrics, Israeli kibbutzniks, Palestinians, rabbis, priests, prophets, demons, lovers, and an amazing variety of “just people,” as she and Ms. Sirhan Gardenier tried to point out to the audience in their new play. The fact is that Ms. Lachman has taken the viewpoints of these varied persons in order to seek their “commonality,” the point where they converge and inform our perception of who we are. The fact is that for the last 20 years Ms. Lachman has gotten up onstage over and over again in order to expose herself, to risk herself, to discover herself. She has exposed herself to critics who do not like her, disagree with her, think that the characters she portrays are not worthy of exploration, object to explorations of commonality, insecurity, hope, and the desire for a human world in which we understand and accept (but never condescend to) the Other.

The fact is that Ms. Kleiman has never done this, but can only hide her true feelings behind her authoritarian role as critic. But this is not criticism. This is either political or personal. I don’t know. I don’t know. Who is she? What is her agenda?

The fact is that I love Ms. Lachman. But the fact is that I have also loved the Reader and its eccentric endeavor to seek alternatives and gather their resources to strengthen and enrich us all.

Let us beware of Selective Propaganda, authoritarianism, and the abuse of the printed word.

Rick Tuttle