Windchime Walker

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

parallel universes 

Mark this day on your calendars. It is the day our American democracy gasped its last feeble breath and died.

With the Senate vote (78-22) confirming his nomination and the subsequent swearing in of John Roberts as the 17th Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, our country has lost any hope of reclaiming the cornerstone upon which our founding fathers established our system of government--the guarantee of checks and balances among the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government. As of 3:30 PM today, all three branches are under the control not only of a single party, but a single ideology. They can do whatever they want.

The sad thing is that even the minority party in the Legislative branch is bought and paid for. They have shown over and over again that the will of the people means nothing to them; they are beholden only to their political campaign donors and the special interest groups that got them elected. With the exception of a handful of Representatives and even fewer Senators, when they speak it is in the voice(s) of the corporations and industrial giants that own them.

No thinking person was fooled by Mr. Roberts cunning evasion of significant questions posed during his Congressional hearings. We know who he is and what he intends to do. He is George W. Bush's man and that says it all.

Heaven help our country, and heaven help the world. Our nation's leaders and the institution they embody will, barring a miracle, surely end in ruin...just as countless imperialistic empires have done in times past. I just hope our leaders don't take the entire planet down with them. But perhaps they already have.

The only hope, and it is not unfounded, is that the people will rise up and create a global society committed to nonviolent resolution of differences, equality of all peoples, and sustainable ways of living on our shared home, planet Earth. I'm not talking about a phoenix rising from the ashes, but rather a parallel universe existing beside the one that is falling apart. I say that is not impossible because I see it happening all over this country and around the world. I want and need to be part of it.

The Bioneers ("Visionary and Practical Solutions for Restoring the Earth") come to mind. Among their varied activities and programs, this national organization sponsors an annual conference--this year in San Rafael, CA--with satellite airings of their keynote addresses linking regional Bioneers conferences being hosted simultaneously across the country. In addition to the national hook-up, each regional conference has its own speakers, discussion groups, videos, etc. that focus on issues pertinent to its own area.

This year a local group called Sustainable Detroit is hosting the Great Lakes Detroit Bioneers Conference the weekend of October 14-16, 2005. I am going right now to register for it on their web site.

I intend to cast my lot with folks who are becoming the change they want to see in the world. As Mahatma Gandhi, whom I seem to be quoting a lot these days, said, "A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." May it be so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Peace is the way 

If I had any doubts about where and what I was to be doing with my life, the events of the past five days have laid them to rest. By the way, when I speak of my "life," I'm talking about the here and now.

On Saturday I was privileged to be part of one of the largest, most peaceful and power-filled antiwar rallies and marches in U.S. history.

Tuesday I received a phone call from Craig at WEMU-FM 89.1 asking if I would partake in a discussion of the peace movement on the former U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Rivers' new hour-long radio show. The participants will be Lynn Rivers, Phillis Engelbert, director of the Ann Arbor-based Michigan PeaceWorks, and myself. I have Phillis, whom I first met in early 2002 as we joined with the Ann Arbor Muslim Community to work for the release from jail of Rabih Haddad, to thank for suggesting my name to Lynn Rivers and her staff. If interested, you can listen to the show live on streaming audio at WEMU-FM's web site from noon-1 PM this Friday, September 30.

Tonight (Wednesday), as I was getting a bite to eat in the kitchen after having swum a half mile of laps, I happened to discover "Pop and Protest" on PBS, a two-hour show on the history of how pop music and musicians have impacted the world of politics, oppression, justice and war. For someone who watches very little TV, this was a pretty amazing happenstance.

And since returning home from DC on Sunday night, I've spent untold hours every day writing about my experiences at the September 24th antiwar rally/march, reflecting on what it meant to me and where I see our movement going from here, and preparing and putting up some of the 162 digital photos I took while I was there. If you go to my September 24 antiwar rally/march photo album, you can see the start of my efforts to pull together and share these photos. There are many more photos to be added, so you might want to bookmark it and check back every so often.

Peace. Peace. Peace. That is my work. By physically getting out on the streets for peace, speaking out for peace whenever the opportunity arises, writing about and sharing images of peace, and occasionally organizing for peace, I do my work. But it doesn't feel like work. Even staying up until 3 AM putting up my journal/blog entry on the night we got home from DC didn't feel like work. When you're doing what you feel passionate about, time ceases to exist.

Three quotes come to mind. The first two are attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: "Action expresses priorities" and "You must be the change you want to see in the world." The third is by AJ Muste: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

We are the ones we've been waiting for 

Monday's journal entry gave voice to what I saw and heard on that historic day of protest in our nation's capitol. It was a good place to start. This morning I awake early with the need to recall how it felt to be among over 100,000--in my opinion, more like 500,000--women, children and men on those streets and patches of earth where so many millions have stood and marched in demonstrations for peace and justice since Washington, DC first became the geographical center of our federal government.

There is an energy deposited there that you feel through the soles of your feet, or, in my case and that of my wheeled sisters and brothers, through the wheels upon which you ride. It is an energy of persistence in the face of seemingly impossible odds, an energy that says your presence matters, that each individual has a unique and essential place in the whole. We were not a mass of humanity on those streets, on the Ellipse or on the Mall. No, we were a collection of individual drops of heart, head, body and spirit that together flowed into a river of resistance, a sea of responsible action, an ocean of intent. Separate drops of water take millennia to change the surface of a stone upon which they fall; rivers, seas and oceans transform seemingly solid realities in an instant.

September 24, 2005 was just such an instant.

It was the day our country manifested a new reality, the truth that the majority of people who live in this well-meaning but often unthinking nation do NOT go along with their president's war on Iraq. They do not believe his protestations that we must "stay the course." They say, "Get out now and bring our troops home where they belong!"

At least a half a million people said that with their presence in DC, and probably a million more said it with their presence at rallies and marches in cities and towns across our country. Not to mention our sisters and brothers in other countries.

To be in the presence of such determination, such extreme concern and deep-felt conviction was like getting a transfusion of hope. This is who we are, not the lemmings we'd feared were following their leader off a high cliff. Every one of the individuals who showed up in Washington, DC on Saturday paid for that experience with comfort, convenience, money, time and in many cases, the approval of their family and friends.

It wasn't just that we had travelled--many of us hundreds and even thousands of miles--to be there, it was that many of us had travelled uncounted miles of changed attitudes and deepened commitment to the principle that true democracy means our voices count, that we are the democracy in which we believe. There were more first-time protesters than at any previous national demonstration, perhaps in history, persons for whom it was not the norm to take to the streets, especially not the streets of their nation's capitol.

Think of it: hundreds of thousands of individual women and men who made the decision--for many an agonizing decision--that enough was enough! This president and his administration have taken a wrong turn and are leading our country on a path that leads to ruin. Each person marching beside the majestic houses of government on those historic streets, sitting and standing during the rally at the Ellipse, stopping to meditate on the true cost of war at the 1,910 crosses, Stars of David and crescent moons planted in the earth under the Washington Monument, dancing to the music of politically aware performers at the concert on the Mall...each of us carried the seed of change within our hearts and minds, each of us is an essential part of the transformation our world and planet needs to survive. As the song goes, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."

As the day wore on, as marchers who had been on the street for hours passed by 14th Street and New York Avenue, NW, where I stood as my friend Lisa waited in a l-o-n-g line for sandwiches for herself, Jessi and me, my sign drew hundreds of smiles, cheers and thumbs up. Earlier in the day it had drawn no response, but by 5 PM on Saturday, September 24, 2005 on the still-crowded streets of Washington, DC, people knew in their guts what my sign really meant. It said, "Look around you--See Our Power!"

And our power is what we need to recognize and use in order to take our country back from leaders whose inclinations and actions lead to death and destruction for all but their favored few. Stopping the war on Iraq is just the beginning. We need to keep Saturday's momentum going and growing with grassroots mobilization of concerned citizens and non-citizens alike. Each town and city must become a center of thought and action where people come together to reclaim their power locally and nationally. But it must go beyond that. We must coordinate our efforts so our true power is felt. The things that divide us must be put aside, at least for now. We must find and build on what unites us. Within that shared consciousness, we'll find that our differences will enhance not separate us; they are the building blocks that strengthen rather than the barriers that divide.

