THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND THIS LAND IS MY LAND
PETER A. CAMPBELL
When the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Executive Summary of the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program was released in December 2014, the assumption from most media venues was that nobody would read it. So they summarized it for us in various ways, and we got to hear interpretations of it from different perspectives. The simple premise behind this performance was that we read the Executive Summary aloud, in its entirety, in a central and public place on the campus of Ramapo College on Thursday, January 22, 2015.
The summary is 525 pages long. We read it in fifteen hours and seven minutes without stopping, with each performer reading in fifteen minute sections. We averaged reading one page every one minute 43 seconds. There were more than 50 individual readers. Some had signed up, and others just joined in when there was a spot. We documented the performance with audio and video that streamed live and is now available on our website.
We believe it is important to read and hear about the events and actions described in this document. To read it aloud is in itself a political act, one that claims that we will not, in this case, let others decide for us what we read or perceive but at least in this instance read and understand it for ourselves. Because this is an important document in the life and legacy of our nation. It details what the Central Intelligence Agency and the Executive Administration of our nation continues to call “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” many of which, such as waterboarding, anal feeding, and sexual humiliation and intimidation, are recognized by many of us, and by the rest of the world, as torture. These things were done secretly and without the consent of the nation, even as they were done with our silent approval as a part of the “War on Terror.” Those making the argument that torture works have been very successful, as a good section of our nation believes the intuitively attractive idea that violence leads to truth. The title of this piece, “this land is your land this land is my land,” refers to the complicity that we all have as members of a nation whose representatives have used these “techniques” and continue to argue for their efficacy in keeping our nation safe despite abundant and compelling contrary evidence.