Awesome Laramie peace folks
I’ve joined a group of over 20 awesome Laramie folks who are vigiling on the busiest street corner in their maybe 10 block downtown. They've been here for the past 3 1/2 years every Friday evening from 4:45-5:15p.m. Everyone knows I’m a fair-weather protestor but these folks are true troupers, standing in the rain, the icy snow, the winds that will blow a lesser woman than I across the bold mountains & back. And the wind is blowing, the sun is shining, but it is not warm.
After the vigil, some of us are going to Sweet Melissa’s, a vegetarian restaurant a couple blocks away at the other edge of downtown to eat & have a CodePINK meeting. I want to hear about Laramie & I want to talk about Women Say ENOUGH! BASTA!
As I begin to unfurl my "women say enough" banner & join the vigilers, a young white man comes up to me & asks me if I bothered to leave a note on someone’s car. No, I say momentarily baffled for this time my denial is factual, whose car I enquire? He claims I hit one of the cars as I was parallel parking. I laugh, thinking he is one of the crowd left open-mouthed trying to swallow their words as I smoothly parked my truck into a small space they claimed I couldn't womanage to back into! He points out the flashers on this car as proof I hit it, when in fact the car, parked in the red zone behind my truck, always had flashers on.
I mention this fellow & my truck because all through-out the vigil and later in the evening when I run into these fellows, they are obsessed with my expert parking job - they just can't let it go!
This young man is joined by several others of his ilk. One holds an opened pizza box, empty inside but for grease and a clump of cheese, up over his head. He has written “I have stock in Haliburton” in big letters on the white side of the box with grease stains seeping thru, & stands behind us as we vigil.
His friends are carrying on, laughing, taking his picture – taking our pictures & I’m not quite sure what he means – so I ask him, ‘what’s with the sign?’ besides the fact that he doesn't know how to spell halliburton!
He claims he is military, has been to Iraq & is looking forward to going back because he LOVES the money. He tells me he will do whatever his government tells him to do, especially when they are paying so well for him to do it. Nancy points out to him that a driver for Halliburton makes 3 times what he makes in the service. Mike, his friends call him, claims he doesn't care, they should! He just cares about how much he makes.
I attempt to engage him in a conversation, but he first refuses, not looking at me, shifting from foot to foot, insisting he doesn’t want to debate me, he just wants to stand there. I tell him I’m interested in a conversation, in understanding where he is coming from, why he has joined us this evening, why he just wants to stand there.
Other peace vigilers chime in. We do not get very far. Every time he doesn’t want to answer a question - like did he have to shoot women or children in Iraq? - he claims rhetoric - as in I'm speaking rhetoric. I point this out to him. He finally belligerently lets us know that his dad is the leading water expert in Iraq. The vigilers go crazy with that knowledge, citing facts & figures about the horrid water conditions in Iraq.
I try to get him to explain, what does that mean his father is the water expert - does it mean Iraq citizens have clean water? He finally grudgingly admits that people in Iraq do not have water – but he rushes to say, they’re still better off than under Hussein. I can tell he comprehends the present horrific state of water in Iraq & our hand in it.
It is interesting to see the protesters attempt interact with these young men. One of the oldest protesters, Paul, is a WWII vet who is pushing 80-something. He is also one of the organizers that sometimes stands on the corner with the other organizer Nancy when no one else shows up – probably in hurricane-speed winds & knee deep snow & ice! But they are there!
Paul assumes Mike is one of us and his sign is one of sarcasm. He invites the young man to join us every Friday. I push Mike on the issue of following orders. I ask him if soldiers under Hitler might have felt exactly as he does. He snorts & says I cannot compare our government & this war in Iraq with Hitler. I say I'm comparing how soldiers felt about their government & how he feels about our government? He grabs the rhetoric card.
Nancy demands to know if the government orders him to kill his mother would he? The young man answers back in the same defiant vein, 'yes I would' - either defiant or he hates his mother still! Interesting enough, Mike doesn't like bush & does not see him as the government. I ask is he not the comander in chief? He tells me, "see, that's your rhetoric!" hmmmm
Nancy, a 20 some year veteran herself, has given up on trying to communicate with him. He has challenged her myriad of military badges that she sports above her heart, and demands to know where the Vietnam one is. She tells him she entered the service towards the end of the war against Vietnam & she didn't get sent there, being female & not a nurse - unlike today.
Nancy has contacted the peace activists of Laramie & has gotten them out to meet me in less than 24 hours! They are quite a community of determined peace activists, and their numbers are growing - as is the positive response to them on this busy street corner!
And the negative response to them is dwindling. Nancy told me the story of how the owner of the bar at the corner on which we were vigiling, came out a couple of times, furious with their presence. He had tried to get the police to remove them. The police had refused! This same owner purchased a banner that Nancy claims was at least 8' tall, 4 times larger than the largest sign the vigilers had. She couldn't remember what the banner said, but she did remember when people commented to the owner about how they saw him vigiling & didn't realize he stood against the war - that was the last time he joined them!
I was able to speak with about 10 activists at dinner about CP & coming to D.C. One of their members had been planning on going anyway. I’m hoping two others might come – they are seriously considering it.
A couple of folks who already decided not to come to D.C. donated some cash and another woman, whom I HOPE will come to D.C. treated me to dinner!!!
Kate opened her home to me & I'm spending the nite warm & cozy in a little 100 year old house in the peace zone of Laramie – all the neighbors on that block are peace activists & some of them vigil 3 times a week! Like Nancy said, you can feel the beautiful energy in the peace zone they’ve created for themselves in the middle of cowboy & cheney country!
Which by the way, has the cheapest gas prices thus far – pays to have a v.p. from your state when oil companies are gluttening all over the u.s.!