The internet is an effective tool to use in this country-wide mobilization, but there must be opportunties to come together regularly, face-to-face and voice-to-voice. We need to continue to take to the streets, but even more than that, we must sit in circles and discuss what we think and determine what actions we need to take. It seems to me we can use the model created by those for whom civil disobedience is a tool of change: local affinity groups and regional spokes councils. Each affinity group would meet regularly and then send a member or two to a regional spokes council where decisions would be made by consensus. And, in this case, each regional spokes council would choose members from its body to meet regularly in a national spokes council.

We cannot wait; time is of the essence. I see the groups and individuals who organized this September 24th national mobilization as the natural leaders of our movement. Cindy Sheehan and her co-workers from Camp Casey Crawford and the Bring The Troops Home Now! Tour, Medea Benjamin and her sister organizers of Code Pink, the folks at United For Peace & Justice, and A.N.S.W.E.R. are a just a few national leaders who come to mind.

Let us not stop now. Saturday's march and rally, Sunday's trainings and meetings, and Monday's civil disobedience and Congressional lobbying were just the start. Now is the time to work together to make the changes we know must be made. WE are the ones we've been waiting for!

Monday, September 26, 2005

September 24, 2005 in Washington, DC...from my perspective 

There were signs that made you laugh (a man carrying a sign with a picture of a strawberry and the words "Just another Fruit For Peace") and some that made you cry (an African-American woman with her son, carrying a hand-lettered sign that read "No Iraqis left me on a roof to die"). There were more handmade signs than I've ever seen before.

There were more people per square inch than you can imagine. There was a mile-long march that took five hours for everyone to complete. There were chants, drums, trumpets, saxophones, whistles, flutes, tambourines, and spontaneous cheers that erupted every couple of blocks. There was more focus, passion and seriousness of purpose than I've seen at any of the 6-7 DC rallies/marches I've attended. At the same time there were more smiles and expressions of love than I've ever seen or experienced in such a large gathering of "strangers"...even on the Metro subway train where we were packed tight as sardines in a can.

Cindy Sheehan spoke, the Rev. Jesse Jackson preached, Joan Baez sang, Sweet Honey In the Rock performed, and lots of us late-night folks danced. There was a Code Pink pre-rally rally at 10:30 AM at the Freedom Plaza (14th & Pennsylvania), the MAMMOTH official rally at 11:30 AM at the Ellipse, a peace & justice festival with tents and booths under the Washington Monument from 10 AM-10 PM, a march route that took us by the White House for the first time in years, and an Operation Ceasefire concert on the Mall with the largest stage and speakers I've ever seen, including two mammoth screens so even us folks way at the back could see and hear the wonderful performances and speeches that ran from 5 PM-1 AM.

There was also row after row after row of white crosses, Stars of David and crescent moons planted in the ground beside Cindy Sheehan's "Bring Them Home Now! Tour" tent on the Mall. More than 1,900 young American men and women dead in Bush's war on Iraq, and that doesn't begin to mark the uncounted--over 100,000?--Iraqi women, children and men dead. And the numbers grow every day.

There were WW II, Vietnam and Iraqi veterans, Gold Star families who have lost loved ones fighting in Iraq, untold numbers of peace groups marching together, grey-haired Vietnam-era activists, young people with black bandanas covering their noses and mouths, families with small children, high school and university students, busloads of folks from Florida to Vermont and Virginia to Oregon, and individuals from every state in the nation and many other countries. There were Muslim women in scarves, a stiltwalker whom I've seen for years at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and an Ann Arbor woman in a wheelchair whose bare breasts were taped over in strategic places with blue duct tape that matched her outfit.

There was the man dressed in military fatigues, carrying a "Troops Out Now!" sign, who when I asked if he had fought in Iraq said, "No, but my two brothers are over there now. I'm here for them." There was the white-bearded man dressed in a suit and tie who sat in a wheelchair at the Constitution Avenue side of the Ellipse holding a sign that said, "WW 2 Vet For Peace." There was the man who walked by me on the march carrying a sign that said, "To our soldiers: Thank you for your blood, sweat, tears & service--but it is time to come home. We will work to bring you HOME!"

There were the mixed feelings of pride and shame I always get when I march by the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House where my father had an eighth floor corner office as Executive Secretary of the National Security Council during the Truman and Eisenhower presidencies...pride that I am now doing all I can to stop US imperialism and war-mongering, and shame that my idealistic, ambitious father didn't seem to recognize how he was adding to those disastrous American attitudes and actions.

Lisa, Jessi (from Lansing) and I (from Detroit) had a wonderful but long 11 and 1/2 hour journey to DC on Friday and again today (Sunday) with stops for food and such. We stayed in a pleasant, reasonably-priced Holiday Inn in Chevy Chase, MD just blocks from a Metro Station. We three got along great even though we didn't get enough sleep and had a VERY long, VERY active day on Saturday. Like so many others in DC on this grey, occasionally damp day, this was Lisa and Jessi's first-ever antiwar demonstration. We all agreed we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Who knows? Maybe we'll look back and say, "Remember September 24, 2005? That was the day the people rose up and STOPPED Bush's war on Iraq!" May it be so.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

New York Times article 

Even the New York Times ran an excellent article in their Sunday edition with two photos of our September 24th rallies & marches

September 25, 2005

Antiwar Rallies in Washington and Other Cities

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 - Vast numbers of protesters from around the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

A sea of anti-administration signs and banners flashed back at a long succession of speakers, who sharply rebuked the administration for continuing a war that has cost the lives of nearly 2,000 Americans and many more Iraqis. Many of the speakers also charged Mr. Bush with squandering resources that could have been used to aid people affected by the two hurricanes that slammed into the Gulf Coast.

As protesters moved from the rally to a march around the White House, they packed city streets, and in some areas, came face to face with groups of pro-administration demonstrators, who held up signs expressing support for the war.

Organizers of the rally and march had a permit for 100,000 people, but the National Park Service no longer provides official estimates for large gatherings in Washington.

Rallies held on Saturday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities drew considerably smaller crowds, but unlike the more varied themes of recent protests against administration policies, antiwar sentiment on Saturday was consistent throughout. In Washington, it was evident from the start, as an organizer screamed over the microphone, "Let Bush and Cheney and the White House hear our message: Bring the troops home now."

Mr. Bush was in Colorado and Texas monitoring hurricane developments, and Mr. Cheney was undergoing surgery at George Washington University hospital.

"It's significant that Bush is out of town," said William Dobbs, an organizer of the march. "It shows that he's turned his back on the peace movement, which represents a majority of the American public right now."

Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the administration, said: "The White House is certainly aware of the protest. The president believes that one of the most treasured rights of Americans is to peacefully express yourself, and there are differences of opinion about the way forward. He understands that."

Speakers at the rally included a newcomer to the modern antiwar movement, Cindy Sheehan, the California mother whose son was killed last year fighting in Iraq. Ms. Sheehan has become the face of the movement because of her efforts over the summer, camping near Mr. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex. Her appearance and brief remarks drew a thunderous response.

"I really haven't had a chance to digest all this," she said in an interview after her speech, referring to the attention she has received. "I hope I'm a catalyst for change, but I don't want to be the focus of change."

But the crowd also heard from old lions of the antiwar movement, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the actress Jessica Lange, Ralph Nader and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has endorsed impeaching Mr. Bush.

Mr. Jackson reminded the crowd that the war proceeded without proof that Iraq had unconventional weapons or a connection to Al Qaeda, saying, "We deserve another way and better leadership."

The protests here and elsewhere were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus.

For months in planning, the theme was Iraq. But as Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, followed by Hurricane Rita, the rally quickly embraced domestic themes as well. One sign held high said, "Make levees, not war."

"To me, there is an ideological connection," said Sheri Leafgren, a professor of education at Kent State University in Ohio who held a sign that said, "From New Orleans to Iraq: Stop the war on the poor." "If you care about people losing lives and being devastated by grief, it's all human suffering."

In San Francisco, as protesters marched toward downtown, David Miles, 49, pumped up the volume on his iPod, attached to a 12-volt battery and large speakers on wheels. "War," the Vietnam-era protest song by Edwin Starr, suddenly filled the air.

The lyrics, "War, what is it good for?" blared from the speakers, and protesters joined in, shouting back: "Absolutely nothing."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Holli Chmela and Lakiesha Carr in Washington, Carolyn Marshall in San Francisco and Chris Dixon in Los Angeles.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"See you there this weekend" 

Lisa, Jessi and I will be on the road in Sojourner, my wheelchair-accessible minivan, on our way to DC by 9 AM tomorrow (Friday) morning. As you know if you're a regular reader, I'd already paid for a retreat this weekend with the environmental visionary, Joanna Macy, to be held here in the Detroit/Flint area. But, as the time grew closer, I couldn't NOT go to Washington, DC for this weekend's massive anti-war mobilization. Not in good conscience, anyway. So I was able to give my retreat reservation to a wonderful ecological woman warrior with whom I sing in the Gaia group, and happily found two women in my newly-formed writers' group who wanted to drive with me to DC, so it's all happening.

