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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Monday, September 13, 2004

Permission, permission, permission

I thought we were thru with Mississippi - it was near dark by the time we left Columbus and headed west for Arkansas. Passing thru Starkville, we notice on the other side of the freeway floodlights shining over the bleachers and field with a “Mississippi State” sign and quickly made a u-turn to head toward them. We found the stadium empty but the parking lot near another building full - so off we headed to park the truck in a conspicuous location.
We approached the building hoping it was a student center and found it was an immense, modern, state-of-the-art gym! Even though it was after 9:00, a steady trickle of students were coming and going.
We grabbed our codePINK materials and voter reg cards and began asking students if they were registered to vote. Lots of students were already registered, some were registered in their home states, but way too many were not registered and never had register. We registered folks until we ran outta cards! It was awesome. We handed out lots of codePINK info as well.
As we were registering voters and handing out info, a young male police officer approached and asked if we were soliciting anything. We said “Hell yes, george bush's removal from office!'
He laughed and said he would sure join us in that!
When we'd registered about three quarters of our forms, a young white football type fellow stomped by, his face a stormy mess. About twenty feet down the sidewalk before he entered the building he turned back and shouted "Do you have a decal to park on this campus?"
I looked around and then innocently questioned him "Are you talking to me?"
He impatiently repeated his question. I asked him which car was he talking about as I gestured vaguely to a line of cares. “I see lots of cars without decals. Which one are you talking about?”
Then he changed his question to: "Do you have permission to set foot on this campus?"
I asked him to please come join us so we can have a conversation without yelling across sidewalk. He huffed something like “Hell no” and then threatened to call the police and report us as he disappeared inside the double glass doors.
 We continued registering voters. When we ran out of forms, I went inside to borrow a stapler. Here in Mississippi, the voter reg forms had to be zeroxed in the clerk's office! Then you have to figure out which county a person resides in; AND you have to have a STAMP to mail the card in - after you've written a return address on it as well the county courthouse address.
I approached the security desk and asked for a stapler, which they gladly gave me. As I was stapling, I heard a voice booming behind me: "Do you have permission to park that truck on this campus?" I turned to see another police officer – this one older, white with about an eight month belly hanging over his belt – approaching me.
"Which truck could that be?" I enquired.
Then he asked me if I had the dean of students approval to solicit on campus. I told him I was not soliciting anything - I was registering voters. He told me I needed the dean's permission. I asked him since when did anyone need permission to register voters anywhere in this democracy? He ignored me and said I had to move my truck and leave the campus unless the dean of students has given me permission to be there. I asked him “Are you 100% sure I need the deans permission to register voters in a democracy?”
Into his prolonged silence I asked him “Why are you really here?”
I told him we had already spoken with another police officer who didn't have a problem. He said he had a problem with me parking my truck where I did. I told him there were other trucks also parked there and did he have a problem with those trucks. He claimed he didn't see any other trucks to which I responded, hands on hips, head slightly tilted “Interesting.”
 By this time, the young people behind the desk were laughing out loud and several other students, both Black and white, had come closer. I told this police officer “I know what this is about: it is about the message painted on my truck urging us to get rid of bush and his regime.”
I told him if I had the young republicans painted on my truck he would have never approached me. But I was leaving anyway - I was finished.
We left – content. As we got to the truck, someone (probably the young white football-type) printed a sign that said "I see your plates are from California - why don't you go back there?" Ha!
But MOST of the students were so happy to see us, took lots of info, and pledged to vote against bush and get their friends and classmates to join them!

A governor's pardon...only

We left Alabama and entered Mississippi, eyes peeled for the psychic reader who had advertised on a huge billboard in Alabama, stating she was just across the border into Mississippi. We were really curious about how she could survive in the land of churches and 'christian' billboards and 'jesus is coming' signs that populate the road as densely as deciduous  trees in a summer forest – which are pretty dense in Alabama! We couldn't find her so we continued into Columbus, Mississippi. We see a sign from the highway directing us to the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus so we search for students instead of psychics.
The first thing we see approaching the campus is the american flag and confederate flag hanging side-by-side. We learn that Mississippi is the only southern state that retained the confederate flag as its state flag. Once on campus, we search for voter registration forms – not one office, organization, or person on this campus has voter registration forms. We go to the county court house and I request voter registration forms for the campus. The white womon there informs me that because the students are only here for four fuckin' years, she expects they'll vote absentee ballet from their own state - she wishes probably! She told me I would have to go to Jackson to get more registration forms. An African American womon gets up, takes a form and tells me she is going to make me copies, as I’m waiting,
I see some voter registration forms that I casually pick up. When she returns, I add the copies to my find. I notice the form says that if you have a felony, you can't vote. I ask about this and she copies me a memo from the special attorney general that asks them to do the Florida thing, which is purge the names of all individuals who have been convicted of the following crimes: arson, armed robbery, bigamy, bribery, embezzlement, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, forgery, larceny, murder, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, rape, receiving stolen property, robbery, theft, timber larceny, unlawful taking of motor vehicle. Then someone wrote in 'statutory rape' and 'car jacking'.
Are there any crimes left to be convicted of? Violence against womyn and children? And men of color? Oh no, not on the list.
The voter registration forms adds a line about voting if you've had your rights restored as required by law, so I’m thinking, maybe this means after you've done your time. I called the secretary general to have it explained to me and he thought it meant if you were pardoned by the governor. I asked “So what if you've served your sentence?” He said no, that if you were convicted of any of these crimes you could not vote unless the governor has commuted your sentence. I asked if he was 100% sure, being in the secretary state's office and he said he wasn't!
We went back to the school and began asking wimmin to register to vote. We registered a young womon who was turning 18 on Wednesday and hadn't planned on voting. She had a 6 month old child, 17 units of classes and felt too busy to vote. And she wasn't interested but as we talked it became obvious she was not only interested but cared very deeply. She was concerned about bush and what he was doing to our young people in this war and in this country. We talked about absentee voting, which she had never heard of. She took us to talk with one of her professors, a white womon teaching english and wimmin's studies. As we were talking yet another young womon, white this time, came running up, hugging us and saying she saw the truck and it made her feel soooooo much better. We talked about CodePINK and they both promised to check out the web site and look into starting a CodePINK on campus! Yeah!!!!
We stayed on campus registering students until all our forms were gone.

