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THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2005
I've just spent a goodly amount of time putting up a Camp Casey Detroit Blog. I'm hoping lots of the folks who are spending time down there will post entries and photos. There's nothing like sharing our stories to promote community.
And community is what Camp Casey Detroit is all about down there in Grand Circus Park. We're doing so much more than simply protesting Bush's war against Iraq and calling for the troops to be brought home now; we're creating the world we've been dreaming of. And everyone is invited. The homeless and those who are fortunate enough to live in homes/apartments/flats. Young people on bikes and us oldsters who travel by car. We're city and suburban, descendants of slaves and descendants of slave-owners, college-educated and educated on the streets, employed/retired/underemployed/unemployed, men and women, temporarily able-bodied and differently-abled, hungry and well-fed. We share conversation, food, water and stories. As I see it, we are the world. And we're all working for peace.
Isn't this what we've dreamed of? Well, come down to Woodward Avenue and Adams Street in downtown Detroit and join us. We're there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And we're making a difference.
Just today, on Day 4 of Camp Casey Detroit's existence, we met Linda, a 51 year-old woman who's temporarily living in a rehab center while she works on her alcohol addiction. On her own initiative, Linda worked for three and a half hours collecting signatures on our petition to support Cindy Sheehan's efforts to bring the troops home now. She single-handedly managed to fill eight sheets with signatures, and she intends to return tomorrow to collect some more.
In the early afternoon, a woman bus driver pulled her bus up to the curb beside Camp Casey Detroit, opened the door and asked us for some anti-war petitions. When Jessica brought them onto the bus, and older woman in the back stood up and said, "I want to sign that right now!" The bus driver said she'd bring the petitions back to us on her run back downtown.
Two affluent-looking Detroit Tigers' fans, who had obviously just attended a Detroit Tigers' afternoon baseball game at Comerica Ballpark a block away, walked by and shoved bills into our donations pail.
And, yes, there was the unpleasant fellow who came up to our tables spoiling for a fight. "If it weren't for war, you'd still be a slave!," he said to Abayomi. But Linda helped us not get engaged with him, but instead, meet his negativity with silence. As she said, "Arguing with him wouldn't do no good. He just wanted a fight."
So Camp Casey Detroit now enters Day 5. Come on down!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2005
These late nights of putting up journal and blog entries and photographs about Camp Casey Detroit caught up with me today. For the first time since I started working with Matt at the gym in March 2004, we had to stop after only twenty minutes. My legs were like rubber and I was a push-over when Matt leaned into me for our ab exercises. He made me promise I'd go home and get some sleep. And so I did.
When I finally made it down to Grand Circus Park, it was 4:30 PM and the Camp was being drenched in rain. I was grateful to see the tables and people covered with a tarp because I'd told them yesterday that I'd be bringing a tarp today. What a Janey-come-lately! But I'm sure we'll have more oportunities to use rain cover as the days and weeks progress.
I also had two pizzas in my car, and I think they were more welcome than the tarp. At least they seemed to disappear pretty fast. But more were on the way. Tonight was our first Camp Casey Detroit pizza party (photos #1 & #2) and it was a rousing success. By 8 PM, I'd guess there were 30-40 people eating, talking and having a great time. It was especially fun to see the children, the youngest of whom was Malcolm, followed by Derek's daughters, Cydney, 9, and Kaylan, 8. Kelly also brought his son Chris, who is almost 12. And William Smith was kind enough to take a picture of me with Cydney and Kaylan.
During the party, I got two pictures (photos #1 & #2) I especially like of Camp Casey Detroit, one of them from the other side of Woodward Avenue. I also took a picture of two young women, Erika and Jess, who had driven up from their homes in Baltimore, Ohio (four and a half hours away), and had just happened upon us as they walked down Woodward Avenue after attending the East Indian Festival at Hart Plaza on the river. They felt so at home with us--"We come from a small town where everyone is Republican!"--that they're sleeping down at Camp Casey Detroit tonight with four of our regular volunteers. I wonder if they'll tell their parents about this adventure!
I've given lots of people--including Erika and Jess--instructions on how to post entries and photos on our new Camp Casey Detroit blog. I sure hope they do so. It's meant to be a community forum not a one-or-two-person show.
Now here I am again...another late night. But at least I can sleep in in the morning.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 27, 2005
Each day at Camp Casey Detroit is unique. Today--Day 6--was a day of gifts.
The gifts of food, like the yummy 24-piece vegetarian pizza donated by Ann Perrault of Avalon Bakery (Cass & Willis near Wayne State University), the pastries from Arlena of the Brown Bean Cafe, our neighbor on Adams in Grand Circus Park, and Granny Kathy's husband Barry's loaf of homemade sesame and whole grain wheat bread.
The gifts of enthusiastic volunteers like Peggy Bennett and Rosi Luganer from Ann Arbor, Bob Krzewinski from Ypsilanti who brought and planted 64 crosses (photos #1 & #2) made by the Veterans For Peace, Raging Grannies Kathy Russell and Charlotte Kish who led us in song, Bill Hazel and Charles Brown who were already there when I arrived about 3:30 PM and stayed until at least 7:30 PM when I left to scoot down to the India Festival at Hart Plaza, Charles Simmons and his teenaged nephew who took the picture of us singing, our neighbor Paul Pearson who has offered us the use of his bathroom every night, and our regulars, David Sole, Abayomi Azikiwe, Derek and his daughters Cydney and Kaylan, and Willie, our Camp Casey Detroit leafletter extraordinaire.
The gifts of interesting visitors like Terrance, a 22 year-old spiritual seeker and boxer, who said, "If one person can push you [beyond where you are now], that's good. But if you can push yourself more than that one person [did], that's even better." And John, Maria and their young daughter Tatiana, who just happened upon us but felt right at home since they're strongly anti-war and pro-peace. Jay Statzer who asked that we link our blog to www.cures-not-war.org. Our old CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) friend Elena Herrada, her twin daughters Alejandra and Zoe, and a neighbor on Leverette in Corktown. They asked to be identified as the Leverette Collective. And in response to Willie having leafletted a wedding party outside Central United Methodist Church, a high school government teacher came over and engaged us in an interesting--if somewhat heated--dialogue about the efficacy of the war and occupation of Iraq.
Our Camp stayed active throughout the day, and, after heavy morning showers (Willie was the only one among us who had been in the camp then), we had some afternoon sprinkles that tested our tarping abilities and umbrella expertise (photos #1, #2 & #3). And, as always, we had plenty of opportunities to sit and talk (photos #1 & #2). Charles Brown even called into a radio talk show on his cell phone, and we sat around and listened to him live on our camp transistor radio.
If it sounds like we're having fun, that's because we are! Working for peace, when you do it in community, is a wonderful adventure. How grateful I am to be part of it, and how warmly I encourage my peace-loving sisters and brothers in southeastern Michigan and Windsor, Ontario to come on down and join us.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 28, 2005
This was a day for flowers, trees, skies, water, time with my sweetie, a nice long nap, a quiche dinner thanks to our friend Pat Kolon, a chair massage by Pat to loosen up my knotted-up shoulders and neck, and a little time reading on our screened-in porch. No Camp Casey Detroit, even though I hated missing our Potluck Picnic in the Park, and no participating in a four-hour F.A.M.E. (Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment) training session for which I'd signed up weeks ago.
