12/4 who ya gonna call???
I drive my truck into the show among all the other un-painted box trucks, trailers, panel vans, station wagons – whatever people have to haul their treasures to the market to sell. My truck is the only one that has three sides covered with peace and anti-war messages. Alan has always made it a point to welcome me to the market & let me know both me and my truck are valued & appreciated.
I also set up a codepink table in my booth among my treasures. This challenges some shoppers and a few dealers alike. Most people are so very happy to see me – some thank me so solemnly that, except for the noisy neighbors, it feels like we’re in church. Some even tell me ‘god bless you’ which of course I have to say equally ‘lesbians bless you’.
Then there are the few old white men who have a deep problem with me saying what I think – when it conflicts with their world’s view. This Sunday, one of those such men stood grumbling as he glares at the ironing board I have set up in the front of my stall with a big codepink banner draped over it and a sign declaring “sign our petition to bring home our guard”. I am aware of what my brain is generalizing about this fellow – it is my belief to be aware of my generalizations, especially if they are stereotypes – and then to hope for an exception, while making sure I confirm my generalization before I act upon it. There have been times when old white men have acted out of the box – thank goodness. This wasn’t one of those times.
I approach him from the back of my stall, gauging his intent – the closer I get, the more he begins to pace & move his lips, although I can’t hear words escaping. When I'm a couple of feet away, he bolts towards the ironing board exclaiming “our guys are there so you can do this”! He waves an angry arm over the papers sitting on the ironing board & tries to turn his back and march away. I catch up with him and say ‘Wait a minute. Why are you yelling at me & then stalking off? You can’t just yell what you want and then leave. I get a chance to talk too.”
He turns his body slightly towards me, his eyes cast over my left hip & repeats “they’re dying for your freedom”. I try to make deep eye contact with this older man – he is probably in his late 60’s & could have perhaps missed a war or two. Usually such men declare first that they were soldiers. I try to tell him as fervently as I can “I wish that were true – do you think I wouldn’t so appreciate anyone who was fighting for my freedom?” I place my hand over my heart. He has paused and appears to be listening to me. I tell him we’ve been fooled and especially those young soldiers have been fooled. They are over there fighting for bush & his buddies to get richer & richer off Iraqi oil.
He does not believe me. He is shuffling, pacing, trying to leave, to put distance between us. He says ‘that is not true.’ I say ‘I wish it was not true, but it is. Iraqi’s have never been a danger to us.’
I’m having to raise my voice because he is pacing & there’s lots of noise around – folks have paused to listen. He says ‘they attacked us first’. I say again ‘Iraqi’s never attacked us – and even if they did, that means it’s alright for us to bomb the hell out of women and children and men and their land & cities?’
He doesn’t want to hear, this good Christian fellow, not in his Sunday-go-to-meetin’ garb but I’m sure a Christian none the less. He stomps off & throws over his shoulder “who ya gonna call when them tearrists attack again?” “Well, it sure won’t be the National Guard now will it?” I throw back at him.
There’s been another white man, this one slightly younger, calmer, who’s been telling me between strides, not to get stressed out – stress causes disease, I hear him say in my direction as I try to tune him out & focus on the disappearing man. He has mistaken my passion for stress. He takes the first man’s place in my attention as he reassures me I’m doing the right thing & not to let other people stress me out. There it is again. I urge him to go talk with that fellow, after all he might be able to get thru where I couldn’t.
This younger fellow is a follower of eastern religion – he is maintaining a stress-free life so he’s not interested in talking with this older man – he is only interested to telling me I should live a stress-free life & he could show me how. Thankfully there are people in my stall who are interested in prices, so I don’t continue chatting with this fellow. Once I determine he isn’t going to help challenge an old man’s perceptions, I'm able to somewhat graciously accept the support he offers and move on to trying to make some money.
Several vendors approach me at the end of the day, when I'm packing up (I’m one of the last ones to leave), to tell me how much they appreciate my messages & to shake my hand. I’d given out codepink info all day & collected 2 pages of signatures on the petition. Not that many for all the people who came but quite a few for the petition mostly just sitting there. Not bad for a days work! Money & signatures…