The Lord Will Take Care of Them...

Pulling into the camp ground last nite, the white womon taking our money didn't want to talk politics. She was registered to vote and was going to vote but she didn't want to talk about it!
As we set up camp, we heard a male voice from some site across the way yell "Love your truck!"
This a.m., two older males – one Black, one white – greeted us joyfully. One was the park ranger, the other another park employee. Both of them said they were so glad to see us, they thought bush was evil but they didn't have much hope that we'll defeat him. The ranger spoke of the last governor's 'election' in Alabama, saying it was just like bush's 'victory'. He said he went to bed knowing the democrat governor had won and then got up the next morning hearing the attorney general had decided the republican governor had won. He said this attorney general threatened to jail anyone who challenged the vote count!
Both men talked about the fear of losing their jobs, and the jobs that have already been lost by their neighbors, friends, relatives. They talked of the state of the world and their concerns about the world we are leaving to their grandchildren. They saw clearly how bush lied and manipulated not just his way into office, but his way into war and destroying our economy and quality of life.
Later we took a swim and met a white Alabaman man, a bit younger, who echoed the sentiment that bush is evil and needs to be defeated. He said he wanted to do something to help. We suggested he could find at least 5 people, especially wimmin, who are not registered to vote and get them to register. He promised he would.

Off to Echola, Alabama – Rae's choice – before we head to Reform, Alabama. In Echola, two 2-lane roads intersected with a gas station at one corner, woods and a home on the other corners. This is Echola. As we entered the gas station, we saw many god and christ signs and a rifle printed on a sign emboldened with: “I don't call 911”.
Two older (over 65) white wimmin sat stiffly at the counter. We asked about diesel gas to break the ice. They didn't have any and from their response I thought they wouldn’t sell us any if they did. Then we explained that we were traveling around the country looking for christians so we can talk about what is happening today in our country and our world.
“We don't talk about politics!” they both declared almost in unison. “We never have and we never will” they threaten.
Okay. They told us Echola started off as fox and then was changed to Echola. About 100 people lived there, mostly retired folks. The young people didn't want to farm anymore and went off to the cities. They talked about how there wasn't any money in it for them so Rae asked if this was not talking about politics. They vigorously shook their heads and said no.
They claimed they didn't care about what was happening in the rest of the country or world. And I’m sorry to say I believed them.
One womon reported she had health insurance because her husband had a business and got them great coverage. I asked her if she was concerned about the other 45 million americans who did not have health coverage and she said “No, the lord will take care of them.”
Okay. I asked again, now that they seemed warmed up and eager to talk, if either one of them was willing to talk about what they see is christian about bush. They both said a resounding “No!”
One womon said she had raised 4 children and was taking life easy and didn't think she was capable of contributing to politics. In fact, she thought wimmin had no business in politics, that we should leave it up to the men. “It has always been that way, here in Echola, and it will always be that way,” she unequivocally states, eliciting a huge smile and energetic nodding from her companion.
Leaving Echola, we drove about 8 miles to a gas station. There a prominently displayed large sign said: "Get your path straight - jesus is king".
I asked the skinny, hunched and shriveled although formerly tall elderly white man there if he was the one who put that sign up. He could barely hear and his hands shook as he talked with us. He declared it had been there forever, before he bought the station. As I was asking him if he was going to help us pink slip bush, Rae grabbed my arm and whispered “Let's go”. As we got in the truck, she pointed out the gun sticking out of his pants pocket! That was scary.
Off to Reform, Alabama – a city with more than a gas station and grocery store - although not much more. It looked like probably about three streets of businesses, including one main street that we walked up and down registering voters. Reform is an integrated city where we found strong African-american female support for kerry and against bush. These wimmin spoke firmly and loudly about the issues, including sending our children off to die in Iraq, bush's lies and anti-christian behaviors. A couple of wimmin wanted us to go to the tv station to let them know what we were doing. Several wimmin said they were going to pray for us and the success of our cross-country trip!
The white wimmin we spoke with tended to not want to talk, stating they don't know about politics, or stated that they supported bush. When we asked them how come they supported bush, they tended to say because their husbands told them what they needed to know, or they read it in the newspaper or watched the tv. I asked if they thought they were getting good, accurate information in the paper or on tv and they almost always admitted 'no' but they still do not want to talk about it.
We handed out or registered about 5 or 6 folks here in Reform!
We got 2 fuck you's in Alabama, 2 no's, and 9 yeahs!!!!