After having gone to bed at 2:30 AM for the fourth night in a row, I woke up this morning and dared to ask my body what it needed. Its answer was clear--a day OFF! So, with regret, I cancelled out of the F.A.M.E. training, and let my body have its way.
It's now 11:30 PM and I intend to go to bed soon. And, yes, I feel rested and ready to go back down to Camp Casey Detroit again tomorrow. Life is good.
MONDAY, AUGUST 29, 2005
It was a lovely sunny warm day down at Camp Casey Detroit. Paul Pearson took the opportunity to catch some rays, while Norm Clark covered himself in sunblock. The more time we spend together, the more we see our uniqueness. Each and every one of us wants to bring the troops home now, but beyond that we have our individual ways of looking at things. That makes our conversations--of which we have plenty--all the more interesting.
When I arrived about 2:30 PM, Abayomi Azikiwe, Pat Lent, Charles Brown, Norm Clark, Paul and Willie were there. While we sat and ate the sandwiches I'd brought, we shared stories of how and when we'd become politically aware and active.
For Abayomi, it started back when he was a child in Tennessee. His parents were active in the Civil Rights movement and frequently hosted meetings at their home. Abayomi said that students and activists from the north often stayed at their house. The family moved up to Detroit when Abayomi was ten, the year after Detroit's rebellion in 1967. He said his parents became active in the city's struggles right from the beginning. And although Abayomi's university degrees were in education and political science, soon after graduating he found himself working as a journalist and editor for a number of politically-aware organizations and newspapers. In the 1980s, he gravitated to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and made three trips there during the height of the oppression. He's been connected with Wayne State University for 17 years, teaches in the Urban Studies department there, and has published the Pan-African News Wire for many years, first in hard copy and lately, online. He has spent at least 8 hours a day at Camp Casey Detroit since it opened a week ago. He has also composed and sent out all our news releases.
So that gives you an idea of who sits at our tables in Grand Circus Park! And each person has a story to tell, with surprising twists that most of us have never heard before. How I value this time of being able to hang out together with no deadlines, no distractions, no agendas. After years of demonstrating, marching, organizing and meeting together, never before have we had the time to simply sit and shoot the breeze (photos #1, #2, #3 #4). Such a gift.
Another gift was the fact that Monday Night Football was being televised from Detroit's Ford Field tonight. Not that I give a darn about football, but it meant that 50,000 fans would be coming down to our neighborhood, some of whom would be walking by Camp Casey Detroit on their way to the stadium. But I decided to take it a step further and scoot the three blocks over to Ford Field myself with a MECAWI sign that said, "Bring the Troops Home Now!" on one side, and "Money For Our Cities, Not War" on the other.
What an interesting experience! There were thousands of people milling around out front, drinking at the outdoor bar at the corner, and lots more waiting in long lines to get into the stadium. So I just scooted up and down the street beside the stadium over and over, holding my sign high in the air. The response was mixed, but I'd say it was at least 6-1 in favor of my signs and against the war. In addition to lots of thumbs up, peace signs, nods and "You're right on!" type of comments, I also heard at least three voices call out, "Get a job!", one say, "You should be ashamed of yourself. Why don't you go to Russia?," and another say, "Go to Texas!" My favorite was a disembodied voice saying, "Is she Cindy Sheehan?"
When I got back to Camp Casey Detroit, it was about 8:30 PM and getting dark. But there were still about ten people hanging around talking. It is definitely THE place to be in Detroit!
TUESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2005
If you want to see a few photos from Day 9 at Camp Casey Detroit, you can go to our Camp Casey Detroit blog. While you're there, check out the other entries that our community has started posting--they're interesting. At least I think they are. Even the comments are interesting.
I am so happy to see our blog becoming what I'd originally envisioned--a community forum. I've been sending out emails to everyone I've met down at the camp. In them, I give out our user name and password and encourage the recipients to post their thoughts, experiences and photos on our Camp Casey Detroit blog. It's been slow to take hold, but finally folks are posting their own entries. This whole encampment is so community-based that a blog only makes sense if ALL of our voices are heard.
As I'm sure my regular readers have already figured out, I am in seventh heaven these days. This camp is everything I've ever dreamed of, and it only gets better every day. I feel like the most fortunate person on the planet to be part of it. And, to be honest, I'm already trying to prepare myself for what I know is going to be a major adjustment when the camp closes down in a few weeks.
A lot of us daily campers talk about what a sense of deprivation we're going to feel when we have to go back to our "normal" lives. How I wish THIS were "normal" and the other life were not!
It feels so right to be down in the middle of our wounded yet vibrant city every day, getting to know the folks on the street by name, talking with passersby about war and peace, hearing stories of the lives of people who have spent years working for justice and peace, eating whatever appears on our tables, sharing everything communally, making decisions by consensus, each one taking our share of the responsibilities, at the same time feeling that we've gotten off the merry-go-round and have regained a child's sense of time and play. Life feels more simple than ever before.
And now that I've started going to bed at a more reasonable time again, my body feels great. I swam laps yesterday morning and worked out at the gym with Matt this morning. In both cases, I felt very strong. Actually, Matt was shocked at how well I did today.
Tomorrow is the "Rolling Stones Day at Camp Casey Detroit" in celebration of their concert at Comerica Park (one block from our camp) tomorrow night at 7:30 PM. We plan to play Stones CDs all day and then take our signs and vigil in front of the ballpark when the crowds start forming.
Then this Labor Day weekend (Friday-Monday) is the Detroit International Jazz Festival, which you know I adore. It's been expanded to four stages at Hart Plaza (the riverfront park), one stage in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue by the City-County Building on Woodward at Jefferson, and the WDET-FM (Detroit's public radio station) Stage at the newly-refurbished Campus Martius Park on Woodward. All of the stages are within scooting distance of Camp Casey Detroit.
Oh my, but life is good.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2005
I never knew being a peacemaker could be so much fun! Not only are we standing witness to the need to Bring Our Troops Home Now, but each day is filled with moments of unexpected wonder and delight. Today especially.
In the early afternoon, Kathleen Gallagher, a well-respected journalist at the Detroit Free Press, came down to Camp Casey Detroit and spent over an hour interviewing Abayomi, Pat Lent and Kelly Logan of our camp (photos #1 & #2). She also photographed and interviewed some visitors to our camp, one of them a mother of two sons fighting in Iraq who stooped to examine the crosses that commemorate the loss of American life that this war is bringing to families like hers. She also photographed and interviewed two Arab-American famililies with young children who stopped to sign our petition to end the war now. She said her article would be published in Thursday's Free Press.
And then today was our long-awaited "Rolling Stones at Camp Casey Detroit Day." In anticipation of the Rolling Stones concert tonight at Comerica Park, we played Stones' CDs on a battery-operated boom box most of the afternoon and evening. Of course, I couldn't stay seated for that and was often up on my feet shaking my bootie, as they say. That was when I wasn't over in front of the ballpark (a short block away) listening to sound checks and dancing there.
