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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

Saturday, June 02, 2007

#59 Campaign Report Back Part II: Rapid City

I could have added this to the bottom of that last report but this is so important I think it needs to stand alone.

Here I am, on the edge of South Dakota, facing the alleged red states of Wyoming and Montana, blocks from a military base, in a state that almost destroyed wimmin’s rights last year and certainly does not protect or promote the rights of the large indigenous population that resides here, not to mention a state that is almost 90% white – and we know how white folks have voted in the past two presidential elections.

I have been joined by yet another single mom Deirdra and her two amazon daughters. Two young white men who have noticed us standing on this busy corner, park their pick-up truck and head over to join us too.

We are standing for 2 and ½ hours, holding up our “Troops Home NOW” and CodePINK banners, along with the “honk for peace” sign. It seems that 2 out of 3 cars are responding and responding enthusiastically – with the peace symbol, honks, yeahs screamed out the window, fists shaking in powerful support.

We count 6 fuck you’s – then we realize the same late model red truck with the same 30 something white male has been driving back and forth so he can flip us off!

I think this is the longest vigil I have participated in. Deirdra’s girls, one about 6 the other 12, never once whine or nag their mom, but they are determined to stand for peace too!

This great peace family has invited me to come for dinner, to spend the nite, to rest, shower. I am touched and tempted but feel I must journal and then get on the road – roommate troubles at home once again summons me.

I had intended to go to Billings and then to Butte – for their Democratic senators are voting to buy the war and Patti, the awesome North Dakota coordinator, was going to organize and participate with me – but I don’t have the funds to extend the trip and worry about finding a roommate so I’m just heading for one more Peace-In at Matheson’s in Salt Lake City.

They opt to buy my dinner – and then some – for the road instead and I’m grateful, tired, and so inspired!

Before I go, we speak about the cell phone action: getting refrigerator boxes and making fake phone booths, standing at a busy street or in front of an organic coffee shop with the cell phone & asking people to call Stephanie RIGHT NOW!

Make a quarter page info sheet: on one side the facts of Stephanie’s two recent votes; on the other side a suggested script: 1) I am so disappointed/enraged/sorry that Stephanie voted against a timeline and funded the continuation of war against Iraq; 2) I want Stephanie to hold a town hall meeting in Rapid City on the topic of Iraq; 3) I want Stephanie to listen to her constituents and do EVERYTHING in her power to end war.

Or something like that!

When I spoke with Stephanie’s staff, she told me ‘frankly’, she did not receive many calls supporting troop withdrawal, but she’s received calls for keeping our troops in harms way.

Given the response we witnessed today, I question the accuracy of that statement. I caution her to really pay attention because the folks that are for war, tend to be aggressive, even violent, in their expression – and the danger exists of their voice riding over in her mind at least, our more peaceful, gentler voices.

So call Stephanie’s today. Better yet, sign up to meet with her!

#59 Campaign: Report Back Part I Stephanie's staff Rapid City

The skies have finally cleared and the grassy plains appear to be buckling into gentle swells and valleys. The few ‘towns’ I pass through before rejoining the interstate have maybe a gas station, maybe a post office but the ones that do have motels all advertise “free wireless internet”!

Rapid City appears to be huge, after the past few days of the central states, but it is probably still just under 100,000. The Air Force base on the outskirts of town has not slipped by unnoticed, and neither does the truck. I’m pleasantly surprised I am only getting positive responses!

I find Stephanie’s office, down the street from the Starbucks, on a major 4 lane highway, 2 lanes in each direction, with both shoulders for parking and center left turning lanes.

The sun is shining brilliantly and the sapphire skies are thrown wide open as only in the west. White fluffy clouds appear like the upturned bellies of rabbits and cats begging for a little tickle.

I start to get banners and signs out of the truck when a young white womon, keys in hand, walks up to the office door and starts to let herself in. I’m pleased she’s there on a late Saturday afternoon and I rush up to introduce myself. I tell her we are having a protest here in about 45 minutes – I’m early this time – and she nods, expecting us.

She tells me she cannot wait – I express my disappointment and ask her if we can talk for a few minutes. She tells me she knows of CodePINK and appreciates and supports the work we do.

I ask her to please explain why Stephanie was not willing to join 170 other democrats in voting for a timed withdrawal from Iraq.

She tells me not to misunderstand (which of course I reassured her we certainly do NOT misunderstand) that Stephanie WANTS a withdrawal from Iraq: but she has a moderate constituency…

Now I’ve looked at Stephanie’s recent campaign and saw that she won with an overwhelming almost 70% of the vote! Why would she think she is in danger of not getting re-elected?

I tell her staff that it is not the moderates who have elected Stephanie – it is the wimmin of South Dakota that elected Stephanie. She nods solemnly in agreement and takes a few notes.

