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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

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Americans Do Not Get the Real News

We entered Texas this afternoon at Texarkana and drove a little apprehensively to Wichita Falls - after all, this is bush country, or so they say! The last time I was in Texas, only zooming thru the top of the panhandle, folks were very hostile and I got almost as many 'fuck you's' as I did 'yeahs!' so this time, I was very ready for hostility and big old white truck drivers in 10 gallon cowboy hats!
What really happened was Texans were SOOOOOO glad to see us - by the time we hit Wichita Falls, we had 8 yeahs! and not one little f.u. or thumbs down or anything! Were we happy! Then we pulled into starbucks parking lot to see a large group of white Texans hanging outside, sipping drinks at their tables. As we approached, a thirty’s African American male, Bryan, sitting by himself and grinning broadly, loudly welcomed us and raved about our truck and our message. As Bryan spoke, one of the white males in the group of ten or so white people sitting together on his right, stated he liked the truck too but he was voting for bush.
I expressed my amazement, saying most of the time bush supporters are not so polite and friendly. He seemed astonished by that, so I told him about getting my tires slashed, my truck graffitied, getting run off the road, and other male behaviors like grabbing crotches and baring asses. Another white male from that group turned around and asked "Well, do you really think bush orchestrated the terrorist attack?"
Before I could respond, another young man spoke up, identifying himself as from Lebanon, and declared “americans do not get the real news. Fair and accurate news reporting happens in my country and other countries, but not in this one.”
He went on in a firm voice, loud enough for all to hear, “I cannot understand why this is.” Then he identified himself as military, in the army! The other man of color let out a whoop and said so was he - army also!
I addressed my answer to the question to the whole group: "I think bush used the attack on the trade towers as an excuse to bomb Iraq. I think the president took advantage this tragedy and our fears and sorrows to garner support for his 'pre-emptive' war. I think he lied deliberately to further his own agenda - and I think he'll do it again."
One of the inside workers came out smiling and kindly let us know he was waiting for us to order so he could close! Saying we'll be right back and to hold that thought, we got our drinks – on the manager! – and returned to find all the white folks had fled - only our 2 soldiers were left to discuss the president and what will happen.
The older man told us he was a career army guy, formerly stationed in Germany and he had not been sent to the middle east. For this he was so grateful. His wife was as against bush as he was! The younger fellow told us how torn he felt, being raised here and then living for a few years in Lebanon and coming back to live, attend school, and enlist in the military. He was in officer's school and had severe doubts about what we are doing around the world, especially in the Middle East.
It was very moving talking with both of these sincere men, listening to their inner conflicts and values. I’m so glad they were both there and connected with each other, as well as us. We gave them codePINK info, shook hands, and expressed our profound pleasure in meeting and hearing what they had to say.
We drove to a Texas rest stop and spent the rest of the night sleeping in the truck under the vast Texan sky!

"I just don't care"

82 west is a pretty little two lane highway thru most of Arkansas. We did not intend to register voters in Arkansas or approach christians and we did certainly not intend to drive thru Texas. Originally, we were going to drive up I65 to Missouri, another swing state and then back to New Mexico and Arizona - also swing states. But looking at the map this morning and at the calendar, I’m feeling pressure to return to California, pick up another load, and head out to Ohio. So we’re going thru Arkansas and entering Texas at Texarkana. We can always head up to Oklahoma if things get hairy!
We stopped at a small wildlife reserve in south-eastern Arkansas. The first thing I saw was the hunting notice: “It is hunting season - one deer - on the reserve!”
I spoke with a 30-something, white, female park employee, Maryanne, who stated she was undecided about voting in the election. She reiterated the sentiment of the senior white women we met in Alabama who scolded: “women don't talk politics”.
When I asked Maryanne “Why not talk politics” she said “I  just don't care.”
I asked her about unemployment in her state and jobs - she said she was aware they were having a huge problem. I asked her about cuts to the national parks - altho she deferred to her boss for details, she was aware of the budget struggles. I asked her about health care and she said it was outrageous people in Arkansas couldn't afford health care.
Then I asked her “So do you not care about those people without jobs, or without health care, or without park services?”
Wide eyed, she declared “Of course I care!”
I said “This is politics.”
I told her we've come across several wimmin now in this part of the country who have said the same thing, that they are not political, do not care about politics, are not sure they are going to vote. But the truth is, wimmin do care, and we are political, we're just turning things over to men when we don't vote.
Maryanne thought this was true. Then she added “I’m afraid that if I did talk politics, we would just get into an argument and someone will get mad and the shouting – or worse –  would start.”
I nodded, adding “In my experience, such reactions, violence, inability to talk human to human, was mostly a white male thing. We've talked with wimmin all over this country who've both agreed and disagreed with us and not one has lost their temper and yelled – nor done anything worse.”
She agreed again that this fear is probably based on her experience with arguing with men, not with wimmin.
Then she told me “If I do vote , I would probably vote for bush.”
Okay. So I asked “Why would bush get your precious vote?”
 “Well,” she pauses, “I don’t really like what he is doing in Iraq. I think that is totally wrong. But I can’t stand to look at kerry. Whenever he comes on the tv,” she shudders, “Or hearing his voice on the radio I cringe and I have to change the channel.”
“Why?' I enquire, "What about him bothers you so?"
“I don’t know, I couldn't really say, I hadn't even thought about it. Have you?”
I told her “I could understand such aversion to president bush – actually many wimmin (and men) have said they couldn't stand to hear him speak.”
“Really?” She looks and sounds genuinely puzzled.
“Well yes, because every word he utters is a lie, every sentence insults our intelligence, every action he takes threatens our country and our world – and those are some of the reasons people give me who can't stand to see or listen to him.”
I ask her “So what about your aversions to kerry. Is it because of what he stands for?”
“No,” she claims, “I really don't know what he stands for. I just don't know why I can't stand him.”
I’m totally curious now, really wanting to help her put this into words, so I give her a few suggestions: "Other wimmin have said he is not charismatic, sexy, hollywood-type." She began nodding at the first, but denied the rest.
"That's not it" she is adamant, "I just don't know why, I just do, that's all".
“Okay, we've also heard that some wimmin think he is anti-christian because he supports a woman's right to chose and supports allowing any adult to marry.'
“Well, president bush is a christian,” she replied.
I wish I could have asked her what she thought is christian about bush but she already let us know she couldn’t answer that.
“So maybe you don't like kerry because he is not a christian?”
No, that wasn't it either. Maryanne just wasn't going to let on why she didn't like kerry - or maybe she really hadn’t examined her beliefs but was just going with the Arkansas flow.
I shared with Maryanne how kerry wasn't my first choice and I was disappointed when the democrats elected him. I told her I had to go on-line and do some research about him cause I really didn't know who the hell he was.
The first thing I found was the winter soldier papers and I remembered how courageous and totally brave he was to come back, a decorated military officer, from Viet Nam to become an anti-war activist. We spoke about how even after 30 years, the mentality of those few old white veterans who are so pissed at kerry for standing up and declaring Viet Nam an unjust war - long before the majority of americans had that courage.
I spoke about kerry's experience and voting record in the senate. I told her with certainty that kerry's domestic platform is MUCH different that bush: that a vote for bush is a vote for rich, wealthy corporate people (and bankruptcy for the rest of us) and against the rest of us; whereas a vote for kerry is a vote for the average person.
When we parted, I gave her some codePINK info and thanked her for having such a dynamic discussion with me. She agreed she enjoyed talking and claimed she was definitely going to make it a point to talk with more of her wimmin friends!