By 6:30 PM, an hour before the concert was scheduled to begin, I was in front of Comerica park--standing next to two Raging Grannies, as it turned out--with the same sign I'd taken over to Ford Field for Monday Night Football two days ago. Where the football crowd had had about 8-10 outspoken pro-war folks who'd let me know exactly how they felt, the Rolling Stones crowd was almost 100% against the war...and vocal about it, too. I'd guess I saw or heard 150-200 positive responses to my signs to "Bring the Troops Home Now!" and use "Money For Our Cities Not for War," while only two said something mildly pro-war.
The response I will never forget came when I approached a group of maybe six young men and women in their 20s. When they saw my "Bring the Troops Home Now!" sign, one of the fellows broke into a huge grin, raised both arms high in the air and yelled, "Yes!" The young woman beside him shouted over to me, "He just got home from Iraq!"
If I didn't know before why I do this, I sure do now.
But vigiling for peace wasn't all I planned on doing over by that ballpark tonight; I intended to stand outside and dance just as soon as the Rolling Stones took the stage. By 9:45 PM, they did. WOW! For an original Rolling Stones fan like me, who had never before seen or heard them in person, this was quite a thrill. And it was fun to share it with some of my Camp Casey Detroit sisters and brothers. Andrea, Abayomi, Ann, Norm and I really got down! We found a spot out by Central Field that was open enough so we could hear wonderfully well, and could even see peeks of Mick Jagger's rhinestone belt and tight black t-shirt in the huge video screen across the field. There were lots of people beside us enjoying the concert without having paid a penny--or $63 to $163, which is what the tickets cost--and I personally think we were having more fun than the folks inside the ballpark.
After I'd heard the Stones play "Can't Get No Satisfaction," I was ready to go back to Camp Casey Detroit.
And the camp was hopping too! There must have been a dozen folks there when I returned about 11 PM. By then I was starved, so I went over to the Brown Bean Cafe and ordered a Greek salad-to-go. It was such a beautiful night that many of us stayed around talking until 12:30 AM. (Photos #1, #2, #3 & #4)
As I drove home I kept thinking that for many of us, these Camp Casey Detroit days will be remembered as among the happiest days of our lives. We're family now.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2005
Some people are questioning why we would continue to hold vigil against the war in Iraq at Camp Casey Detroit while there is such an immediate disaster to respond to in our own country. We've even been instructed to get ourselves down to New Orleans if we want to do something worthwhile.
First of all, I can't see how our presence in a city that has been ordered to be evacuated would be of help to anyone. And secondly, I believe that the presidential decision to wage a war based on lies, to divert 204 billion dollars so far (not counting an additional 45 billion dollars which is currently pending before Congress) from use at home to destroy a country that was of no threat to us, to send some 7,000 soldiers from the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard (40% of Mississippi's and 35% of Louisiana's regular Guard strength) to fight that war thousands of miles from their home states where they are now sorely needed, makes stopping the war against Iraq and bringing those troops home now more crucial than ever.
And so we here at Camp Casey Detroit continue to vigil, to be a public witness to the futility and true costs of war, to dialogue with those who see things differently, to stay on our little corner of the planet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Today was Day 11.
Every day we welcome new faces to our camp. Today it was Ron and Sigrid Dale, long-time peace and anti-nuclear activists here in the Detroit area, Becky, a military spouse who often stands vigil at 9 Mile and Woodward on Monday afternoons with a group of dedicated peace activists, Marc Anthony who lives in the neighborhood and agrees totally with our call to bring the troops home now, and Kevin, a union organizer who is hard at work with the NWA mechanics in their strike against Northwest Airlines.
And these were just the new faces I saw during my three short hours at the camp this afternoon.
But Camp Casey Detroit is thriving after 11 days because of stalwarts like Derek, who has spent more nights at Camp Casey Detroit than just about anyone except perhaps Willie (with Jessica right up there too), and Abayomi, who has done the day shift from 9:30-4:30 PM every day since we opened on August 22, usually returning around 8 PM for a few more hours, and Pat Lent who takes a bus from her home close to 12 Mile Road down to Grand Circus Park just about every day so she can spend at least 4-6 hours helping us out.
There are many more individuals without whom Camp Casey Detroit would not exist, but these were the ones I saw today.
So I invite those individuals who see our peace encampment as irrelevant during these times of national crisis to please look at the larger picture and ask yourself, "Would New Orleans be in the terrible state it's in today if our national priority had not been the war against Iraq?" As a help in analyzing this question, I offer a few links to articles/columns I've found to be helpful:
"Iraq Mess Adds To the Problem" by Juan Cole
"Iraq War Costs Now Exceed Vietnam's" by Jim Lobe
"Why New Orleans is in Deep Water" by Molly Ivins
"Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?" by Will Bunch
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2005
I've just posted an entry on our Camp Casey Detroit blog explaining why they won't be seeing me for the next three days after this afternoon. If you're a regular reader here, I know you'll understand. It's Labor Day weekend and that means JAZZ here in Detroit, Michigan! The 26th free Detroit International Jazz Festival, to be exact. I plan to be down at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park on Woodward every afternoon and evening starting tonight and ending Monday (Labor Day) night. The mornings will be devoted to sleeping in and/or swimming laps at the pool.
So I don't expect to be much of an online journal keeper these next four days. Have a good weekend yourself, and continue to hold the suffering people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Iraq in your heart and mind...
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2005
When I look at the date of my last entry I'm surprised to see how long it's been since I've posted here. I've been pretty faithful to keeping up with entries and photos on the Camp Casey Detroit blog and yesterday put up an entry on my Windchime Walker blog, but my poor old journal has been neglected of late. To be honest, part of the problem is that posting here is quite a bit more time-consuming than posting on the blogs, especially when it comes to photos. So please keep that in mind, and if you don't see me updating my journal, just jump over to one of the blogs I keep. Usually there will be something there.
I'm not going to repeat what I've already posted on the blogs, but just want to say that these are amazing times for me. Never before have I felt so inspired, energized and committed to my work for peace. What is happening at Camp Casey Detroit is exactly what needs to happen, especially during these times of such a painful, tragic and inexcusable breakdown in the social fabric of my country.
New Orleans has shown that what we thought we had in this so-called "land of opportunity"--a safety net to catch us when we fall--was just an illusion. If there IS any net, it is only for the privileged among us. For those who are poor, black, young, old, infirm and/or without the resources to fend for themselves, life in these United States is a risk at best, a disaster at worst. Your government cares nothing about you, and, in fact, makes decisions every day that threaten your very lives.
Many of us had suspected this before, but now we know it is true.
So what do we do about it? We ask the hard questions publicly, we don't let them get off with their callously superficial answers, and we organize ourselves in such a way that coalitions are formed and movements are strengthened. No longer can we go off on our separate tangents. No longer do we have the time to waste bickering over the small stuff that divides us.