By the way, I've made three signs: 1) For the front of my scooter basket is a sign that says "ENOUGH ALREADY" in large black letters surrounded by smaller red letters spelling out "Iraq", New Orleans, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, U.S. Patriot Act, Kyoto"; 2) A larger two-sided sign on a pole that says on one side, "Camp Casey Detroit says Bring Them Home NOW!", and on the other is a drawing of two eyes looking out with the words, "Look Around You--See our Power".

Hope to see you there!


Published on Thursday, September 22, 2005 by

See You There This Weekend
End the war on Iraq! Sept. 24-26 Washington DC
Three days of Mass action
by Janet Bates

"Come gather round people where ever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone if your time to you is worth saving"
-- Bob Dylan

"There comes a time when silence is betrayal"
-- Martin Luther King Jr.

That time has come with regards the Iraq war. It is time for every man woman and child to take to the streets and say enough is enough! Far too many people have died needlessly in a war that to date, no-one has given a satisfactory reason for. This was made blaringly obvious this summer, when President Bush was unable to answer Cindy Sheehan's seemingly straightforward question, "Why did my son die?" "What was this noble cause you talk about?"

That question above all must be answerable, if not; the war has no noble cause.

Now the war must end. It has no noble cause. Bush's silence has made that clear.

If you feel that a war should only be ever fought for the noblest cause, then you better get out this weekend and say so. There will never be a better time. There may never be another time, period. Your rights have changed. Come out and join us to end the war in Iraq. If you cannot make it to Washington, there are events all over the US, just go to and search for an event close to you.

It is possible. I believe that there is a critical number that will be hard for him to ignore.

That number needs to get out this weekend and make a stand!

To end, I feel that Arlo Guthrie put it best in Alice's restaurant:

"And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant." And walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement."

And friends, that is what it is, it is the movement to end the war in Iraq, and it is happening this Saturday Sept 24th in a city near you. Be there!

For more information, go to

Janet Bates is a singer/songwriter headed from her home in Oregon towards Washington, DC.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The last day of summer 

Southeastern Michigan was treated to an absolutely perfect last day of summer. I think of Denise Levertov as I hear about the evacuations in Louisiana and Texas. May Hurricane Rita surprise everyone and spin off into the Gulf without doing any damage.

Labor and the Iraq War 

The following article comes as no surprise to those of us who were down at Camp Casey Detroit as 47,000 union workers and their families marched by in the Labor Day Parade. No wonder they were so open to our message and eagerly waved the "No War" signs we passed out by the dozens. We should also not be surprised that the mainstream media has kept this anti-war sentiment and official resolution passed at the AFL-CIO convention quiet. It bodes ill for the continuation of Bush's war(s).


Labor and the Iraq War
Written by Charlotte Dennett
Monday, 19 September 2005

There's an old adage among investigative journalists: if you want to know what's really going on, ask the workers.

If you want to know what's really going on in Iraq - to American soldiers, to their families back home, to Iraqi women - read this column, and learn what I did at the historic AFL-CIO convention held this summer in Chicago.

If you find yourself hesitating, your mind's eye imagining a smoke-filled room full of union toughs battling over issues that have no relevance to your life, believe me: this convention defied all stereotypes.

Predictably, the mainstream media would have you believe that the only thing that happened at the convention was negative: the much anticipated (and widely decried) walkout and disaffiliation, before the convention began, of two of the nation's largest unions, the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters. True, the defection cast a temporary pall over the AFL-CIO's 50th anniversary celebration. But something else happened that caused the remaining 2,000 delegates to stand tall and walk with a spring in their step. For the first time in the history of the trade union movement, they voted nearly unanimously to break with the federal government over a foreign war while it was still being fought. They passed a strongly worded resolution against the war in Iraq, and demanded that American troops be brought home, not merely "as soon as possible," but "rapidly." And rapidly, according to one of the makers of the motion, was to be interpreted as "immediately."

"Our soldiers," the resolution read in part, "come from America's working families. They are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our husbands and wives. They deserve to be properly equipped with protective body gear and up-armored vehicles. And they deserve leadership that fully values their courage and sacrifice. Most importantly, they deserve a commitment from our country's leaders to bring them home rapidly. An unending military presence will waste lies and resources, undermine our nation's security and weaken our military."

The mainstream press did not cover the resolution, even though the convention hall erupted with cheers and applause when it passed with resounding "ayes" and only one "no." I asked the New York Times reporter why he neglected it. "The AFL-CIO isn't as important as it used to be," he replied smugly, then confessed, perhaps realizing that his comment belied why he was there at the convention, "and besides, my editors told me to focus on the split." continue reading article...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The courage of her convictions 

Published on Monday, September 20, 2005 by The Nation (October 10, 2005 Issue)

No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame
by Sharon Olds

For reasons spelled out below, the poet Sharon Olds has declined to attend the National Book Festival in Washington, which, coincidentally or not, takes place September 24, the day of an antiwar mobilization in the capital. Olds, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of creative writing at New York University, was invited along with a number of other writers by First Lady Laura Bush to read from their works. Three years ago artist Jules Feiffer declined to attend the festival's White House breakfast as a protest against the Iraq War ("Mr. Feiffer Regrets," November 11, 2002). We suggest that invitees to this year's event consider following their example.
--The Editors

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

...continue reading article.

two responses to yesterday's entry 

Carol from Massachusetts posted a comment that yesterday's entry put her in mind of Denise Levertov's poem, "Concurrence," from her 1982 collection Candles in Babylon. Here is the poem:

Each day's terror, almost
a form of boredom--madmen
at the wheel and
stepping on the gas and
the brakes no good--
and each day one,
sometimes two, morning-glories,
faultless, blue, blue sometimes
flecked with magenta, each
lit from within with
the first sunlight.

Denise Levertov

I also heard from Rima from San Francisco who had the following to say about yesterday's reflections:

Amen, sister, except for one thing. A lot of people in this country lost their jobs when they were laid off by companies that were not in bad financial straits, but instead were bloated with profits. The executives and boards of directors who run these companies wanted to bloat their profits even further, and the easiest way to do that was to get rid of thousands of employees or move their operations to other countries, where desperate people will work for pennies a day. Your fellow Michigander, Michael Moore, has made a big point of this in his films and books.

As the bumper sticker says, "If you think the system is working, ask someone who isn't."

I have revised yesterday's entry to reflect Rima's well-taken points.

Where would I be without you readers? Thanks for keeping me on the path to truth...

Monday, September 19, 2005

reflections at summer's end 

Well, this isn't quite the last rose of summer, but it's close. Do you find yourself feeling guilty when you see such beauty, knowing that the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are seeing horrors not beauty? I do. I guess they call it survivor's guilt. So how do we live with the paradox of knowing that beauty and horror exist side-by-side?

To me the most important thing is to recognize the impermanence of everything around us. For instance, I am no longer comfortable calling anyone "homeless." Just as we disabled folks call our non-disabled sisters and brothers "temporarily able-bodied" or TAB, the same holds true for being housed as opposed to being not-housed. Some of us are "temporarily housed", and others aren't.

I've heard it said that a large percentage of our American population is within two mortage payments or rental checks of no longer having a roof over their heads. In most cases it has nothing to do with an individual's work ethic, dependability or sense of responsibility whether or not they are housed. And it doesn't have to be a disaster like Hurricane Katrina and the failure of our government to mount proper rescue operations either; it can be as simple as being laid off because the company you work for is in bad financial straits, or simply wants to maximize their profits by reducing their employee base, and/or is moving to a country where their costs will be less.

In Detroit that happens all the time. Our official unemployment rate is 15.9%, and that says nothing about the vast numbers of our folks who are working minimum pay jobs with no health care or benefits. Is this their fault? Absolutely not. Detroit has just been named the poorest major city in the United States. Of course, that was before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Yet, as was true in New Orleans, the people most affected by this awful work situation are the very ones who can't afford to leave town to find a better job market, even if they wanted to. So what do we do?

