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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, August 08, 2015

Do you want a military presence on womyn's land???

My first or so time attending Michfest – probably either in 1979 or 1980 – I was among the activists protesting racism at the fest.

Michigan became the ideal, wonderful, committed, politically-responsive and responsible place it grew into because so many early lesbians were naturally activists – our every nerve ending, every cell, every emotion and thought was directed toward liberating ourselves and every womon from patriarchy, internalized misogyny, as well as racism, lesbophobia, classism, able-ism, all the isms whether external or internalized.

We challenged both the structural & group/individual racism and fought for anti-racism including the real honored participation and leadership of Black womyn and womyn of color; the structural able-ism & fought for DART; including and empowering girl children, providing camp for the male children of womyn festie goers; etc.etc.etc.

This year, my heart heavy with sadness we'd been shut down yet swelled with pride for all our accomplishments, I attended the last Michfest. Today, Saturday, as I was perusing the workshop list to decide what I was going to participate in, to my horror and shock, I saw there was to be a gathering of active & retired military people to practice their military drills, don their uniforms, and march in the Saturday night parade.

I had to read this ‘workshop’ announcement several times before I decided, yes I’m really seeing, the military is invading our womyn's land.

And it is the third year the military will be "proudly" marching in the Saturday night parade.

For those of you who have never had the extreme privilege of attending Michfest, every night there is a parade: there’s the butch parade on Thursday; the fem parade on Friday; and the Sprouts, Gaia Girls parade along with the Redheads on Saturday.

Except the last two years, the military has slipped into the Saturday night parade behind the girls and redheads.

I am an activist – I strive to be a radical activist even. And what is the sense in being an activist if I decide not to be active in my own community, my own “home” (as we like to say about Michigan), with and among my own sistars.

So I spent my last Saturday missing workshops and concerts, doing something I never fathomed I would have to do at this last Michfest: organizing against a fuckin military presence on our land.

Before I talk about how I helped to challenge our overt & covert acceptance of such a white male capitalist violent institution as the military on our womyn's peaceful, safe, empowering land, check out my previous post about two of the conversations I had with active duty soldiers on the land prior to this early a.m. perusal of the workshop booklet.

I am bringing up the dialogues I had with these two individual soldiers so that you know that I am NOT against individuals coming to Michfest, whatever the choices they've made in area 51.

In fact, I welcome and urge these womyn (soldiers and police alike) to come here - for what better place to dialogue, to exchange ideas and knowledge, to get to know each other and to challenge each other to grow, to embrace and empower ourselves as womyn, to become sistars - and lovers!

As an activist, I of course, had supplies in my truck to make a large sign: "Do you want a military presence on our land this last Michfest?" I carried it to the first workshop I had intended to go to entitled: "for weary activists to be replenished". Not that I'm so weary from activism - but I am weary from the lack of especially my sistahs participation.

I shared what was going to be happening that evening before the night stage and asked womyn to join me. I wasn't sure what action we should take and although womyn expressed their dismay, no one expressed interest in doing any direct action with me.

I was disappointed but hoped that womyn would show up 6:30pm and participate. I realized I was going to have to form an action myself and suggested we could have a sit-in and invite soldiers to come and dialogue with us.

This action idea solidified as I walked around the land, engaging with womyn. Sometimes I was appalled, not so much at the few womyn stating unequivocally they were pro-war and in favor of our military attacking Iraq, but more at the womyn who were conflicted about honoring the womyn who "served" and attempting to disassociate exactly what that "service" entailed.

Really? How can you separate the purpose of the military, the job of the military, with these womyn and their job: trained to kill.

I talked about how these womyn need to hear the truth from us: they are NOT doing "service" for me or any of us, the people of this country; but they ARE doing "service" for the corporations of this country and the wealthy.

Not to mention the military is the enforcer of our world domination, our hegemony, our u.s.ofa. empire; that the military is a white male dominated violent gang that strips people of their conscience and coerces/demands/forces them to follow orders from a "superior" being.

I had to wonder if these military womyn had been police womyn and decided to don their uniforms, hoist a huge u.s. flag, or were confederate flag southerners marching, would there still be the confusion, the discomfort, the conflict?

I had these kind of conversations with many womyn, for which I'm grateful. I also was confronted by several old butch dykes who were offended, stating that in their day, the military was the only place they could find other lesbians, it was how they dated and fell in love, and war or killing brown or Black people had nothing to do with them.

I also met many womyn on the other end of the spectrum, who were shocked and horrified, stating unequivocally this is no place for the military, womyn who made and got the connections between military violence, war, and parading around our land.

I had hope for a good protest, especially as two of my closet compañeras agreed to join me.

6:30 rolled around and about 7 womyn gathered at our meeting place along side of the dirt road close to where the military womyn were also gathering. We decided to march in the parade instead of sitting-in and requesting to dialogue.

We made signs and thought of a chant: "This is the land of peace and love, not the land of the military".

And we waited.

Soon the little Sprouts appeared: they are the infants to girls under 12 years of age who are attending the festival. They had made various props like wands and streamers, glitter and face & body paint! Their freedom to wildly dance and twirl and sing, along with their pride and excitement swelled our hearts.

The Gaia Girls - the teenagers on the land - followed behind, also freely drumming, singing, dancing! There were so many Sprouts and Gaia Girls, it was quite lovely and inspiring!

Then the redheads, usually bringing up the rear, marched gayly forward!

We slipped into the gap just behind the redheads and in front of the huge u.s. of a. flags that proceeded a handful of soldiers. We fanned out across the road and began marching while holding up our signs and singing our own chant.

Suddenly, three huge white womyn linked arms and began using their protruding bellies to knock us off the road into the bushes on the side. I was frankly shocked. I attempted to speak to them, to ask them what are the doing? Do we not have a right to march in the parade?

They were obviously determined to not allow us to march, and were willing to attempt to physically prevent us from marching.

I told them we are the anti-war presence and to please stop bullying us. One military womon shouted that she had spent 10 year defending my freedom so I should shut up and leave. I asked her why she thought she was entitled to violently take away my freedom to march in this parade?

The 7 of us kept trying to re-group and march but these womyn kept body-slamming and bullying us. It was incredible how womyn bystanders ignored the violence, some with their mouths open in shock, others tipping their hats to signal their support, and still others screaming angrily in solidarity with the womyn pushing us out the way.

One of my chosen family saw what was happening and rushed in to stand between us and the military womyn. She attempted to reason with them but by this time, they were in complete military mode. One womyn huffed around me, reached out and slapped my face.

She actually slapped me upside the head. My glasses would have flown off if they had not been the antique wire kind that loop securely around my ear.

We were stunned. Another military womon ran up to a protester, grabbed her cardboard sign out of her hands, ripped it up and stomped on it.

It's not like this is the first time I've faced this kind of violent macho pro-war energy but it is certainly the first time ever on womyn's land. And I have to say, it's been a long time since I've had to face it out in area 51: from individuals, yes; but a group acting together in rage like this, probably not since Obama got elected.

I have never, ever experienced this kind of violence at Michigan on womyn's land. I've experienced anger, frustration, disagreements. But never violence.

But this is the military mentality.