No, it is time to come together and say, NO to corporate control of our politicians, NO to our tax dollars going to war rather than to our society's very real needs, NO to our children being sent to fight, kill and die in countries that are no threat to us, NO to governmental leaders who curry favor with their rich campaign donors by allowing them to despoil the earth, divert the waters, destroy the wetlands, pollute the air, deforest our wilderness areas, choose oil over our safety and the safety of the countless species of life with whom we share this planet.
And it is time to say YES to creating the world we want, YES to respecting our wondrous diversity and calling forth everyone's gifts not just those who entertain us or play sports or find fame under some spotlight or other. We must say YES to community, to creativity, to critical thinking, to organizing for change, to looking for answers outside the box.
We cannot waste our precious time whining, complaining, blaming, or denying the truth of what is happening. NOW is the time, my sisters and brothers, and, as the song says, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."
For us at Camp Casey Detroit, we've seen what it feels like to come together as one people and stand our ground...literally. What we have found for the past 17 days and nights on that street corner in the middle of Detroit is a reason to get up in the morning, to stay informed and aware, to organize, strategize, create new options, form deep and lasting bonds with all kinds of people, and to simply keep on keepin' on no matter what they do in Washington, DC or anyplace else when human rights and needs are ignored.
Yes, WE are the ones we've been waiting for. And how grateful I am to be a small part of it all.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2005
On a date that four years ago brought the worst that we as a nation could imagine, I think today of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and wonder. What is worse? A tragedy that comes out of hatred or a tragedy that comes through neglect? Arrogant, self-serving neglect, at that.
Each of us will have to answer that question for ourselves.
So here I am back with you after four days of silence. On Thursday I did manage to post an entry on my Windchime Walker blog and on our Camp Casey Detroit blog, but that was all I had time to do. Time, as you faithful readers already know, has been a scarce commodity in my life of late. Except for the International Jazz Festival weekend, all my discretionary time has gone to Camp Casey Detroit. How grateful I am that I lived it that way! For, as with all good things, Camp Casey Detroit could not go on forever. Today--Day 21--was our last day. But what happened on that street corner in downtown Detroit will never be forgotten. And we finished on a high, high note.
On Friday night, the Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour from Camp Casey Crawford, Texas arrived in Detroit. We at Camp Casey Detroit had planned to greet them with a potluck picnic supper, but those poor folks were too exhausted and stressed out to join us. So we partied ourselves.
At about 8:30 PM, I drove out to meet them at a Coney Island restaurant that was a few exits away from where they should have gotten off the expressway. Our directions had been confusing and they were going through serious group issues, so, at their request, I led them directly over to Day House where we'd arranged for them to spend the weekend.
Once there, the group needed to deal with what was eating at them, so I sat in my minivan and let them hash things out. After about 45 minutes, three of the tour members were ready to have me drive them the three miles over to Camp Casey Detroit.
Fortunately there were still a good number of people there, so our guests were made to feel welcome. In fact, Cody Camacho, who later received a call that, instead of spending the night at Camp Casey Detroit as he'd hoped, he was needed back at Day House, said to me on the drive back, "Your camp feels just like Camp Casey down in Crawford--full of love."
After a couple more trips between Camp Casey Detroit and Day House, Marci Young, a member of the tour, came home with me for the night. We stayed up until 2 AM talking.
By 11:15 AM on Saturday, we were back at Day House where we found Cody working on repairing the door of their mobile home with the help of Tammara Rosenleaf and Morrigan Phillips. I sat around taking pictures and offering moral support, but soon it was time for those who wanted/had the energy to attend the Detroit Area Women In Black vigil at Camp Casey Detroit at noon to make the trip over to Grand Circus Park. Al Zapplala, Mike Ferner and Marci decided to join me.
This was my first time at a monthly Women In Black vigil here in Detroit--for years our Raging Grannies' monthly meetings were on the same day as the WIB vigils--so I was surprised to see so many people. I'd be there were at least 125 in attendance. Marci marched with them while Al and I sat under the trees and talked.
We spoke of the stresses under which the group has been traveling: the long days and nights of events and rallies in each city; sometimes going to two cities in one day; the counter-demonstrators that have heckled them; the different leadership styles that led to last night's interpersonal challenges; Al's having acted as mediator so that he'd gotten little sleep. When I encouraged him to take time for himself even if it meant not going to every rally and event, he smiled and said, "This is only three weeks out of my life. I want to do all I can. As the only representative of the Gold Star Families For Peace, I need to share my story at every opportunity. I'm retired so I can catch up on my sleep when I get home."
I learned when Al spoke at our Detroit Peace Rally later that afternoon that his son, Sherwood Baker, had been killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. Sherwood left a 27 year-old widow and a nine year-old son. I was touched by Al's comment that every Gold Star family member knows what number death their loved one was--Sherwood was # 720--but "The Iraqis don't have numbers; this government is so racist it doesn't even count them."
Well, maybe Al can get by on just a few hours sleep, but not I. It's almost 1:30 AM and I've got to hit the sack. I have more stories to tell and more photos to share. And now that Camp Casey Detroit has closed down, I will have the time to do it.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2005
In all my years as a peace activist never before have I sobbed aloud at a rally. Tears in my eyes, yes. Maybe even tears rolling down my cheeks, but never uncontrollable sobs coming unbidden from my mouth.
I don't cry easily so when it happens it catches me by surprise. But what happened in the middle of Saturday's rally at Camp Casey Detroit honoring the folks on Cindy Sheehan's Bring The Troops Home Now bus tour, hit so deep I didn't have a chance to protect myself. All I could do was react. And I wasn't the only one.
This rally had already been more emotional than most. We'd heard from Lila Lipscomb, the Mom from Flint, MI whom Michael Moore had featured in "Farenheidt 9-11." She'd brought up to the stage her dead son's little girl. That was a moment. And then Al Zappala, the only tour member representing the Gold Star Families for Peace, told us about his 30 year-old son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who'd been killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. That was another moment. But these moments were to be expected. We'd known ahead of time that we'd be hearing from folks who had lost loved ones in the fighting in Iraq. It was what happened next that pushed me, and many of us, over the edge.
After Al had finished speaking, the Rev. Ed Rowe, MC for the rally, asked if there were any other families of troops fighting in Iraq who would like to come forward. Two women walked up and stood directly under Ed at the elevated ledge of Hazen S. Pingree's statue which we were using as a stage; one was blond and the other had long dark hair and looked to be Latina. Cradled in her left arm was a framed color photograph of a smiling young man in military dress uniform. Three children, ages 6-11 or so, came up holding signs that said "Bring the Troops Home Now!", and stood beside her.
The blond woman told of her son who had fought in Iraq, and, thank God, had gotten out alive. Then the mic was handed to the woman carrying the photograph. As soon as she started talking, she dissolved into tears and kept saying, "My life is over. My son is dead." She was crying so hard it was difficult to understand her. I never did hear her name or her son's name, when he'd been killed or where in Iraq it had happened. That didn't matter. All that mattered was that we were in the presence of such a raw grief that, no matter how committed to peace we'd been before, now we knew why. We were finally seeing and feeling the true cost of war. A mother's pain. Her grief. Her inconsolable loss.