We must change the system. Our version of capitalism benefits the rich not the poor. Our president, a rich son of a rich father and grandfather, will never understand that the system that has always benefited him and his friends and acquaintances, will NEVER benefit those lower down on the economic and social scale. It is the whole SYSTEM we need to change, not just our leaders. There ARE no poor people in national politics. Everyone who governs sees things through the lens of entitlement. It works for them, they say, so why won't it work for everyone if they just work hard enough.

Have you known anyone who works 2-3 jobs just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads and the heads of their family? Do you think George W. Bush works anywhere near a hard as these unsung heroes?

I guess I've gotten off my original topic, but maybe not. If you and I happen to be surrounded by beauty instead of horror, let us never see that as a "given." Even as we stop to smell the roses, we must be working to change the system that gave us access to those flowers instead of bloated bodies floating in flooded streets. We must never rest on our assumptions, but always push the edges of our awareness and comfort zone.

We are ONE people the world over. What happens to you happens to me, and vice versa. Just counting our own blessings is not good enough; we must find ways to see that ALL people share a sense of being blessed not cursed. May it be so.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


This weekend I had two opportunities to gather with women I love.

On Friday night Janice, Marti, Lisa, Jessi and I held our first Writers' Group meeting here at my house. These were four of the nineteen women who'd met at Anya Achtenberg's and Demetria Martinez's writers' workshop at Leaven Center in July. Our first meeting was superb, with opportunities to read our writing and receive helpful feedback, to discuss current affairs, and share what's been going on in our lives. We plan to meet the second Friday of every month, alternating between my house in the Detroit area and Lisa's apartment in Lansing. We anticipate seeing more of our sisters from the writers' workshop at future meetings.

Today, Peg and Jeanne hosted their annual Autumn Equinox gathering on their land out in the country. We began at 2 PM with a time to write about Gaia, the earth. I offered the writing prompts and Peg, Jeanne, Penny, Pauline and I wrote for a half hour. When we read aloud to one another, the response was very positive. Judy and Maggie joined us for our favorite group writing project, where we start with a commonly-agreed upon first sentence, then pass the paper around the circle with each woman adding a sentence. Amazing things happen!

As we were finishing our writing Kathy arrived, and then Lisa and Nancy surprised us by having come all the way from the "thumb" area of Michigan to join us. We sat in our circle of chairs under the black walnut tree and talked. While we talked, Penny played her dulcimer, which she insisted on calling "background music" and we called glorious.

Before filling our plates with the yummy food everyone had brought, Peg led the the able-bodied among us on a short hike to see the endangered species we've grown to love, the Bottled Blue Gentian. She took photos with my camera so I could see it too, and even found a caterpillar who was willing to pose as it prepared to eat a tasty green leaf.

After dinner we moved to the fire circle where Jeanne introduced us to the Old Wild Crone natural sculpture she's created to help celebrate her 70th birthday in October. Maggie and Pauline, who have long passed that marking, especially appreciated it.

Jeanne facilitated our Autumn Equinox ritual, and in response to a question she posed, I found a ripe apple on a tree that symbolized the abundance I've experienced in this past year. As the fire rose and the darkness gathered round, we sang chants and old camp songs.

Just before I left to go home, the full moon made its appearance over the trees beyond the pond. Now I know why they call it a harvest moon; it was so brilliant you could see clearly by its light.

Yes, my life is as ripe as an apple on a tree and as bright as a harvest moon. Gratitude is my constant companion.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

"This has everything to do with class and everything to do with race, and it's very, very frightening. " 

Friday, September 16th, 2005
"The Militarization of New Orleans: Jeremy Scahill Reports from Louisiana"

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you have been seeing, who you've been talking to this week?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, in the days that have passed, the week or so since you were here this past weekend, we have seen a real increase in the militarization of the city. It's turned into a much greater state of lockdown. You have more military checkpoints set up. You have less of a civilian presence in large parts of the city and much more of a military presence. I mean in fact, I still have only seen one FEMA vehicle, the entire time I have been here. That wasn't even staffed. It was just a FEMA vehicle parked on a median near the Hyatt hotel where the main headquarters is of the so-called Operational Emergency Command of the military and various branches of the government coordinating their so-called disaster response. But there are soldiers all over the city. What's incredible is that you see them doing almost nothing. They're either just standing around or sitting around. There's very little work being done by the military. You do see units like the 82nd airborne patrolling the streets. It looks like the aftermath of a massacre or war zone where you have soldiers patrolling around. You also see a tremendous increase in the number of private security contractors who have arrived on the scene. Read entire transcript...

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention! 

Last night after I'd read in the NY Times Sept. 15 edition ("Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech") that Karl Rove had been appointed by George W. Bush to head the reconstruction efforts in New Orleans, I fired off the following letter to the New York Times. And I didn't even go into the not-surprising news that a subsidiary of Halliburton--Kellogg, Brown and Root--has managed to snag the first of what will certainly prove to be countless lucrative contracts for "reconstructing" the devastated Gulf Coast cities. Why do you think Dick Cheney made his long-delayed journey of "compassion" down to New Orleans last week? A percentage of every $ made by Halliburton and its subsidiaries goes directly into our Vice-President's pockets.

From: Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Date: September 17, 2005 12:31:36 AM GMT-04:00
Subject: Re: Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech (Sept 15)

Dear Editor:

Now let me get this straight: our President is so concerned about "building a better New Orleans" that he has appointed Karl Rove to head the reconstruction.

Is this the same Karl Rove who is--or was, until Hurricane Katrina and Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee Roberts captured the headlines--the same man being investigated for outting an undercover CIA agent for spite?

As far as I can tell, the only reconstruction efforts Karl Rove has headed have had to do with reconstructing his employer's image into one the voters would find more attractive. Lots of style and little substance.

Does this appointment mean Mr. Rove is above the law because he's now in a position of such importance to our nation? Is no one else appalled at the chutzpah being displayed here, or have the media and our people become so inured to the Bush administration's version of "Through the Looking Glass" that they think up is down and down is up.

After all they have been through, the people of New Orleans deserve better than this political charade. For shame, Mr. Bush.


Patricia Lay-Dorsey

Friday, September 16, 2005

a survivor's story: Katrina in New Orleans 

What follows is a forwarded email I received today from a friend.

Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2005 16:28:22 -0400
From: John Woodford
Subject: a survivor's story: Katrina in New Orleans

i heard from my aunt last night that my cousin Denise made it out of New Orleans; she's at her brother's in Baton Rouge. from what she told me: her mother, a licensed practical nurse, was called in to work on Sunday night at Memorial Hospital (historically known as Baptist Hospital to those of us from N.O.). Denise decided to stay with her mother, her niece and grandniece (who is 2 years old); she figured they'd be safe at the hospital.

They went to Baptist, and had to wait hours to be assigned a room to sleep in; after they were finally assigned a room, two white nurses suddenly arrived after the cut-off time (time to be assigned a room), and Denise and her family were booted out; their room was given up to the new nurses. Denise was furious, and rather than stay at Baptist, decided to walk home (several blocks away) to ride out the storm at her mother's apartment. Her mother stayed at the hospital.

she described it as the scariest time in her life. 3 of the rooms in the apartment (there are only 4) caved in. ceilings caved in, walls caved in. she huddled under a mattress in the hall. she thought she would die from either the storm or a heart attack. After the storm passed, she went back to Baptist to seek shelter (this was Monday). it was also scary at Baptist; the electricity was out, they were running on generators, there was no air conditioning.

Tuesday the levees broke, and water began rising. they moved patients upstairs, saw boats pass by on what used to be streets. they were told that they would be evacuated, that buses were coming. then they were told they would have to walk to the nearest intersection, Napoleon and S. Claiborne, to await the buses. They waded out in hip-deep water, only to stand at the intersection, on the neutral ground (what y'all call the median) for 3 1/2 hours. the buses came and took them to the Ernest Morial Convention Center. (yes, the convention center you've all seen on TV.)

