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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, July 13, 2018

walmart and guns

I’m trying to avoid spending the night in the walmart parking lot which I’ve only had to do once over the past 16 years and that was when parking on the street in Wildwood NJ the police banged on the door at 2a.m. and told me to move. I had my grandson with me at the time so we shuffled off to the Walmart parking lot where dozens of campers were spending the night.

I considered parking in front of the venue where I’m to do a reading tomorrow or Sunday, but big “No Overnight Parking” signs dot the avenue. I decide to check out the state campground a couple miles down the road. I would especially like to plug in if it’s available to keep my fridge on all nite, something that is no longer happening. When I get a minute to troubleshoot, I’m going to have someone test my batteries and then my inverter.

I pull up to the kiosk at the campground and jump out my truck, batting away an avalanche of mosquitoes, and approach the tall, skinny white man in a long-sleeved ranger shirt and pants despite the lingering heat, a hat on his head and full long beard covering almost every inch of his face, neck plunging into his chest.

He tells me I have to pay $26 plus cents for a campsite as I’m out of state. I ask first for a senior discount and then an in-state rate, both he denies me claiming his job would be on the line. Before I can leave and get out of the cloud of mosquitoes, he first tells me he’s dyslexic (so he can’t really read my missives) but then brings up guns and how he’ll never give them up.

I silently thank the many folks that have provided me with love and support and energy so I can confront this young white man.

So before he can get too descriptive about gun control people, I tell him I don’t believe in gun control, I believe in gun elimination, which prevents him from launching into a disparaging attack on whimpy gun control peeps.

He states unequivocally that he will NEVER give up his guns and from his litany of AKs and ARs and pistols, I get that he has an arsenal. I tell him of course, he’s a white man and if white men didn’t have guns – plus the willingness to take human life – they would not have been able to wipe out almost all the indigenous people on this land, nor go to another continent and enslave African people nor keep people enslaved on this land. White men need their guns because their character is not strong enough, they are not human enough to go through life without using violence to dominate others and seize what they want.

My exit into my truck and from the park is delayed by many more minutes as he digests this while I urge him to look at guns a little differently. He wants me to understand he’s been raised here in northern Maine with a rifle over his shoulder and a sleeping bag tucked under his arm, going hunting to provide food for his family.

After bonding with him over  guns for food and not for sport, I attempt to then separate elimination of the guns for killing humans. He of course sneers as he repeats the ‘guns don’t kill people’ mantra that I scoff at and say sure, neither does poison or radiation or propane explosions. Puleeeeeeze. I think he gets the connection but then brings up his dad, the one who didn’t spare the rod.

His dad is a disabled Vietnam vet with a litany of injuries from agent orange to napalm to shrapnel.  And those are just the physical ones. He is also mentally and emotionally fucked, his 29 year old son claims. I can’t imagine what his life must have been like trying to embrace life while living under the same roof as a father fucked by his participation in war. But I see the impact of war decades after the fighting has ceased.

When I finally extricate myself from the conversation, Bryan grabs me in a bear hug as he exalts my courage, asking my permission to take photos of my truck and to post on facebook.  I’d like to be a cambridge analytica spy on his fb page but I jump in my truck and try to leave the mosquitoes and Bryan way behind.

What more is there to say?

Before entering walmart, I drive around a little trying to get a feel for this town. Neither my cell or text nor my mobile data works, leaving me without wifi unless I find a connection somewhere. I might have to resign myself to walmart tonite....grrrrr

I pick up another tail so I decide I better cut my exploring short - not that there's much here to explore, it becomes country very quickly - and head to walmart. When I park, another car pulls in right next to me.

Another womon and man jumps out their vehicle to rush over and give me joyous hugs. I realize after my previous conversation, I was prepared for some white rage but these are but two more Native people standing with me, united by my fiery messages against violence, against racism, against hatred.