As soon as Lila Lipscomb saw what was happening, she rushed forward to stand beside this woman, to put her arm around her, to be a presence of support, because Lila and her husband know more than anyone except Al Zappala, how it feels to lose your child to war. Ed Rowe stepped down off the stage, stood on the other side of this woman and said, "We need hugs here." Now that may sound too touchy-feely for some, but he was right. Hugs were all that could speak to such depths of pain. Words were useless.
For the next twenty minutes, person after person came forward to hold this sobbing woman, to let her know she was not alone. Tammara Rosenleaf from the bus tour, a woman whose husband is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in November, held her sister for endless moments. Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, the next speaker, stood beside these hugging, sobbing women and said over and over, "No more business as usual! No more business as usual! No more business as usual!" She finished with the cry, "Wake up, America!"
As I write this I am weeping again. My God! When will we wake up? When will the American people say, "Enough already!" I hope it won't take hundreds and thousands more sobbing, grief-stricken mothers before we see what this war on Iraq is costing us. For it's not just OUR loved ones who are dying, it's untold thousands and thousands and thousands of our sisters and brothers in Iraq. Who is giving them wordless hugs of love and support? Who is acknowledging THEIR pain and grief? Who will stop this war and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2005
It's hot again and all I can think about is what 90 degree weather would have felt like down at Camp Casey Detroit. We had so many warm-but-not-hot sunny days during our 21 days there, that us white folks all looked like farmers, with tans that covered our faces and hands and stopped at our biceps. Our companions of color darkened considerably too. I'm as brown as I've ever been.
I miss my friends. Especially Abayomi, Pat, Willie, Jessica, Charles, Cheryl, David, Derek and his daughters Cydney and Kaylan, Andrea, Isis, Ann, Norm, Daniel, William, Vivian, Paul, Allen, Jim, Kevin, Violeta, Kelly, Rosie, Virginia, Marc Anthony, Syria, James, Chuck, Gretchen and the others.
I miss sitting around sharing stories, talking politics, eating yummy food like the pizza and foccacia Avalon Bakery donated to us, drinking refreshing cups of ice tea from the Brown Bean Cafe, going over to the ballpark and football stadium with signs to make a stand for peace, dancing to the Rolling Stones on the sidewalk outside Center Field, participating in rallies and turning the Labor Day Parade into a 47,000-strong anti-war march.
It feels strange to spend my days inside buildings. Even with my scootings around town, it's not the same as being outside 4-6 hours most days, or 10 hours like last Friday.
When I read the news, it's no fun not being able to discuss things with my buddies, to hear their perspectives on what's happening.
Oh my, I knew this would happen--I'm in Camp Casey Detroit withdrawal!
But, thank goodness, I have my pictures to help me recapture the feeling of being there. Let's go back to Friday, Day 19 at Camp Casey Detroit, our next-to-last day and night.
Friday was another of those beautiful sunny days. Most of us moved from sun to shade and back several times during the afternoon. Abayomi, Pat, Allen, Jim, Robert, Jessica and I were the mainstays (photos #1 & #2). We didn't have many visitors, but two women who stopped at our tables were from France and spoke little English. I think Abayomi managed to communicate why we were there even with the language barrier. I know they signed our petition to bring the troops home now.
David and Cheryl joined us after work, David with tables and chairs for the potluck and Cheryl with materials to make a box to hold the postcards she wanted folks to sign and send to the governor of Texas. She was doing everything she could to try to stop Wednesday's scheduled execution of Frances Newton, an African-American woman who is probably innocent.
By 6 PM, people were arriving with dishes to share.
Our reason for having a potluck on Friday was to welcome the bus from Cindy Sheehan's Bring Them Home Now tour when it arrived. We'd been informed they probably wouldn't get to Detroit until 9 PM. But, as with all our Camp Casey Detroit parties, we didn't really need a reason; we just liked being together (photos #1 & #2).
Channel 2, our Detroit-area FOX affliate, came out and interviewed Isis and Abayomi. Surprisingly, Channel 2 was the only TV station to cover Camp Casey Detroit during our 21-day encampment. Actually, they ran three different stories on us. Knowing how conservative the FOX owner, Rupert Murdoch, is, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that Channel 2 in Detroit operates independently from the national FOX networks.
Cydney and Kaylan, Derek's daughters, came to the party and showed their artistic talent and social consciousness in making two important statements--photos #1 & #2--with sidewalk chalk. Well, three if you count their "Camp Casey Detroit Welcomes You" message.
In an earlier entry I told the story of what happened when the bus actually did arrive in the Detroit area, so I won't repeat that here.
And now I've just gotten off the phone with a friend from California. His tendency to whine about the sorry state of affairs in this country drove me a bit crazy tonight. There's no question but that things are falling apart, but why would anyone be surprised? Even more disturbing to me are folks like my friend who moan and groan but do nothing about it. I want to say to them, get out there and DO something! Stewing in your juices does nothing to change things; only action can turn the tide. For each of us, the form that takes will be different. But it is long past time to talk the talk; we need everyone out there walking the walk. There's where you'll find your hope.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2005
This evening I was one of the privileged few hundred (300 were turned away for lack of room) who heard--more like experienced--Dr. Cornel West speak at the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library. He was scheduled to read from his 2004 book, "Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism," but the events of the past weeks coupled his obvious delight at speaking to a predominantly African-American audience in the city he calls, "The Cultural Capitol of Black America" sent him off on an amazing journey into truth-telling, risk-taking and soul-searching that brought forth "Amen!", "Tell it, brother!" and assorted vocal affirmations that reminded me of revivals I used to attend back in the '80s when I was a member of a Black church on Rosa Parks Blvd. in Detroit. His talk was a wondrous mix of revival, political rally and university classroom. What follows are just a few of the words, phrases and sentences I managed to jot down as he spoke:
"It wasn't a big step from the slave ships to the living hell of the Superdome."
"What we have now is Social Darwinism--the survival of the slickest."
Regarding race relations, he said, "Some folks say we've got to build bridges. I say we've got to tell it like it is before we can build any bridges."
"They say we're always playing the race card...Heck, the whole deck is full of them!"
"When it comes my time to go, I want to go with a smile of integrity on my face."
Speaking of the youth, he said, "What would America look like if the creativity in their music were brought to the struggle for justice!"
"If there's a fundamental flaw among Black Americians and Americans at large, it's that we don't have enough people of courage."
He was saying that it does no good if he just struts around Princeton showing off. "Peacocks strut because they can't fly. We come from a people who fly!"
"What we need is leadership with no ego; leaders willing to say, 'I decrease as the movement increases."
Speaking of the history of slavery, he said, "The Union won the war. The Confederacy won the peace."
"Today's young folk ask 'Where are the examples of greatness?' They don't see greatness; they see success. If you're successful, I ask, 'What are you using your success for?"
"I say take [your history] out of the books and take it to the streets!"
"The tradition I'm talking about has to do with hope. Not optimism, but hope. They're totally different."
He spoke of the brutal murder of 14 year-old Emmett Till and his mother's courageous insistence that people see it like it was, how 50,000 people filed by Emmett's casket that his mother insisted remain open. He told of her refusal to hate and seek revenge, her saying,"I don't have a minute to hate. I'll pursue justice for the rest of my life." Dr. West said that was how we in America needed to respond to examples of violent hatred like those we experienced on September 11, 2001.
