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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, January 16, 2007

Peace-In El Paso

It is getting colder and colder. The drive to El Paso takes less than an hour. Several drivers honk and wave to me along the busy highway; some just stare, no one gives me half the peace sign!

A young man, here for the demo, approaches the truck as I pull up across the street from the Congressman’s office – which is right downtown and also across from the town square, affording high volumn foot and vehicle traffic! A perfect place for a demonstration!

It is so cold, my lips feel frozen together. We get out the banners and only 2 suitcases of shoes for now. As we set up, several more El Paso CodePINKers and activists join us. By the time we are finished, probably close to 10 of us have come out in the cold, end of the daylight, streets.

Two TV stations show up and I am on channel 4 (I think) live for the 5:00 news! Plus I get interviewed for the 6:00 news and a longer interview for later. Channel 26, the Spanish language station, also interviews me.

I rush to catch up with our “Peace-In” group that has gone ahead to meet with staff, the Congressman is in D.C. They haven’t gotten too far, as the private security guard isn’t allowing anyone to go up to the office – he has gone up to the 4th floor office and we await his return.

He comes back and tells us the office is closed. We tell him we have an appointment, ask for the number, ask him to go tell them we have an appointment. He finally aggrees to go. We have obeyed him thus far, waiting as he goes up and comes down the elevator.

There is another elevator and some want us to just get on it and go up. The group is divided though, with some who want to go, some who want to stay.

The guard returns and tells us again, the office is closed, it’s too late. He won’t give us the number but starts making threatening noises when someone suggests we just sit down and wait. He goes through the whole scenario about ‘his building’ and he’d call the police.

I don’t say what the hell do you think the police will do – I have to make it to D.C. – but I do ask very authoritatively if this is a public building, I motion to the beautiful marble floors and the oak banisters – not to mention the businesses and other offices around us.

I ask him if he’s kept up with the recent case in NYC where the private security tried to keep CodePINK out of a public building, the ensuing expensive court case, the waste of time, energy, resources, not to mention bad will toward such private police ill-informed tactics.

Someone asks him if he's homeland security. He says no with a snort.

He is not aware of the court case, but he doesn’t try any further to make us get out. Nor does he give us the phone number but I have found it and have called the office. A man answers, saying he already met with us. I say no he hasn’t – if he met with anyone, it wasn’t the folks who had the appointment, because we are here, in the lobby, waiting to come up to see them.

We have to meet in the lobby of the building that houses Democrat Congressman Reyes Office. Two immaculately dressed Hispanic men, one middle-aged and one younger, who are staff for Reyes, come down instead of allowing us upstairs.

The older of the two tells us Congressman Reyes is against the war, but there are "issues" to be worked out before he will commit to defunding the war. Congressman Reyes supports the troops.

I ask what ‘issues’ could he possibly have? The issue this democrat has is the same: he doesn’t want to be seen as not supporting the troops. What hogwash – I don’t say – but I do say we cannot allow the Republicans to define for us what ‘support’ for the troops looks like.

I demand to know how much of the budget actually goes to the troops? They do not know.

The young man, Eric, who has met me at the truck is a recent veteran – he speaks slowly and eloquently, saying hardly any of the funds go to the troops themselves. He speaks from experience and his friends experiences.

We leave, telling these staffers that we would like an answer by the 29th of January: will Congressman Reyes vote to give money to continue war in Iraq? Or will Congressman Reyes vote to give money to bringing the troops home promptly and safely?

Those are the 2 choices!

Peace-In Las Cruces

The congressman is Republican and not there. We speak for probably close to 45 minutes with a very young white male and an older hispanic womon inside the office of Las Cruces Republican Congressman Pearce.

The young man tells us Congressman Pearce believes we have to fight ‘em over there so we won't have to fight ‘em over here.

I hope my face doesn’t reflect the abject horror I feel at that statement. What the hell does that mean? Do people even think about the rhetoric they cling to so desperately to ease their conscience? He wanly smiles, she mirrors his smile as if deflecting any argument we could possibly have for ending war.