I ask her to join us on the street corner but she has children to pick up. I ask her to ask Stephanie to meet with Rapid City activists and to hold a town hall meeting on Iraq as SOON as possible.

I leave her with the notion that maybe it is better to be more concerned about doing the right and moral thing than getting re-elected. And I guaranteed her that doing the right and moral thing is a better guarantee for re-election than buying the continued occupation of Iraq.

you need a bigger truck

I left Bismarck last night amidst sporadic downpours drenching the roads, grassy fields, and making rivers where I’m not sure any existed previously. I finally pull over into a rest stop, the last one on the interstate before I head onto a smaller road, and call it a nite!

I get up before the sun and head south through what must be rural North Dakota and into South Dakota. There is hardly another car on the road, which even though it is a red line on the map, turns out to be a two lane stretch, one lane in each direction, with little if any shoulder.

I pass miles of grass, few clusters of farm buildings, and an occasional tree. The towns that are printed on the map have population signs of 203 or 51 and I don’t see evidence of more than a handful of homes, trailers, tiny wooden structures.

The minimal cars that do pass me tend to look briefly, few signs of approval or disapproval – just looking.

When I arrive in Aberdeen, the rain has paused and I go looking for free wireless and maybe an organic coffee shop.... a womon can hope! It is a huge city for the country I just traveled thru – the sign says over 24,000 folks! It has the old town 4 block one way street downtown section with crammed buildings and small businesses – and no other one way street to head you back thru town!

I see only one business open on this one way hub of Aberdeen – it is a coffee shop diner kind of building. I park just beyond the drawn blinds of the picture windows, hop out and brace myself.

When I open the door and step in, remnants of stale smoke smacks me as several white faces simultaneously lift up from white china, syrup, and coffee mugs to stare. The counter person rushes over & I ask if they have wireless internet.

Everyone tries to figure out where they can send me for wireless and finally give up – I’m on my own. I turn leave, following an older, straight white couple - him about 6'4" and she probably didn't reach 4 and 1/2 feet, but I’m left standing in the doorway holding the glass door. For the couple has halted, and are standing pillar still, heads tilted slightly, staring at the truck.

I can hear the intake of breath and some mumbling but I can’t judge the temperament. They are looking at the "Imprison Bush" side. The old guy pivots to tower over me (don't ask me how they knew it was my truck or that I was behind them) and tells me in a gruff voice: "You need a bigger truck - you got a lot more names to add to it."

I agree and then he adds, "Yeah, you need a bigger truck to stuff them all in there - start with Cheney. Yeah, I want Cheney in there." And they righteously hobble, nodding and loudly praising the messages and wishing all kinds of harm upon war-mongers, on down the street.

I do find free wireless at the huge supermarket close by. When I'm parking, several wimmin come over and tell me they support the messages. I get on the internet until it is time to return to the hub of downtown and banner at Stephanie’s office, a block off the main drag. It has started to rain, well drizzle compared to what has been coming down – and I’ve already admitted I’m a fair-weather activist.

It is not cold but it is terribly windy. I am the only activist on the street so I hold the “honk for peace” sign. In 20 minutes, only 5 cars pass, 3 of them honking, smiling & waving.

I take chalk and ‘draw’ (I'm not an artist either) on the sidewalk in front of Stephanie’s office a dead body. Then I add then horrific number of U.S. soldiers dead; and people of Iraq that are dead. I write a few more things about Stepanie buying the war, until the chalk is used up. Her office is right next to the police station – so I’m hoping Toby is right and chalking the sidewalk is not an arrestable offense – I am to be in Rapid City by 4:30 and it is a 5 or 6 hour drive!

No one comes out of the police station; no one joins the protest on this glumy South Dakota morn – so I leave the chalkings in front of the protected doorway of her office and head out in the rain to the west part of the state.

Not one fuck you since Kentucky!

I'm so surprised and pleased I have not received one fuck you since I left the verdant state of Kentucky! All through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois - then to Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, and all through the state of North Dakota - not a fuck you amongst the traffic passing me!

I did get a couple of ‘treasures’ on my windshield though – in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a little town kissing the shores of the mighty Mississippi River, Ralph left a calling card on my windshield stating I should call his number and let him know how I can be reached. The other side of the card was imprinted with “The Rosary of the unborn” claiming a quote from the blessed mother:
“I affirm to you… that each ‘Hail Mary’ prayed from a loving heart will rescue one of these innocent lives from death by abortion.” Signed the Blessed Virgin Mary.

If you can imagine! I'm so curious to find out what words she said that he left out .... with the dots! Or do the dots mean everything after them was added post mortem?

The other treasure was left in the parking lot of a mall in Bismarck where Patti and I were forced to go to seek that wireless connection! On a brown paper towel, he wrote: “move to another country you peeiice of shit signed a veteran”

He actually spelled piece ‘ei’ but spell check won’t let me spell it that way!