Brenda is shorter than me but younger. This time I do understand when she declares she's Micmac as is her husband. She refers to a 'base' where they live and, at my ignorant stare, explains that it was previously Loring Air Force Base that is now housing for her people. I ask if it was built after WWII and she nods, 1947. I sigh, remembering when I first fled my husband, I landed for a brief moment in what were the projects - military housing thrown up quickly at the end of the war: small, flimsy structures that were condemned to be bulldozed until someone decided it was a good place to house the poor.

I ask her how folks are fairing these days, under this fascist regime and she looks deep into my eyes and asks if I really think there's been a difference. "We've always struggled. Womyn have always been disappeared. Potato farmers have always been destroying our land. What more is there to say?"

I nod, knowing how I want to prostrate myself weeping before every Native person, every Black person, every person of color, wanting to say something to acknowledge the vicious violence they have suffered and continue suffering by the hands and weapons of people who look like me, white people, to let people of color know I see them, I know what has been/is being done, I'm against what has been/is being done, and I will put my body between them and harm whenever I am able.

She beams at me, our eyes glistening, and thanks me for being the one to say more. We hug without me saying anything else, sharing our connection.

Enthusiastic welcome!

I've arrived in Presque Isle - which is not an island at all - which appears to be not just bigger than Houlton, the town I just left, but many more people of color are visible here.

I pull over on Main St in front of the place where I will be reading (hopefully tomorrow) but as I jump out of the truck to check it out, I see a very big, tall man is behind my truck, camera in front of his face, filming and a very short broadly smiling womon is rapidly approaching me.

"We've been following you" she exclaims. "We're so happy you stopped. We LOVE your truck!" and she proceeds to hug me.

They are both from Canada, crossing the border to join in ceremony with her Nation outside this town, Sharon waves her hand toward the river and woods on the other side of Main St. She tells me the name of her people and her husband's people, but I don't catch it and am too ashamed to admit my ignorance.

They must be in their 50's but when I ask them how they met, their smiles are still fond and loving as they describe the ceremony they both attended as teenagers. They've never left each other nor this land where their people first thrived for 10's of thousands of years and then figured out how to survive the assault of white men. They both talk about the racism they've experienced all their lives. They talk about the uptick in violence since tRump and caution me with how this is tRump territory.

Some white men on loud motorcycles roar by as we're speaking and Vern looks knowingly in my direction. I invite them to come to my book reading but they're heading home after ceremony.

I continue across the street to the empty storefront, leave my card in the door, and decide to head to check out the walmart situation just in case that's my only option for tonite. I would have parked in front of my reading venue but every 10 or 20 feet there's a sign declaring "No Overnite Parking" so I'll check out both walmart and the campground.

More love

I'm emerging from the walmart bathroom - the only thing I do in walmart - and a young man swiftly approaches me, his hand stiffly extended, head shaved, as he declares his intention to shake my hand.

I really don't know if he is seriously congratulating me or mocking me. I keep my phone in my right hand and grasp his with my left. I first thought he was short and chubby but I realize up close he is short and solid, he must work out.

He is nervous as if he doesn't normally talk to strangers, wide dark eyes glued to mine, but determined to get out what he wants to say. And he has plenty to say.

About every single one of my messages and his inability to find the words to express how much he agrees with everything, how much it meant to him to see my truck parked here, how much he wants me to stay in this town until everyone has painted their vehicles with the same messages.

He tells me his dad is from El Centro CA and I think maybe he's Chicano and he's never been to California, only as far south as Virginia and as far west as Illinois but one day, he's so wistful I assure him heartily he's gonna make, his deepest longing is to live in California.

He says he really doesn't have time to talk, he's on an errand for work, but he had to risk finding me and expressing his thoughts and appreciation.

We shake properly this time, and smile sincerely, tinged with sadness.