Denise said she thought she was in hell.

they were there for 2 days, with no water, no food. No shelter. Denise, her mother (63 years old), her niece (21 years old), and 2-year-old grandniece. When they arrived, there were already thousands of people there. They were told that buses were coming. Police drove by, windows rolled up, thumbs up signs. National guard trucks rolled by, completely empty, soldiers with guns cocked and aimed at them. nobody stopped to drop off water. a helicopter dropped a load of water, but all the bottles exploded on impact due to the height of the helicopter.

the first day (Wednesday) 4 people died next to her. the second day (Thursday) 6 people died next to her. Denise told me the people around her all thought they had been sent there to die. again, nobody stopped. The only buses that came were full; they dropped off more and more people, but nobody was being picked up and taken away. they found out that those being dropped off had been rescued from rooftops and attics; they got off the buses delirious from lack of water and food. completely dehydrated. the crowd tried to keep them all in one area; Denise said the new arrivals ha mostly lost their minds. they had gone crazy.

inside the convention center, the place was one huge bathroom. in order to shit, you had to stand in other people's shit. the floors were black and slick with shit. most people stayed outside because the smell was so bad. but outside wasn't much better: between the heat, the humidity, the lack of water, the old and very young dying from dehydration... and there was no place to lay down, not even room on the sidewalk. They slept outside Wednesday night, under an overpass.

Denise said yes, there were young men with guns there. but they organized the crowd. they went to Canal Street and "looted," and brought back food and water for the old people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. when the police rolled down windows and yelled out "the buses are coming," the young men with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children next, men in the back. Just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities of who got out first.

Denise said the fights she saw between the young men with guns were fist fights. she saw them put their guns down and fight rather than shoot up the crowd. but she said that there were a handful of people shot in the convention center; their bodies were left inside, along with other dead babies and old people.

Denise said the people thought there were being sent there to die. lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. Cops passing by, speeding off. national guard rolling by with guns aimed at them. And yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all. She saw a young man who had stolen a car speed past, cops in pursuit; he crashed the car, got out and ran, and the cops shot him in the back. in front of the whole crowd. She saw many groups of people decide that they were going to walk across the bridge to the west bank, and those same groups would return, saying that they were met at the top of the bridge by armed police ordering them to turn around, that they weren't allowed to leave. so they all believed they were sent there to die.

Denise's niece found a pay phone, and kept trying to call her mother's boyfriend in Baton Rouge, and finally got through and told him where they were. the boyfriend, and Denise's brother, drove down from Baton Rouge and came and got them. they had to bribe a few cops, and talk a few into letting them into the city ("come on, man, my 2-year-old niece is at the Convention Center!"), then they took back roads to get to them.

after arriving at my other cousin's apartment in Baton Rouge, they saw the images on TV, and couldn't believe how the media was portraying the people of New Orleans. she kept repeating to me on the phone last night: make sure you tell everybody that they left us there to die. nobody came. those young men with guns were protecting us. if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have had the little water and food they had found.

that's Denise Moore's story.

Lisa C. Moore


John Woodford
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

See you in DC on September 24th! 

For the past weeks, I've been discerning about whether I should cancel out of a Joanna Macy weekend retreat for which I'd already registered and paid, and go to Washington, DC for the massive End The War Now! mobilization on the same weekend. I went back and forth countless times before finally deciding I HAD to be in DC on September 24th. If I weren't, I think I'd regret it for as long as I live.

NOW is the time, and DC is the place! With the American people finally waking up to their president's disastrous priorities and policies, we peace folk must lead the way and show them they are not alone. If a million people discend on our nation's capitol on September 24th, our fellow citizens and the world community will know we mean business. It is time to stand up and be counted.

When I looked at our kids in art today, I knew I'd made the right decision. For these children of Arab heritage who, in the majority of cases, are devout Moslems, are the ones most at risk in Bush's war on Iraq, and in his sabour-rattling toward Iran and Syria. These beautiful, loving children who are innocents in the truest sense of the word.

It is for them that I go to Washington, DC. And urge you to do the same.

Even if you've never demonstrated publicly before, dare to do it now. Let our country and the world know by your presence that you do NOT support George W. Bush's imperialistic ambitions and actions, that you are appalled at his callous disregard of the needs of our country, especially our most vulnerable, especially the poor, sick and suffering people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Let's turn this country around and become who we are capable of being...a people who choose protection of the weak at home over destruction of the weak abroad. Silent no more! It is time for our voices to be heard.

Please come up and say Hi when you see me on the Mall on Saturday, September 24th.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Cornel West says it like he sees it! 

This evening I was one of the privileged few hundred (300 were turned away for lack of room) who heard--more like experienced--Dr. Cornel West speak at the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library. He was scheduled to read from his 2004 book, "Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism," but the events of the past weeks coupled his obvious delight at speaking to a predominantly African-American audience in the city he calls, "The Cultural Capitol of Black America" sent him off on an amazing journey into truth-telling, risk-taking and soul-searching that brought forth "Amen!", "Tell it, brother!" and assorted vocal affirmations that reminded me of revivals I used to attend back in the '80s when I was a member of a Black church on Rosa Parks Blvd. in Detroit. His talk was a wondrous mix of revival, political rally and university classroom. What follows are just a few of the words, phrases and sentences I managed to jot down as he spoke:

"It wasn't a big step from the slave ships to the living hell of the Superdome."

"What we have now is Social Darwinism--the survival of the slickest."

Regarding race relations, he said, "Some folks say we've got to build bridges. I say we've got to tell it like it is before we can build any bridges."

"They say we're always playing the race card...Heck, the whole deck is full of them!"

"When it comes my time to go, I want to go with a smile of integrity on my face."

Speaking of the youth, he said, "What would America look like if the creativity in their music were brought to the struggle for justice!"

"If there's a fundamental flaw among Black Americians and Americans at large, it's that we don't have enough people of courage."

He was saying that it does no good if he just struts around Princeton showing off. "Peacocks strut because they can't fly. We come from a people who fly!"

"What we need is leadership with no ego; leaders willing to say, 'I decrease as the movement increases."

Speaking of the history of slavery, he said, "The Union won the war. The Confederacy won the peace."

"Today's young folk ask 'Where are the examples of greatness?' They don't see greatness; they see success. If you're successful, I ask, 'What are you using your success for?"

"I say take [your history] out of the books and take it to the streets!"

"The tradition I'm talking about has to do with hope. Not optimism, but hope. They're totally different."

He spoke of the brutal murder of 14 year-old Emmett Till and his mother's courageous insistence that people see it like it was, how 50,000 people filed by Emmett's casket that his mother insisted remain open. He told of her refusal to hate and seek revenge, her saying,"I don't have a minute to hate. I'll pursue justice for the rest of my life." Dr. West said that was how we in America needed to respond to examples of violent hatred like those we experienced on September 11, 2001.

When asked about the risks to him personally of speaking truth, he answered, "Freedom is not free." He then told of the death threats he receives and the time his wife had a gun put to her head. He finished by saying, "Some of us must love enough to be willing to die."

A call for help from Camp Casey Covington, LA 

Sally Neal, a peace friend from Traverse City, MI just forwarded me the following email from Michael Moore:

From: "Michael Moore"
Date: September 14, 2005 2:30:56 AM GMT-04:00
Subject: We've Raised a Half-Million Dollars and Sent Over 50 Tons of Food and Water


Last week I closed my New York production office and sent my staff down to New Orleans to set up our own relief effort. I asked all of you to help me by sending food, materials and cash to the emergency relief center we helped set up on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain with the Veterans for Peace. We did this when the government was doing nothing and the Red Cross was still trying to get it together. Every day, every minute was critical. People were dying, poor people, black people, left like so much trash in the street. I wanted to find a way to get aid in there immediately.

I hooked up with the Vietnam veterans and Iraqi war vets (Veterans for Peace) who were organizing a guerilla, grass-roots relief effort. They were the same group that had set up Cindy Sheehan's camp in Crawford and now they had moved Camp Casey to Louisiana.

I have good news and horrible news to report. First, your response to my appeal letter was overwhelming. Within a few days, a half-million dollars was sent in through my website to fund our relief effort. This money was immediately used to buy generators, food, water, a mobile medical van, tents, satellite phones, etc.

Others of you began shipping supplies to our encampment. People in communities all over the country started organizing truck caravans to us in Louisiana. Twenty-two trucks from southern California alone have already arrived. A semi-truck from Chicago delivered ten tons of food. A group of friends in New Jersey got two 24 foot trucks, got their community to load them up with goods, and arrived in Covington tonight. Fifteen iMacs are inbound from California. One man gave us his pick-up truck and another donated truck is en route from Houston.

Your response to my appeal has been nothing short of miraculous. And it has saved many, many lives.

