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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

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bismark #59 Report Back

Bismarck activists ROCK!!!

I drive into Bismarck about 15 minutes late for the protest. As I approach the Federal Building, home to Congressman Pomeroy, I hear the uplifting sounds of a beautiful protest before I can actually see anyone! I am delighted to see a long line of hot pink protestors holding banners and posters, singing, dancing, playing drums and tambourines – making a loud, vibrant, and visible stand for peace!

The youngest awesome outspoken activist tells me she turned 17 a couple of days ago! The oldest awesome outspoken activist didn’t tell me how old she was but it was delightful to see so many wimmin and several fellas, in the middle of North Dakota, willing to come out in the rain with just a few hours notice to stand for peace and to express their determination to end war.

After bannering for an hour, we gather to touch base & get on the same page before going up to speak with the Congressperson’s staff.

The circle is large, probably 2 dozen activists. Energy is very high, determined and sparked with anticipation. Everyone has seen how much love and support Bismarckans have bestowed upon us and our message while we vigiled – some even parking their cars, pausing their journeys to come stand with us & for peace for a few moments.

We introduce ourselves, go over the talking points, express our joy at being there together and our rage & confusion at Pomeroy’s recent votes. We claim our position as activists in Bismarck and as leaders of the anti-war and peace movements.

We proceed into the Federal Building where at their ‘security’ post, surly old white male guards refuse to allow us to take cell phones or cameras into the building, and debate whether we should be allowed to carry in signs. The oldest turns over a stick a little wider but no thicker than a tomato stake & ponders it's lethalness as a weapon. Hmmmm. We all certainly feel safer after going through that gauntlet.

Once in the congressman’s office, we ask to be seated. They are surprised to see our numbers – at least 16 have remained and want to speak to Pomeroy. We are shown into a conference room with only 6 chairs around a table, and a large desk with a chair behind which the aide positions herself. The other aide, a very tall, slinky white male, perches somewhat wobbly on the corner of the desk facing us as we gather around the table, some sitting, some standing.

We begin expressing our wounded disbelief and outrage that Pomeroy could betray our mandate for peace and vote in the way he did to prolong war against Iraq – and vote so contrary to the will of North Dakotans, who are a peaceful people.

Almost every womon around the table speaks, strongly and from her heart, reiterating the ways in which we are NOT going to accept anything less from him than ending the occupation of Iraq NOW and pleading for Pomeroy to be that force that helps bring peace to our nation and an end to the occupation of Iraq.

The staff claim they have no words to explain Pomeroy’s vote. When challenged to at least explain why staff would not be informed about such a vital policy matter as the war against Iraq, staff tries to say there are many issues and votes facing the Congressperson that staff is not aware of.

We do not accept that as the whole truth but challenge the staff to please become informed, as we live in a state that wants the occupation to be OVER, as we live in a country that also wants the occupation to be over and over NOW. And to pass that information to us the beginning of the week.

After clarifying that Pomeroy DOES meet with his constituents, that he DOES come home to North Dakota on the weekends, that he DOES have a week break over the 4th of July holiday, activists request a meeting with Pomeroy for the next weekend.

Staff site his family obligations, not to mention other constituents with pressing ‘issues’, over the weekend, until we remind them that the people in Iraq would like to spend the weekend safely with their families, as would all of us sitting in this room – but we are willing to sacrifice our family time over the weekend to meet with him, as getting his support ending this war is the MOST important thing confronting us this weekend and always.

We also point out that this is not an ‘issue’ we are speaking of – but it is truly a matter of life and death: human being people’s lives and the future of our state and nation.

Several of us suggest that Congressman Pomeroy take this appointment a step further and call a town hall meeting over the 4th of July weekend to talk with the people of North Dakota, his constituents, and find out what their position really is so he can better represent us.

All too often those that are for war are so aggressive and violent, their voices tend to wipe out or at least cover over the calmer, more soft but titanic voices for peace.

Our awesome activist Karen is going to follow-up with Pomeroy’s office and let us know when an appointment has been set – or when we must return to his office, perhaps at 4:30p.m. on a Friday to await his presence!

Fargo #59 Report Back

I’m 45 minutes late for the protest this morning! I have no internet access, I didn’t write down the phone numbers of the wimmin who emailed to say they were coming, I don’t want to leave the parking lot in front of Congressman Pomeroy’s Office. It is in a little strip mall, like the ones in small town Texas, and I wonder briefly if someone will claim it is “private property” and inform me the truck needs to be moved.