When asked about the risks to him personally of speaking truth, he answered, "Freedom is not free." He then told of the death threats he receives and the time his wife had a gun put to her head. He finished by saying, "Some of us must love enough to be willing to die."
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
For the past weeks, I've been discerning about whether or not I should cancel out of a Joanna Macy weekend retreat for which I'd already registered and paid, and go to Washington, DC for the massive End The War Now! mobilization on the same weekend. I went back and forth countless times before finally deciding I HAD to be in DC on September 24th. If I weren't, I think I'd regret it for as long as I live.
NOW is the time, and DC is the place! With the American people finally waking up to their president's disastrous priorities and policies, we peace folk must lead the way and show them they are not alone. If a million people discend on our nation's capitol on September 24th, our fellow citizens and the world community will know we mean business. It is time to stand up and be counted.
When I looked at our kids in art today, I knew I'd made the right decision. For these children of Arab heritage who, in the majority of cases, are devout Moslems, are the ones most at risk in Bush's war on Iraq, and in his sabour-rattling toward Iran and Syria. These beautiful, loving children who are innocents in the truest sense of the word.
It is for them that I go to Washington, DC. And urge you to do the same.
Even if you've never demonstrated publicly before, dare to do it now. Let our country and the world know by your presence that you do NOT support George W. Bush's imperialistic ambitions and actions, that you are appalled at his callous disregard of the needs of our country, especially our most vulnerable, especially the poor, sick and suffering people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Let's turn this country around and become who we are capable of being...a people who choose protection of the weak at home over destruction of the weak abroad. Silent no more! It is time for our voices to be heard.
Please come up and say Hi when you see me on the Mall on Saturday, September 24th.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2005
What follows is a forwarded email I received today from a friend:
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2005 16:28:22 -0400
From: John Woodford <email@example.com>
Subject: a survivor's story: Katrina in New Orleans
i heard from my aunt last night that my cousin Denise made it out of New Orleans; she's at her brother's in Baton Rouge. from what she told me: her mother, a licensed practical nurse, was called in to work on Sunday night at Memorial Hospital (historically known as Baptist Hospital to those of us from N.O.). Denise decided to stay with her mother, her niece and grandniece (who is 2 years old); she figured they'd be safe at the hospital.
They went to Baptist, and had to wait hours to be assigned a room to sleep in; after they were finally assigned a room, two white nurses suddenly arrived after the cut-off time (time to be assigned a room), and Denise and her family were booted out; their room was given up to the new nurses. Denise was furious, and rather than stay at Baptist, decided to walk home (several blocks away) to ride out the storm at her mother's apartment. Her mother stayed at the hospital.
she described it as the scariest time in her life. 3 of the rooms in the apartment (there are only 4) caved in. ceilings caved in, walls caved in. she huddled under a mattress in the hall. she thought she would die from either the storm or a heart attack. After the storm passed, she went back to Baptist to seek shelter (this was Monday). it was also scary at Baptist; the electricity was out, they were running on generators, there was no air conditioning.
Tuesday the levees broke, and water began rising. they moved patients upstairs, saw boats pass by on what used to be streets. they were told that they would be evacuated, that buses were coming. then they were told they would have to walk to the nearest intersection, Napoleon and S. Claiborne, to await the buses. They waded out in hip-deep water, only to stand at the intersection, on the neutral ground (what y'all call the median) for 3 1/2 hours. the buses came and took them to the Ernest Morial Convention Center. (yes, the convention center you've all seen on TV.)
Denise said she thought she was in hell.
they were there for 2 days, with no water, no food. No shelter. Denise, her mother (63 years old), her niece (21 years old), and 2-year-old grandniece. When they arrived, there were already thousands of people there. They were told that buses were coming. Police drove by, windows rolled up, thumbs up signs. National guard trucks rolled by, completely empty, soldiers with guns cocked and aimed at them. nobody stopped to drop off water. a helicopter dropped a load of water, but all the bottles exploded on impact due to the height of the helicopter.
the first day (Wednesday) 4 people died next to her. the second day (Thursday) 6 people died next to her. Denise told me the people around her all thought they had been sent there to die. again, nobody stopped. The only buses that came were full; they dropped off more and more people, but nobody was being picked up and taken away. they found out that those being dropped off had been rescued from rooftops and attics; they got off the buses delirious from lack of water and food. completely dehydrated. the crowd tried to keep them all in one area; Denise said the new arrivals ha mostly lost their minds. they had gone crazy.
inside the convention center, the place was one huge bathroom. in order to shit, you had to stand in other people's shit. the floors were black and slick with shit. most people stayed outside because the smell was so bad. but outside wasn't much better: between the heat, the humidity, the lack of water, the old and very young dying from dehydration... and there was no place to lay down, not even room on the sidewalk. They slept outside Wednesday night, under an overpass.
Denise said yes, there were young men with guns there. but they organized the crowd. they went to Canal Street and "looted," and brought back food and water for the old people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. when the police rolled down windows and yelled out "the buses are coming," the young men with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children next, men in the back. Just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities of who got out first.
Denise said the fights she saw between the young men with guns were fist fights. she saw them put their guns down and fight rather than shoot up the crowd. but she said that there were a handful of people shot in the convention center; their bodies were left inside, along with other dead babies and old people.
Denise said the people thought there were being sent there to die. lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. Cops passing by, speeding off. national guard rolling by with guns aimed at them. And yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all. She saw a young man who had stolen a car speed past, cops in pursuit; he crashed the car, got out and ran, and the cops shot him in the back. in front of the whole crowd. She saw many groups of people decide that they were going to walk across the bridge to the west bank, and those same groups would return, saying that they were met at the top of the bridge by armed police ordering them to turn around, that they weren't allowed to leave. so they all believed they were sent there to die.
Denise's niece found a pay phone, and kept trying to call her mother's boyfriend in Baton Rouge, and finally got through and told him where they were. the boyfriend, and Denise's brother, drove down from Baton Rouge and came and got them. they had to bribe a few cops, and talk a few into letting them into the city ("come on, man, my 2-year-old niece is at the Convention Center!"), then they took back roads to get to them.
after arriving at my other cousin's apartment in Baton Rouge, they saw the images on TV, and couldn't believe how the media was portraying the people of New Orleans. she kept repeating to me on the phone last night: make sure you tell everybody that they left us there to die. nobody came. those young men with guns were protecting us. if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have had the little water and food they had found.
that's Denise Moore's story.
Lisa C. Moore
Executive Editor, Michigan Today
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1399
SIGN UP NOW!! for the new Michigan Today
monthly online publication--the News-e
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2005
And we thought it was ugly during the disaster in New Orleans! Wait till you see the underside of our nation, as Cornel West calls it, that's coming to the surface now.
The parallels between Bush's preemptive war on Iraq and the subsequent U.S. "reconstruction" of that country, and the Katrina "rescue" efforts in New Orleans and its planned "reconstruction" are impossible to ignore. Racist, classist, militaristic, with contracts already going to Halliburton, Bechtel and other "giants" of the Iraqi reconstruction, not to mention Blackwater mercenary security contractors now patrolling the streets of New Orleans with the authority to use lethal force.