Iinteresting – what they fear from Iraqis they are doing to Iraqis – it’s so part of that culture of fear we have so carefully tended over the centuries of colonizing, ripping off people’s resources not to mention enslaving them and just taking whatever we wanted. And all through it, terrified that these people will turn around and do to us what we have done to them.

We are able to stay pretty focused on the Mandate for Peace, on making sure the Congressman knows that our country has given Congress this Mandate and we are going to hold our representatives to it.

We tell Grant and Anna we need their help, we need everyone’s help in ending war. We tell them Pearce can be a hero and stand with us, be one of the braver Republicans and stand against Bush & his regime – a group that is growing.

We tell them to make sure Pearce knows we are counting on him – right – to do the right thing. We do not allow him to equate “supporting the troops” with keeping them in harms war; but “supporting the troops” means getting them the hell out of Iraq.

These staff members do not know how many New Mexicans have lost their lives; nor Iraqis; they do not know what Iraq was like before we invaded; Grant speaks of not being informed so I inform him.

He brings up the point that I might not have the right info – ha! He has little or no info himself. I assure him of the hours I spend researching, reading, becoming and staying informed.

Over 6 of us have come to speak our minds. They listen politely, even uncomfortably at times – but they listen. They promise to help us get appointments with Pearce in D.C.

Several CodePINKers are seriously considering coming – a few decide they are definitely coming.

Out on the busy street in front of the Congressman’s Office, we make a strong, beautiful, poignant statement – hot pink banners, WITS lined up along the curb from one driveway to the next; and a long black cardboard folding wall with columns and columns of white doves and first 1000 names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. The wall must be at least 10 long sections and it represents only 1/3 of the U.S. dead. The shoes represent a minor fraction of the Iraq dead.

Two reporters have come to take pictures and interview us. The wimmin here are skeptical about actually getting into print but I’m hopeful! We’ll see!

Again, we go to a restaurant, grab a quick bite to eat and talk about the action and D.C. One of the wimmin treats me to lunch! I am being well-fed on this trip! And well cared for!

Military women Las Cruces

We have set up on a major frontage road running along side I25 in Las Cruces - in front of Republican Congressman Pearce's office.

About 6 or so Las Cruces CodePINKers and peace activists have joined me this beautiful, cold noon. We set up WITS and Real Faces of War; we hold banners and Vicki has brought a wall of peace doves with the names of dead soldiers.

A womon drives into the parking lot and asks me what we are doing. I tell her we are ending war and asking her representative to commit publically to defunding the war.

She begins to weep. "My son returned from Iraq two weeks ago" I finally realize she is trying to tell me.

I touch her shoulder thru the open car window. She glances up at me and says through more tears "he heard last night that he has to go back again".

I am so sorry. I give her the GI rights hot line info. I beg her to park and join us. I tell her Pearce needs to hear her voice.

She smiles sadly, says she cannot, and instructs me to speak for her.

I do.

Another very young woman pulls into the parking lot on the hill above us, parks her car, and gets out. She thanks us over and over and over again. I ask her to join us. She motions to her car and says she has two young daughters inside - and a husband in Iraq.

She tells us she is so grateful, her husband is so grateful, they believe in what we are doing. She wants her husband home and she tells us over and over, she believes what we are doing is right and to please keep doing it, no matter what.

Collecting Shoes Stories

A womon from Las Cruces calls me saying she wants to bring a pair of shoes to the WITS action in front of her Congressperson’s office that we’re having this noon.

She tells me she is a veteran and has returned home safely. She was to dedicate her boots to a woman soldier who did not return.

Another womon calls me to tell me she is bringing a pair of baby shoes to the action in Dallas in front of her Congressperson’s Office.

She explains that the shoes are from then 60’s and belonged to her daughter. Her family was living in Northern India at the time and a very spiritual person made the shoes for her daughter.

She wants me to bring them to D.C. with me, as they have been in her drawer for too long. Her daughter died from ovarian cancer and now her Mother wants her shoes to be dedicated to a toddler in Iraq who has lost her life also.