A number of you decided to just get in your cars and drive to our camp to volunteer to help. We now have had 150 volunteers here doing the work that needs to be done. Last night they unloaded twenty tons of food from a tractor trailer in under two hours. Each day more volunteers arrive. Everyone is sleeping on the ground or in tents. It is a remarkable sight. Thank you, all of you, for responding. I will never forget this outpouring of generosity to those forgotten by our own government.

My staff and the vets spend their 18-hour days delivering food and water throughout the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. What they have seen is appalling. I have asked them to post their daily diaries on my website ( along with accompanying photos and video so you can learn what is really going on. What the media is showing you is NOT the whole story. It is much, much worse and there is still little being done to bring help to those who need it.

Our group has visited many outlying towns and villages in Mississippi and Louisiana, places the Red Cross and FEMA haven't visited in over a week. Often our volunteers are the first relief any of these people have seen. They have no food, water or electricity. People die every day. There are no TV cameras recording this. They have started to report the spin and PR put out by the White House, the happy news that often isn't true ("Everyone gets 2,000 dollars!").

The truth is that there are dead bodies everywhere and no one is picking them up. My crew reports that in most areas there is no FEMA presence, and very little Red Cross. It's been over two weeks since the hurricane and there is simply not much being done. At this point, would you call this situation incompetence or a purposeful refusal to get real help down there?

That's why we decided not to wait. And we are so grateful to all of you who have joined us. The Veterans for Peace and my staff aren't leaving (and that's why we are hoping those of you who can't get to Covington will make it to the Veterans for Peace co-sponsored anti-war demonstration in DC on September 24:

If you want to help, here's what we need in Covington right now:

Cleaning Supplies (glass cleaner, bleach, disinfectant, etc.)
Aspirin and other basic over the counter drugs.
Bottled Water
Canned Goods
Hygiene Supplies
Baby Supplies - Baby Food Formula, diapers #4, #5, Wipes, Pedialyte
Sterile Gloves
Batteries - All kinds, from AA to watch and hearing aid batteries.
Volunteers with trucks and cars
Self contained kitchens with generators, utensils, workers

Consider sending supplies in reusable containers. List the contents on the outside of the package so the folks in the warehouse can easily sort the items.

Clothes are not needed. If you go, keep in mind that you MUST be self-sufficient. Bring a tent and a sleeping bag. People are driving to Covington from across the country and often have extra room in their cars for you or for an extra box of supplies. For more information, go to the Veterans for Peace message board:

Send supplies via UPS to:
Veterans for Peace
Omni Storage
74145 Hwy. 25
Covington LA

Thanks again for funding and supporting our relief efforts. It has been a bright spot in this otherwise shameful month.

Michael Moore

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Remembering Day 19 at Camp Casey Detroit 

It's hot again and all I can think about is what 90 degree weather would have felt like down at Camp Casey Detroit. We had so many warm-but-not-hot sunny days during our 21 days there, that us white folks all got farmers' tans--brown faces, necks, hands and arms up to our biceps. Our companions of color darkened considerably too. I'm as brown as I've ever been.

I miss my friends. Especially Abayomi, Pat, Willie, Jessica, Charles, Cheryl, David, Derek and his daughters Cydney and Kaylan, Andrea, Isis, Ann, Norm, Daniel, William, Vivian, Paul, Allen, Jim, Kevin, Violeta, Kelly, Rosie, Virginia, Marc Anthony, Syria, James, Chuck, Gretchen and the others.

I miss sitting around sharing stories, talking politics, eating yummy food like the pizza and foccacia Avalon Bakery donated to us, drinking refreshing cups of ice tea from the Brown Bean Cafe, going over to the ballpark and football stadium with signs to make a stand for peace, dancing to the Rolling Stones on the sidewalk outside Center Field, participating in rallies and turning the Labor Day Parade into a 47,000-strong anti-war march.

It feels strange to spend my days inside buildings. Even with my scootings around town, it's not the same as being outside 4-6 hours most days, or 10 hours like last Friday.

When I read the news, it's no fun not being able to discuss things with my buddies, to hear their perspectives on what's happening.

Oh my, I knew this would happen--I'm in Camp Casey Detroit withdrawal!

But, thank goodness, I have my pictures to help me recapture the feeling of being there. Let's go back to Friday, Day 19 at Camp Casey Detroit, our next-to-last day and night.

Friday was another of those beautiful sunny days. Most of us moved from sun to shade and back several times during the afternoon. Abayomi, Pat, Allen, Jim, Robert, Jessica and I were the mainstays (photos #1 & #2). We didn't have many visitors, but two women who stopped at our tables were from France and spoke little English. I think Abayomi managed to communicate why we were there even with the language barrier. I know they signed our petition to bring the troops home now.

David and Cheryl joined us after work, David with tables and chairs for the potluck and Cheryl with materials to make a box to hold the postcards she wanted folks to sign and send to the governor of Texas. She was doing everything she could to try to stop Wednesday's scheduled execution of Frances Newton, an African-American woman who is probably innocent.

By 6 PM, people were arriving with dishes to share.

Our reason for having a potluck on Friday was to welcome the bus from Cindy Sheehan's Bring Them Home Now tour when it arrived. We'd been informed they probably wouldn't get to Detroit until 9 PM. But, as with all our Camp Casey Detroit parties, we didn't really need a reason; we just liked being together (photos #1 & #2).

Channel 2, our Detroit-area FOX affliate, came out and interviewed Isis and Abayomi. Surprisingly, Channel 2 was the only TV station to cover Camp Casey Detroit during our 21-day encampment. Actually, they ran three different stories on us. Knowing how conservative the FOX owner, Rupert Murdoch, is, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that Channel 2 in Detroit operates independently from the national FOX networks.

Cydney and Kaylan, Derek's daughters, came to the party and showed their artistic talent and social consciousness in making two important statements--photos #1 & #2--with sidewalk chalk. Well, three if you count their "Camp Casey Detroit Welcomes You" message.

In an earlier entry I told the story of what happened when the bus actually did arrive in the Detroit area, so I won't repeat that here.

And now I've just gotten off the phone with a friend from California. His tendency to whine about the sorry state of affairs in this country drove me a bit crazy tonight. There's no question but that things are falling apart, but why would anyone be surprised? Even more disturbing to me are folks like my friend who moan and groan but do nothing about it. I want to say to them, get out there and DO something! Stewing in your juices does nothing to change things; only action can turn the tide. For each of us, the form that takes will be different. But it is long past time to talk the talk; we need everyone out there walking the walk. There's where you'll find your hope.

Monday, September 12, 2005

No more business as usual! 

In all my years as a peace activist never before have I sobbed aloud at a rally. Tears in my eyes, yes. Maybe even tears rolling down my cheeks, but never uncontrollable sobs coming unbidden from my mouth.

I don't cry easily so when it happens it catches me by surprise. But what happened in the middle of Saturday's rally at Camp Casey Detroit honoring the folks on Cindy Sheehan's Bring The Troops Home Now bus tour, hit so deep I didn't have a chance to protect myself. All I could do was react. And I wasn't the only one.

This rally had already been more emotional than most. We'd heard from Lila Lipscomb, the Mom from Flint, MI whom Michael Moore had featured in "Farenheidt 9-11." She'd brought up to the stage her dead son's little girl. That was a moment. And then Al Zappala, the only tour member representing Gold Star Families for Peace, told us about his 30 year-old son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who'd been killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. That was another moment. But these moments were to be expected. We'd known ahead of time that we'd be hearing from folks who had lost loved ones in the fighting in Iraq. It was what happened next that pushed me, and many of us, over the edge.

After Al had finished speaking, the Rev. Ed Rowe, MC for the rally, asked if there were any other families of troops fighting in Iraq who would like to come forward. Two women walked up and stood directly under Ed at the elevated ledge of Hazen S. Pingree's statue which we were using as a stage; one was blond and the other had long dark hair and looked to be Latina. Cradled in her left arm was a framed color photograph of a smiling young man in military dress uniform. Three children, ages 6-11 or so, came up holding signs that said "Bring the Troops Home Now!", and stood beside her.

The blond woman told of her son who had fought in Iraq, and, thank God, had gotten out alive. Then the mic was handed to the woman carrying the photograph. As soon as she started talking, she dissolved into tears and kept saying, "My life is over. My son is dead." She was crying so hard it was difficult to understand her. I never did hear her name or her son's name, when he had been killed or where in Iraq it had happened. That didn't matter. All that mattered was that we were in the presence of such a raw grief that, no matter how committed to peace we'd been before, now we knew why. We were finally seeing and feeling the true cost of war. A mother's pain. Her grief. Her inconsolable loss.