Houlton Peace Activists and Vigil

I enthusiastically approach the 6 white people, most standing but two sitting hunched over walkers in the middle, already holding banners and vigiling for peace. The two ancient-looking ones in the middle put their fingers to their lips, scolding my noise and I suddenly remember this is a silent vigil.

I apologize profusely and stand at the end of the line, determined to keep my mouth shut. I communicate with the sparsely passing vehicles by throwing up my arm topped with the peace symbol. I'm silently pleased with the number of white people passing - both men and womyn - who return the gesture, nodding in agreement.

We did not get one fuck you! Even the white male driver of the loudest old pickup truck racing by first frowns and stares, and then returns the peace symbol, almost begrudgingly, but he get's his arm in the window and into the air!

I learn that this vigil has been happening every single Friday - rain, shine, snow, sleet, minus 40 degree weather - since 9/11. And not only that, the womon who's the organizer declares, her and her husband have only been alone - she holds up crooked, swollen fingers in front of our faces - only three times! All the other times, they've been joined by more people.

I'm marveling at their commitment and tenaciousness. I challenge "even in the snow?" Another womon speaks up and points to the warm blue skies and grass under our feet and says they bring snow shovels and have to make a path so they can stand on frozen ground instead of in a snow drift.

They do admit that when it's 40 below zero, they cut their vigil short to 15 minutes...and I am chilled to the bone even though it must be in the 80's today.

I am sooooo glad I made it to this bastion of tRump supporters and met these white folks willing to stand and ensure their voice for peace is counted. No wonder most of their neighbors express support!

Wired in Houlton

If you ever get to Houlton, you must come 9:00 on a Friday so you can stop in at Wired Cafe on Market Square, Main St. Jim, a tall, very pale and welcoming white man has owned this cafe for only a year and is well on the way to making it a community treasure.

There's not only space for eating, drinking coffee (altho don't expect plain, hardy black coffee, it might even be flavored...yuck!) and connecting to the "best wifi" probably in a 100 mile radius, but he also has two other small rooms he makes available for meetings and conferences or conference calls!

And he would have hosted one of my readings had I gotten it together to let him know.

I park my truck in the middle of the square so I can keep an eye on it and attempt to engage with folks I see stopping to read. Several times, people flee into the opposite direction as they see me approach and even before I can reach them.

The couple people - most everyone seems to be white in this town - who do approach me are 'newbies' even though one man said he's lived here 37 years. And even better, are on my team, as my grandchild would say.

So come support Jim.

Plus there's a co-op in the next block in a beautiful old building with a variety of farmers offering their product as well as health-related items from small businesses, and even a few antiques and reproductions of farm merchandise. 

Smaller portions

I made the most delicious soup this morning after passing the entire night uneventfully at the rest area just outside of Houlton ME on I-95. I’m trying to make smaller portions instead of my usual huge pot of soup or large jars of blended veggies and fruit for my daily drinks intended to last several days. But because my solar is not running my fridge for the entire night and I end up dumping spoiled food, I’m trying to make just enuff for one day. This is very difficult, especially if you’re trying to make sure the veggies you buy don’t spoil before you cook them.

A white womon outside the bathroom smiles broadly at me and tells me she likes my shirt. I’m a little surprised as the road to Houlton has been filled with ‘fuck yous’, well as filled as lonely stretches of highway can be. It seemed like every pickup truck and car driven by whites felt moved to give me the finger.

I ask her where she’s from and she tells me Ontario to which I respond, “oh, no wonder!” to which she, looking puzzled asks me what I mean so I tell her that even with the ponderous numbers of whites here, there haven’t been many white people who have responded positively to “Death to Racism”.

The other thing I notice is that my phone keeps changing time: I get up, it says 6:00am. I start my 30 minute jog and it says 7:13a.m. I question my memory – did I just spend an hour doing something so rotely that I forgot?

But by the time I finish my jog and finish cooking, it’s back to 8:30 when it should be 9:30! I find out we’re on a time border: it’s an hour later in Canada! I guess that would be Newfoundland.