As I wait, press arrives. I’m soon outnumbered: both public radio is there and another white guy who identifies himself as a reporter for the largest radio AND TV station in Fargo…. my eyebrows shoot up as I question “radio AND TV?” He is mute.

They are inching toward their vehicles. I mention that I gave birth to a daughter in Grand Forks, to make me more legitimate in their eyes. Then I tell them, I’m not going to wait for others & why don’t they come in with me.

They do. As I ask to speak with the Congressman, I’m told he’s not in of course. And I’m told the chief of staff is not in, nor is the district manager. But Gail is in – she’s an outreach person. I ask if we can speak and she invites me into the district manager’s office.

I invite the press to come in but they begin asking me questions right there in the waiting room. Gail has gone into another office to confer with someone. I answer their questions and the press leaves, not interested in Gail’s point of view I guess.

When I sit down with Gail, I again mention my daughter’s place of birth and the other wimmin who were here but left. She says she was looking for people all morning but didn’t see anyone.

I begin by telling her I was sure she’s aware of how strongly the American people want the occupation of Iraq to end quickly and how much we were counting on the Dems to end war now that they are in power.

I ask her to explain Pomeroy’s vote against the timeline. She tells me he knew the president was going to veto it so he voted against it.

I don't ask about Pomeroy's crystal ball, but ask her if it is Pomeroy’s policy not to vote for things that Bush is going to veto. She tells me she wasn’t going to answer any more questions but she will get someone else to answer me in writing.

I challenge her to please answer but she bluntly states am I saying Pomeroy votes to please the president - I just look at her for she has answered my question.

I ask her how could Pomeroy proceed, after denying our troops (and our citizens & people of Iraq) the possibility of having a timeline for withdrawing from Iraq, and then he turns around and votes to give Bush $100 billion to continue the occupation of Iraq?

She refuses to answer. I ask her to please explain why Bush was not afraid to veto his own request for $100 billion and Pomeroy was afraid to veto more money for continued war?

She promises me he would answer my questions in a written response and send them to the North Dakota Peace Center.

After I leave her office, I finally contact a local Fargo CodePINKer – she meets me at an organic coffee shop downtown Fargo and we talk and talk until I am once again late leaving for Bismarck.

Sara is an awesome young person, beautiful, smart, courageous, energetic – yet afflicted with the terrible disease most of us suffer from, that which enables us to continue dragging ourselves through the "bc" war life styles we led, and enables us to turn our backs on those that most need our activism at this moment in their lives.

She parrots the voice I ask her if she recognizes as her Mom's: "Nothing I do is going to work anyway so why do it?"

She tells me how Michael Franti changed her life. Before attending a concert of his last winter, she was not political at all – not concerned with life beyond the borders of Fargo, her mom, music, and the job she has serving food to others of little concern as well.

Hearing him, taking in his music and his message, inspired her to go to D.C. for Jan 27th, which is how she hooked up with CodePINK and the North Dakota local coordinator Patti!

I’m encouraging Sara to become one of the local coordinators for Fargo, along with her friend Taya, – it is a very large city, after all, I had a hard time finding my way around only rivaled by Chicago! Home of probably 100,000 people, and lots of college students.

Sara recounts to me how empowered and even joyful she felt holding up anti-war signs on the Main Street bridge over the Red River awhile ago, how positively 99% of the people passing by reacted to her, how even though she was the first and only one there for several minutes, she was sure & proud of herself, and happy she was taking this stand for peace.

I tell her about CodePINK wimmin vigiling every Wednesday around the nation, on bridges similar to this one in Fargo, or in front of recruiting stations, or on busy street corners, anywhere from between 5-7p.m. – so if she’s ever by herself again on a Wednesday evening, she will know that she stands with many wimmin around the country, making that invisible but indestructible web of peace in our land.

I tell her it doesn't matter what anyone else does or is doing - of course we'd like them all to join us, but if they don't, that is not what matters.

What matters is what SHE is doing, who SHE is, what kind of an activist SHE is - I tell her she cannot wait for another leader to come along - SHE has to be the leader - and I can see it in her.

I’m late for Bismarck and Sara re-commits to embracing activism again in her young life.