As soon as Lila Lipscomb saw what was happening, she rushed forward to stand beside this woman, to put her arm around her, to be a presence of support, because Lila and her husband know more than anyone except Al Zappala, how it feels to lose your child to war. Ed Rowe stepped down off the stage, stood on the other side of this woman and said, "We need hugs here." Now that may sound too touchy-feely for some, but he was right. Hugs were all that could speak to such depths of pain. Words were useless.

For the next twenty minutes, person after person came forward to hold this sobbing woman, to let her know she was not alone. Tammara Rosenleaf from the bus tour, a woman whose husband is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in November, held her sister for endless moments. Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, the next speaker, stood beside these hugging, sobbing women and said over and over, "No more business as usual! No more business as usual! No more business as usual!" She finished with the cry, "Wake up, America!"

As I write this I am weeping again. My God! When will we wake up? When will the American people say, "Enough already!" I hope it won't take hundreds and thousands more sobbing, grief-stricken mothers before we see what this war on Iraq is costing us. For it's not just OUR loved ones who are dying, it's untold thousands and thousands and thousands of our sisters and brothers in Iraq. Who is giving them wordless hugs of love and support? Who is acknowledging THEIR pain and grief? Who will stop this war and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!

Camp Casey Detroit--Day 19 & 20 (Part 1) 

So here I am back with you after three days of silence. Time, as you faithful readers already know, has been a scarce commodity in my life of late. Except for the International Jazz Festival weekend, all my discretionary time has gone to Camp Casey Detroit. How grateful I am that I lived it that way! For, as with all good things, Camp Casey Detroit could not go on forever. Today (Sunday)--Day 21--was our last day. But what happened on that street corner in downtown Detroit will never be forgotten. And we finished on a high, high note.

On Friday night, the Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour from Camp Casey Crawford, Texas arrived in Detroit. We at Camp Casey Detroit had planned to greet them with a potluck picnic supper, but those poor folks were too exhausted and stressed out to join us. So we partied ourselves.

At about 8:30 PM, I drove out to meet them at a Coney Island restaurant that was a few exits away from where they should have gotten off the expressway. Our directions had been confusing and they were going through serious group issues, so, at their request, I led them directly over to Day House where we'd arranged for them to spend the weekend.

Once there, the group needed to deal with what was eating at them, so I sat in my minivan and let them hash things out. After about 45 minutes, three of the tour members were ready to have me drive them the three miles over to Camp Casey Detroit.

Fortunately there were still a good number of people there, so our guests were made to feel welcome. In fact, Cody Camacho, who later received a call that, instead of spending the night at Camp Casey Detroit as he'd hoped, he was needed back at Day House, said to me on the drive back, "Your camp feels just like Camp Casey down in Crawford--full of love."

After a couple more trips between Camp Casey Detroit and Day House, Marci Young, a member of the tour, came home with me for the night. We stayed up until 2 AM talking.

By 11:15 AM on Saturday, we were back at Day House where we found Cody working on repairing the door of their mobile home with the help of Tammara Rosenleaf and Morrigan Phillips. I sat around taking pictures and offering moral support, but soon it was time for those who wanted/had the energy to attend the Detroit Area Women In Black vigil at Camp Casey Detroit at noon to make the trip over to Grand Circus Park. Al Zappala, Mike Ferner and Marci decided to join me.

This was my first time at a monthly Women In Black vigil here in Detroit--for years our Raging Grannies' monthly meetings were on the same day as the WIB vigils--so I was surprised to see so many people. I'd bet there were at least 125 in attendance. Marci marched with them while Al and I sat under the trees and talked.

We spoke of the stresses the group has endured in the nine days they've been on the road: the packed schedules of events and rallies in nine cities thus far; their sometimes going to two cities in one day; the counter-demonstrators that have heckled them; the different leadership styles that led to last night's interpersonal challenges; Al's having acted as mediator so that he'd gotten little sleep. When I encouraged him to take time for himself even if it meant not going to every rally and event, he smiled and said, "This is only three weeks out of my life. I want to do all I can. As the only representative of the Gold Star Families For Peace, I need to share my story at every opportunity. I'm retired so I can catch up on my sleep when I get home."

When Al spoke at our Detroit Peace Rally later that afternoon, I learned that his son, Sherwood Baker, had been killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. Sherwood left a 27 year-old widow and a nine year-old son. I was touched by Al's comment that every Gold Star family member knows what number death their loved one was--Sherwood was # 720--but "The Iraqis don't have numbers; this government is so racist it doesn't even count them."

Well, maybe Al can get by on just a few hours sleep, but not I. It's 1:30 AM and I've got to hit the sack. I have more stories to tell and more photos to share. And now that Camp Casey Detroit has closed down, I will have the time to do it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My first day of school 

Today was my first day back at school. Susan, the art teacher I help, and the students have been there for two weeks already but I just wasn't ready to go back until after Labor Day. With all the time I've spent at Camp Casey Detroit these past two weeks, it's just as well.

It was fabulous to see the kids again! This year on Thursdays we have three fourth grade classes, one kindergarten, one first grade, and one fifth grade. The only one that is going to be a real challenge is the fifth grade class--So what else is new?--and unfortunately it is the last class of the day when kids are always a bit off the wall anyway. But we'll manage.

After my last class was over at 2:30 PM, I stopped at a local Arab bakery, stocked up on Lebanese delicacies, got two bags of ice at a gas station, and drove from East Dearborn to downtown Detroit and my home-away-from-home, Camp Casey Detroit. I stayed there with Abayomi, Pat, Norm, Robert, Willie and Charles (not all at the same time) until 6:30 PM, and got home in time to have dinner with Eddie. We went for a walk/scoot by the lake after dinner, and I've been at the computer ever since.

Camp Casey Detroit--Day 18 

At last night's MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice) meeting, it was decided to close down Camp Casey Detroit this Sunday, September 11. The consensus was to go out on a high note, and we're certainly anticipating that this weekend's visit by a busload of folks from the original Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas will provide just that opportunity. Besides, some of our most faithful Camp sitters must return to their jobs as teachers starting on Monday.

But what an accomplishment this has been! To keep a peace encampment going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 21 days in the middle of downtown Detroit has been an exercise in trust, commitment, community organizing and generosity. When I say that, I'm referring to generosity of time, creativity, hard work, food, money and community spirit. For Camp Casey Detroit has been all about community, and not just among us peace activists but among the men and women of our city who stopped to talk with us, shared our food and water, stayed to help us keep the Camp going, distributed our leaflets and petitions around the city, and became our friends.

And at the heart of it all was our shared commitment to bringing our troops home now!

So tomorrow night (Friday) we're inviting everyone to join us at Camp Casey Detroit for a potluck supper starting at 6 PM while we await the arrival of the Camp Casey Crawford busload of Militiary Families For Peace, Gold Star Families (those who have lost loved ones in the war on Iraq), and Veterans For Peace who are touring the country to demand our president Bring the Troops Home Now! Some of them will spend the night camping out with us at Camp Casey Detroit, and those who want a bed/couch, shower and the use of a washing machine will spend the night at our local Catholic Worker house--Day House--on Trumbull.

Saturday's activities will start with a Women In Black silent vigil at Camp Casey Detroit from 12 noon-1 PM, and will culminate in a massive peace rally at 3 PM sponsored by a coalition of Detroit peace groups and held in front of Camp Casey Detroit in Grand Circus Park (Woodward & Adams). At this rally we'll hear from our honored guests from Camp Casey Crawford. We're hoping to have a large turnout of folks from as far away as Ann Arbor and Windsor, Ontario.

Whomever chooses to will spend Saturday night at Camp Casey Detroit, and on Sunday our guests from Camp Casey Crawford will attend and speak at the 10 AM service at Central United Methodist Church across the street from our camp. On Sunday afternoon, they will get back on their bus and continue their cross-country journey toward Washington, DC and the huge Bring Our Troops Home Now! mobilization on September 24-26. Then we will strike Camp Casey Detroit and go home to our families who hardly know what we look like anymore.

As you can imagine, those of us who have spent a lot of time at Camp Casey Detroit over the past three weeks have mixed feeling about closing down the camp. On the one hand, it will be good to have the time and energy available for our pre-Camp lives, but on the other, we are going to miss one another and being part of such a tangible enactment of what we believe. I'm already feeling waves of loss wash over me every time I think of waking up Monday morning, knowing I won't be going down to camp.