And guess who President George W. Bush has appointed to head the reconstruction efforts in New Orleans: his right-hand man, Karl Rove. Yes, Karl Rove! When I read that bit of information online last night--NY Times Sept. 15 edition, "Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech"--I fired off the following letter to the editor of the New York Times:
Now let me get this straight: our President is so concerned about "building a better New Orleans" that he has appointed Karl Rove to head the reconstruction.
Is this the same Karl Rove who is--or was, until Hurricane Katrina and Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee Roberts captured the headlines--the same man being investigated for outting an undercover CIA agent for spite?
As far as I can tell, the only reconstruction efforts Karl Rove has headed have had to do with reconstructing his employer's image into one the voters would find more attractive. Lots of style and little substance.
Does this appointment mean Mr. Rove is above the law because he's now in a position of such importance to our nation? Is no one else appalled at the chutzpah being displayed here, or have the media and our people become so inured to the Bush administration's version of "Through the Looking Glass" that they think up is down and down is up.
After all they have been through, the people of New Orleans deserve better than this political charade. For shame, Mr. Bush.
And today I read a transcript of Amy Goodman's September 16th "Democracy Now!" radio show, and discover the "underside" isn't even bothering to try to cover itself in platitudes.
According to Jeremy Scahill, Demcracy Now! producer and correspondent who has been in New Orleans and Baton Rouge this past week, the rich-and-powerful businessmen of New Orleans have "an overt agenda to change the racial makeup of the city, the economic makeup of the city." As Jeremy says, "This is has everything to do with class and everything to do with race, and it's very, very frightening." It may be interesting to note that many of these wealthy businessmen are major Republican campaign donors.
But, here, read it for yourself:
From DEMOCRACY NOW!...
Friday, September 16th, 2005
"The Militarization of New Orleans: Jeremy Scahill Reports from Louisiana"
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you have been seeing, who you've been talking to this week?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, in the days that have passed, the week or so since you were here this past weekend, we have seen a real increase in the militarization of the city. It's turned into a much greater state of lockdown. You have more military checkpoints set up. You have less of a civilian presence in large parts of the city and much more of a military presence. I mean in fact, I still have only seen one FEMA vehicle, the entire time I have been here. That wasn't even staffed. It was just a FEMA vehicle parked on a median near the Hyatt hotel where the main headquarters is of the so-called Operational Emergency Command of the military and various branches of the government coordinating their so-called disaster response. But there are soldiers all over the city. What's incredible is that you see them doing almost nothing. They're either just standing around or sitting around. There's very little work being done by the military. You do see units like the 82nd airborne patrolling the streets. It looks like the aftermath of a massacre or war zone where you have soldiers patrolling around. You also see a tremendous increase in the number of private security contractors who have arrived on the scene. Read the entire transcript...
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2005
This weekend I had two opportunities to gather with women I love.
On Friday night Janice, Marti, Lisa, Jessi and I held our first Writers' Group meeting here at my house. These were four of the nineteen women who'd met at Anya Achtenberg's and Demetria Martinez's writers' workshop at Leaven Center in July. Our first meeting was superb, with opportunities to read our writing and receive helpful feedback, to discuss current affairs, and share what's been going on in our lives. We plan to meet the second Friday of every month, alternating between my house in the Detroit area and Lisa's apartment in Lansing. We anticipate seeing more of our sisters from the writers' workshop at future meetings.
Today, Peg and Jeanne hosted their annual Autumn Equinox gathering on their land out in the country. We began at 2 PM with a time to write about Gaia, the earth. I offered the writing prompts and Peg, Jeanne, Penny, Pauline and I wrote for a half hour. When we read aloud to one another, the response was very positive. Judy and Maggie joined us for our favorite group writing project, where we start with a commonly-agreed upon first sentence, then pass the paper around the circle with each woman adding a sentence. Amazing things happen!
As we were finishing our writing Kathy arrived, and then Lisa and Nancy surprised us by having come all the way from the "thumb" area of Michigan to join us. We sat in our circle of chairs under the black walnut tree and talked. While we talked, Penny played her dulcimer which she insisted on calling "background music" and we called glorious.
Before filling our plates with the yummy food everyone had brought, Peg led the the able-bodied among us on a short hike to see the endangered species we've grown to love, the Bottled Blue Gentian. She took photos with my camera so I could see it too, and even found a caterpillar who was willing to pose as it prepared to eat a tasty green leaf.
After dinner we moved to the fire circle where Jeanne introduced us to the Old Wild Crone natural sculpture she's created to help celebrate her 70th birthday in October. Maggie and Pauline , who have long passed that marking, especially appreciated it.
Jeanne facilitated our Autumn Equinox ritual, and in response to a question she posed, I found a ripe apple on a tree that symbolized the abundance I've experienced in this past year. As the fire rose and the darkness gathered round, we sang chants and old camp songs.
Just before I left to go home, the full moon made its appearance over the trees beyond the pond. Now I know why they call it a harvest moon; it was so bright you could see clearly by its light.
Yes, my life is as ripe as an apple on a tree and as bright as a harvest moon. Gratitude is my constant companion.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2005
Well, this isn't quite the last rose of summer, but it's close. Do you find yourself feeling guilty when you see such beauty, knowing that the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are seeing horrors not beauty? I do. I guess they call it survivor's guilt. So how do we live with the paradox of knowing that beauty and horror exist side-by-side?
To me the most important thing is to recognize the impermanence of everything around us. For instance, I am no longer comfortable calling anyone "homeless." For instance, I am no longer comfortable calling anyone "homeless." Just as we disabled folks call our non-disabled sisters and brothers "temporarily able-bodied" or TAB, the same holds true for being housed as opposed to being not-housed. Some of us are "temporarily housed", and others aren't.
I've heard it said that a large percentage of our American population is within two mortage payments or rental checks of no longer having a roof over their heads. In most cases it has nothing to do with an individual's work ethic, dependability or sense of responsibility whether or not they are housed. And it doesn't have to be a disaster like Hurricane Katrina and the failure of our government to mount proper rescue operations either; it can be as simple as being laid off because the company you work for is in bad financial straits, or simply wants to maximize their profits by reducing their employee base, and/or is moving to a country where their costs will be less.
In Detroit that happens all the time. Our official unemployment rate is 15.9%, and that says nothing about the vast numbers of our folks who are working minimum pay jobs with no health care or benefits. Is this their fault? Absolutely not. Detroit has just been named the poorest major city in the United States. Of course, that was before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Yet, as was true in New Orleans, the people most affected by this awful work situation are the very ones who can't afford to leave town to find a better job market, even if they wanted to. So what do we do?
We must change the system. Our version of capitalism benefits the rich not the poor. Our president, a rich son of a rich father and grandfather, will never understand that the system that has always benefited him and his friends and acquaintances, will NEVER benefit those lower down on the economic and social scale. It is the whole SYSTEM we need to change, not just our leaders. There are NO poor people in national politics. Everyone who governs sees things through the lens of entitlement. It works for them, they say, so why won't it work for everyone if they just work hard enough.