But we intend to keep the Camp Casey Detroit blog up and running even after the camp has closed. Hopefully it will provide an online community forum for Detroit area peace folks and others.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reflections at the end of Day 17 at Camp Casey Detroit 

These are amazing times for me. Never before have I felt so inspired, energized and committed to my work for peace. What is happening at Camp Casey Detroit is exactly what needs to happen, especially during these times of such a painful, tragic and inexcusable breakdown in the social fabric of my country.

New Orleans has shown that what we thought we had in this so-called "land of opportunity"--a safety net to catch us when we fall--was just an illusion. If there IS any net, it is only for the privileged among us. For those who are poor, black, young, old, infirm and/or without the resources to fend for themselves, life in these United States is a risk at best, a disaster at worst. Your government cares nothing about you, and, in fact, makes decisions every day that threaten your very lives.

Many of us had suspected this before, but now we know it is true.

So what do we do about it? We ask the hard questions publicly, we don't let them get off with their callously superficial answers, and we organize ourselves in such a way that coalitions are formed and movements are strengthened. No longer can we go off on our separate tangents. No longer do we have the time to waste bickering over the small stuff that divides us.

Now it is time to come together and say, NO to corporate control of our politicians, NO to our tax dollars going to war rather than to our society's very real needs, NO to our children being sent to fight, kill and die in countries that are no threat to us, NO to governmental leaders who curry favor with their rich campaign donors by allowing them to despoil the earth, divert the waters, destroy the wetlands, pollute the air, deforest our wilderness areas, choose oil over our safety and the safety of the countless species of life with whom we share this planet.

And it is time to say YES to creating the world we want, YES to respecting our wondrous diversity and calling forth everyone's gifts not just those who entertain us or play sports or find fame under some spotlight or other. We must say YES to community, to creativity, to critical thinking, to organizing for change, to looking for answers outside the box.

We cannot waste our precious time whining, complaining, blaming, or denying the truth of what is happening. NOW is the time, my sisters and brothers, and, as the song says, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."

For us at Camp Casey Detroit, we've seen what it feels like to come together as one people and stand our ground...literally. What we have found for the past 17 days and nights on that street corner in the middle of Detroit is a reason to get up in the morning, to stay informed and aware, to organize, strategize, create new options, form deep and lasting bonds with all kinds of people, and to simply keep on keepin' on no matter what they do in Washington, DC or anyplace else when human rights and needs are ignored.

Yes, WE are the ones we've been waiting for. And how grateful I am to be a small part of it all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Labor Day at Camp Casey Detroit--Day 15 

Yes, I spent almost every hour of every day from Friday through Monday at the Detroit International Jazz Festival downtown... and it was great! But what will stay with me forever was what happened the morning of Detroit's Labor Day Parade when I joined about 100 local peace activists to line the street in front of Camp Casey Detroit with signs and banners that said things like: "Bring the Troops Home Now!", "Money for Cities, Not For War", "Bush Lies, People In New Orleans Die". The following is what I just posted on our Camp Casey Detroit blog:

Get down, Get up!
Get out of Iraq!

Not the war machine!
Remember New Orleans!

If we ever thought we were in the minority in voicing our call to "Bring the troops home NOW!", yesterday's massive (47,000 people) Labor Day Parade here in Detroit showed us otherwise. We, my friends, are now in the majority!

The response we 100 peace activists received from those 47,000 union members, their families, City Council candidates and high school marching bands made it crystal clear that the people say NO to this war on Iraq, they want their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers home NOW, and are appalled that our nation was so ill-equiped in the face of Katrina's devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf States.

Whenever a delegation of marchers would first see our signs and banners, hear our chants and receive our flyers, they would raise their fists in agreement, wave their arms, give us the thumbs up, nod their heads, shout "YES!", flash us the peace sign, join their voices to ours in the chants, and invariably take the "No War" sign we offered and carry it proudly for the rest of the parade. The response was 100% against the war!

And these were the workers, folks who make up what is called Middle America.

Yes, there has been a major shift in public opinion and we here in Detroit saw it yesterday. So, watch out Washington! We have had enough of your aggression, arrogance, greed and lack of care or concern about us, the people. These people, the ones you choose to dismiss as unimportant, are coming together in ways you cannot imagine, and we are gaining momentum and confidence day by day. There is NO stopping us now!

September 24th in Washington, DC, you will see evidence of this grassroots resistance to your policies and wars. We will take over your city and there will be NO ignoring us then! Just wait and see...

So yesterday, Labor Day in Detroit, marked a new moment in the building of a People's Movement, and we at Camp Casey Detroit helped ignite the flames by our 15 days of 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week commitment to saying NO TO WAR with our time, energy, minds, hearts and bodies.

And after holding our signs and banners for the hour and a half it took for the Labor Day Parade to pass our block there in Grand Circus Park, about 30 of us carried our message down to Hart Plaza where the Detroit Jazz Festival was starting for the day. The police wouldn't let us onto the Plaza, so we marched in a circle on the Jefferson Avenue sidewalk with our signs and banners. What I will remember about that vigil were the two young boys who joined us and started the chant, "Money for Schools, Not for War!"

Yes, we Americans are finally catching on.

Friday, September 02, 2005

confessions of a jazz freak 

I've just posted an entry on our Camp Casey Detroit blog explaining why they won't be seeing me for the next three days after this afternoon. If you're a regular reader here, I know you'll understand. It's Labor Day weekend and that means JAZZ here in Detroit, Michigan! The 26th free Detroit International Jazz Festival, to be exact. I plan to be down at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park on Woodward every afternoon and evening starting tonight and ending Monday (Labor Day) night. The mornings will be devoted to sleeping in and/or swimming laps at the pool.

So I don't expect to be much of a blogger these next four days. Have a good weekend yourself, and continue to hold the suffering people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Iraq in your heart and mind...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Camp Casey Detroit--Day 11 

Some people are questioning why we would continue to hold vigil against the war in Iraq at Camp Casey Detroit while there is such an immediate disaster to respond to in our own country. We've even been instructed to get ourselves down to New Orleans if we want to do something worthwhile.

First of all, I can't see how our presence in a city that has been ordered to be evacuated would be of help to anyone. And secondly, I believe that the presidential decision to wage a war based on lies, to divert 204 billion dollars so far (not counting an additional 45 billion dollars which is currently pending before Congress) from use at home to destroy a country that was of no threat to us, to send some 7,000 soldiers from the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard (40% of Mississippi's and 35% of Louisiana's regular Guard strength) to fight that war thousands of miles from their home states where they are now sorely needed, makes stopping the war against Iraq and bringing those troops home now more crucial than ever.

And so we here at Camp Casey Detroit continue to vigil, to be a public witness to the futility and true costs of war, to dialogue with those who see things differently, to stay on our little corner of the planet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Today was Day 11.

Every day we welcome new faces to our camp. Today it was Ron and Sigrid Dale, long-time peace and anti-nuclear activists here in the Detroit area, Becky, a military spouse who often stands vigil at 9 Mile and Woodward on Monday afternoons with a group of dedicated peace activists, Marc Anthony who lives in the neighborhood and agrees totally with our call to bring the troops home now, and Kevin, a union organizer who is hard at work with the NWA mechanics in their strike against Northwest Airlines.

And these were just the new faces I saw during my three short hours at the camp this afternoon.

But Camp Casey Detroit is thriving after 11 days because of stalwarts like Derek, who has spent more nights at Camp Casey Detroit than just about anyone except perhaps Willie (with Jessica right up there too), and Abayomi, who has done the day shift from 9:30-4:30 PM every day since we opened on August 22, usually returning around 8 PM for a few more hours, and Pat Lent who takes a bus from her home close to 12 Mile Road down to Grand Circus Park just about every day so she can spend at least 4-6 hours helping us out.

There are many more individuals without whom Camp Casey Detroit would not exist, but these were the ones I saw today.

So I invite those individuals who see our peace encampment as irrelevant during these times of national crisis to please look at the larger picture and ask yourself, "Would New Orleans be in the terrible state it's in today if our national priority had not been the war against Iraq?" As a help in analyzing this question, I offer a few links to articles/columns I've found to be helpful:

"Iraq Mess Adds To the Problem" by Juan Cole
"Iraq War Costs Now Exceed Vietnam's" by Jim Lobe
"Why New Orleans is in Deep Water" by Molly Ivins
"Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?" by Will Bunch

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