Have you known anyone who works 2-3 jobs just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads and the heads of their family? Do you think George W. Bush works anywhere near as hard as these unsung heroes?
I guess I've gotten off my original topic, but maybe not. If you and I happen to be surrounded by beauty instead of horror, let us never see that as a "given." Even as we stop to smell the roses, we must be working to change the system that gave us access to those flowers instead of bloated bodies floating in flooded streets. We must never rest on our assumptions, but always push the edges of our awareness and comfort zone.
We are ONE people the world over. What happens to you happens to me, and vice versa. Just counting our own blessings is not good enough; we must find ways to see that ALL people share a sense of being blessed not cursed. May it be so.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2005
Carol from Massachusetts posted a comment on my blog that yesterday's entry put her in mind of Denise Levertov's poem, "Concurrence," from her 1982 collection Candles in Babylon. Here is the poem:
Each day's terror, almost
a form of boredom--madmen
at the wheel and
stepping on the gas and
the brakes no good--
and each day one,
sometimes two, morning-glories,
faultless, blue, blue sometimes
flecked with magenta, each
lit from within with
the first sunlight.
I also heard from Rima from San Francisco who had the following to say about yesterday's reflections:
Amen, sister, except for one thing. A lot of people in this country lost their jobs when they were laid off by companies that were not in bad financial straits, but instead were bloated with profits. The executives and boards of directors who run these companies wanted to bloat their profits even further, and the easiest way to do that was to get rid of thousands of employees or move their operations to other countries, where desperate people will work for pennies a day. Your fellow Michigander, Michael Moore, has made a big point of this in his films and books.
As the bumper sticker says, "If you think the system is working, ask someone who isn't."
I have revised yesterday's entry to reflect Rima's well-taken points.
Where would I be without you readers? Thanks for keeping me on the path to truth...
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2005
Southeastern Michigan was treated to an absolutely perfect last day of summer. I think of Denise Levertov as I hear about the evacuations in Louisiana and Texas. May Hurricane Rita surprise everyone and spin off into the Gulf without doing any damage.
The following article comes as no surprise to those of us who were down at Camp Casey Detroit as 47,000 union workers and their families marched by in the Labor Day Parade. No wonder they were so open to our message and eagerly waved the "No War" signs we passed out by the dozens. We should also not be surprised that the mainstream media has kept this anti-war sentiment and official resolution passed at the AFL-CIO convention quiet. It bodes ill for the continuation of Bush's war(s).
Labor and the Iraq War
Written by Charlotte Dennett
Monday, 19 September 2005
There's an old adage among investigative journalists: if you want to know what's really going on, ask the workers.
If you want to know what's really going on in Iraq - to American soldiers, to their families back home, to Iraqi women - read this column, and learn what I did at the historic AFL-CIO convention held this summer in Chicago.
If you find yourself hesitating, your mind's eye imagining a smoke-filled room full of union toughs battling over issues that have no relevance to your life, believe me: this convention defied all stereotypes.
Predictably, the mainstream media would have you believe that the only thing that happened at the convention was negative: the much anticipated (and widely decried) walkout and disaffiliation, before the convention began, of two of the nation's largest unions, the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters. True, the defection cast a temporary pall over the AFL-CIO's 50th anniversary celebration. But something else happened that caused the remaining 2,000 delegates to stand tall and walk with a spring in their step. For the first time in the history of the trade union movement, they voted nearly unanimously to break with the federal government over a foreign war while it was still being fought. They passed a strongly worded resolution against the war in Iraq, and demanded that American troops be brought home, not merely "as soon as possible," but "rapidly." And rapidly, according to one of the makers of the motion, was to be interpreted as "immediately."
"Our soldiers," the resolution read in part, "come from America's working families. They are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our husbands and wives. They deserve to be properly equipped with protective body gear and up-armored vehicles. And they deserve leadership that fully values their courage and sacrifice. Most importantly, they deserve a commitment from our country's leaders to bring them home rapidly. An unending military presence will waste lies and resources, undermine our nation's security and weaken our military."
The mainstream press did not cover the resolution, even though the convention hall erupted with cheers and applause when it passed with resounding "ayes" and only one "no." I asked the New York Times reporter why he neglected it. "The AFL-CIO isn't as important as it used to be," he replied smugly, then confessed, perhaps realizing that his comment belied why he was there at the convention, "and besides, my editors told me to focus on the split." continue reading article...
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2005
Lisa, Jessi and I will be on the road in Sojourner, my wheelchair-accessible minivan, on our way to DC by 9 AM tomorrow (Friday) morning. As you know if you're a regular reader, I'd already paid for a retreat this weekend with the environmental visionary, Joanna Macy, to be held here in the Detroit/Flint area. But, as the time grew closer, I couldn't NOT go to Washington, DC for this weekend's massive anti-war mobilization. Not in good conscience, anyway. So I was able to give my retreat reservation to a wonderful ecological woman warrior with whom I sing in the Gaia group, and happily found two women in my newly-formed writers' group who wanted to drive with me to DC, so it's all happening.
By the way, I've made three signs: 1) For the front of my scooter basket is a sign that says "ENOUGH ALREADY" in large black letters surrounded by smaller red letters spelling out "Iraq", New Orleans, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, U.S. Patriot Act, Kyoto"; 2) A larger two-sided sign on a pole that says on one side, "Camp Casey Detroit says Bring Them Home NOW!", and on the other is a drawing of two eyes looking out with the words, "Look Around You--See our Power".
Hope to see you there!
Published on Thursday, September 22, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
See You There This Weekend
End the war on Iraq! Sept. 24-26 Washington DC
Three days of Mass action
by Janet Bates
"Come gather round people where ever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone if your time to you is worth saving"
-- Bob Dylan
"There comes a time when silence is betrayal"
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
That time has come with regards the Iraq war. It is time for every man woman and child to take to the streets and say enough is enough! Far too many people have died needlessly in a war that to date, no-one has given a satisfactory reason for. This was made blaringly obvious this summer, when President Bush was unable to answer Cindy Sheehan's seemingly straightforward question, "Why did my son die?" "What was this noble cause you talk about?"
That question above all must be answerable, if not; the war has no noble cause.
Now the war must end. It has no noble cause. Bush's silence has made that clear.
If you feel that a war should only be ever fought for the noblest cause, then you better get out this weekend and say so. There will never be a better time. There may never be another time, period. Your rights have changed. Come out and join us to end the war in Iraq. If you cannot make it to Washington, there are events all over the US, just go to www.unitedforpeace.org and search for an event close to you.
It is possible. I believe that there is a critical number that will be hard for him to ignore.
That number needs to get out this weekend and make a stand!
To end, I feel that Arlo Guthrie put it best in Alice's restaurant:
"And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant." And walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement."
And friends, that is what it is, it is the movement to end the war in Iraq, and it is happening this Saturday Sept 24th in a city near you. Be there!
For more information, go to www.unitedforpeace.org.
Janet Bates is a singer/songwriter headed from her home in Oregon towards Washington, DC. www.janetbates.com
© 2005 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.
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